How to Get Your Employees to Do Their “Homework”

How to Get Your Employees to Do Their “Homework”

How to Get Your Employees to Do Their “Homework”

Last week I shared some sites that offer free (or nearly free) professional development opportunities, specifically online courses. It’s true that these sites can offer your employees a great way to improve their skills while solidifying the internal workings of your company, but how do you motivate your employees to enroll and complete the courses?

Of course, making them mandatory is an option, but forcing this type of growth isn’t always the best approach. Instead, you may want to try a less stringent approach that cultivates a desire to learn as opposed to one that enforces a mandate. To get started, here are a few quick tips:

Make It Personal

While your goal may be to improve your company or product/service through employee learning opportunities, your employees will also benefit from this exchange of knowledge.  In fact, in a recent PEW study, researchers found that 65% of employees who participated in extra training felt that it helped them expand their professional network, while 47% of the same group polled found that the training helped them advance their careers.

In short, professional development is important for both employee and company growth.  Approaching your development goals with that sentiment in mind can help you tap into motivation that may be stifled when the benefits of development opportunities seem to be one sided.

The concept of personalizing training also extends into an employee’s path to development.  Simply put, one size does not fit all. For that reason, it’s important that you involve your employees in the development process by letting them voice their professional ambitions and how they may benefit the company.

To really make the most of your training efforts and to engage participating employees, you’ll need to work with them to evaluate work place needs, their current skill set, and any gaps or deficiencies that professional development opportunities can address.  Once the aforementioned are determined, you’ll be able to work together to develop a personalized development strategy that benefits both parties.

Encourage a Knowledge Sharing Environment

Over the course of my own professional development, I’ve had the opportunity to work under some really terrific CEOs. To date, the one that was most effective at inspiring his employees to learn and grow did one simple thing every week:  he held a knowledge sharing meeting.  In these meetings we would talk about industry news, departmental accomplishments, and even development opportunities like courses and conferences. Since we were all openly sharing and receiving knowledge (of all types), we felt united as a team, but we also developed our own individual desires to achieve, learn more, and become better at our jobs.

In an article on how to create a learning culture in the workplace,, a mecca of professional development and training related news, case studies, and best practices, articulates why this particular CEO may have been so effective in motivating employees to improve themselves: “constant learning elevates an individual as a worker and as a person, it opens opportunities for the establishment to transform continuously for the better.”

Additionally, employees exposed to a “learning culture” will benefit from an improved mindset while developing a stronger sense of self-worth, ownership, and accountability. Together, these things can provide the intrinsic drivers that your employees need to complete development tasks.

Incentivize Developmental Milestones

Incentives top the list as one of the most powerful tools in the workplace, at least when it comes to motivating employees. Be they intrinsic or extrinsic, incentivizing employees to complete developmental tasks can be a great way to boost morale and encourage course/training completion.

Debra Steele of the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) recently imparted some words of wisdom on incentivizing employee learning and why it’s important. One of the most relatable things in the piece focused on a question employees probably ask themselves quite often: why should I put in the extra work? After accepting a position, why should an employee, who is already juggling life outside the workplace, put in the extra effort?

That’s when incentives come in.  Steele recognizes that incentives may be just what you need to motivate an employee who is “on the fence.” She goes on suggestion that employers consider both monetary (tuition assistance, one-time bonuses, stock options, or even new laptops) and non-monetary (flexible hours, acknowledgement, further in-house training opportunities) incentives.  In doing so, you can appeal to employees who are driven by different motivators.

Employee development is a key component of any successful company, and with so many outlets available online, it’s now easier than ever to provide the willing with access to the tools and resources they need. Motivating your employees to complete courses or training tasks should be an ongoing strategy in your workforce management plan, and the tips above, when combined, can help your business and your team flourish.

This article was originally written on March 10, 2017 and updated on January 28, 2021.

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