By Corporate English Solutions

12 April 2022 - 09:33

A woman uses her laptop for studying.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Self-study learning allows employees to develop their skills wherever they are and whenever they need. But data shows dropout rates are high – only 5-15% of learners complete self-study courses on platforms such as Udacity or Coursera. One of the main contributing reasons is a lack of motivation. So how can L&D teams help to increase employee motivation for self-study, so they engage with and complete self-study learning programmes? 


1. Remove the guesswork

Do your employees know why the training matters? If learners don’t understand why they are on a course or see the need for it, frustration can set in and motivation can decline. 

Create and maintain a learning toolkit and list the must-learn and in-demand soft skills. Make this a part of the on-boarding experience and mandate it with personalised learning paths.

With disruptive and evolving technologies affecting the role humans play in the workforce, upskilling is not an option but a necessity. Learning is critical to future-proof the employee and the organisation. Sharing articles from leading thought leaders can increase awareness of skills gaps in teams and the best solutions to close these. 

Get managers on-board by actively recruiting them to share articles. The LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report shows that 56% of employees would spend more time learning if their manager recommended a course to improve skills!

2. Upskill when there is a need and in a way that is relevant

Motivation increases when skills training has direct relevance to what employees do, what they need to achieve and how they best learn.

Take the case of pawTree, a direct sales pet product company with an entirely remote salesforce, that boasts 90 percent sales course completion rates. They offer multiple types of learning resources to stimulate motivation such as video tutorials, articles, blogs, podcasts, conferences, social media groups etc. In this case, the learning material was delivered in chunks with each portion connected to a task that could be completed immediately.

3. Make it a social experience 

We’re social creatures, and research proves adult learners not only prefer collaborative learning but are motivated by it.

To overcome the anti-social aspects and increase self study motivation, try grouping employees from within or across teams into learning pods before the training starts. Once the training has started, create moderated spaces for support such as digital apps/platforms, social media, chat groups, internal platforms, face-to-face or virtual meetings that give employees opportunities to ask for help, share insights, exchange information, and discuss learning. 

4. Create a culture where learners are accountable and learning is rewarded

While incentivising is proportionate to company culture and budget, it is commonly used to motivate and engage. The Incentive Performance Center found that a well-constructed incentive program can increase performance by as much as 44 percent. This means thinking beyond t-shirts and thank you cards, so make it personalised and a real time process. 

Make the incentive something your employees want, that’s attainable, and make sure you tell them about it! Employees at QiCard, a national credit card company in Iraq, linked incentives and accountability, and invested double the time in learning than the industry average for similar companies. Employees who successfully completed at least 10 online learning courses became learning champions. The organisation shared their success as testimonials in emails, videos, and posters around the office. 

Make sure incentives are delivered quickly after the training. Create accountability by setting up a task to be completed after the course, e.g. a questionnaire or survey to be taken, creating mentoring and/or championing opportunities. 

5. Send learning reminders and act on feedback 

Reminders can help overcome the online learning barriers of confusion, stress and cognitive withdrawal. 

A good practice is to send employees a friendly reminder on why they are learning. On longer self-study courses, you can help build and sustain self study motivation by setting up opportunities to contextualise learning, and by holding regular progress meetings.

Giving and receiving feedback is crucial to sustaining engagement and motivation. Bank of America have an end-to-end listening platform to survey, monitor, and collect employee feedback. Certain phrases are set up to be triggers (e.g., poor experience) and an algorithm identifies these phrases. This enables managers to immediately spot problems and have the right conversations at the right time and who knows they might re-engage employees into learning!

There’s no one way to motivate learners, so try to encourage engagement through a mix of methods so your team retains motivation for self-study throughout learning programmes.  

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