Have you ever gone through a learning experience feeling really excited and energized, but then felt that excitement fade and even disappear? One of the toughest things to do in the workplace, both as a learner and L&D program designer, is to keep learning alive after the experience is over.

People are uniquely formed by their cognitive, affective and conative attitudes. Cognition represents your thoughts and beliefs and how you process information while affect is informed by your feelings and emotions. Conation represents the mental faculty of purpose or will to perform an action and is a key way HR managers and development professionals can engage people to keep the learning fire burning.

Conation is often written about in educational psychology and represents the ‘staying inspired’ state that comes after going through a great educational experience. To use the fire analogy, let’s say learning is like a fire and motivation is like a match that sparks the fire. Conation, in this analogy, is the kindling or the wood that keeps the fire stoked. Tapping into the concept of conation is what can keep someone engaged and motivated long after the workshop is over.

To leverage conation and keep you and your organization’s learning fires burning, here are three points to focus on.

1.       Understand that everyone is motivated differently.

Learning fires burn at different speeds and require different kinds of wood. Part of a leader’s job is to assess how different colleagues prefer to process information and experiences in order to provide continued development opportunities that support individualized motivation to learn and grow.

Development opportunities that allow learners to explore personality type psychology can help underpin all individual and organizational development work because it supports the idea that if a person becomes more self-aware, they have a better understanding of what keeps them motivated. Once we can recognize that everyone is motivated by different things and in different ways, individuals, leaders and HR managers can increase the effectiveness of learning experiences, decrease the amount of time wasted on ineffective learning experiences and motivate others to apply their new skills in their working lives.

2.       Leverage different learning modalities for different learners.

To be successful, training experiences need to be aligned to learners’ preferred delivery method and particular learning style.

Learning styles vary widely. For example, there are many people that love to learn in collaborative social settings where they can talk to others and their instructor, and work together with everyone. In this example, an experience that would best meet this group’s conative needs might be an instructor-led experience with a high degree of collaborative exercises and engagement.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are many groups of people that prefer to learn at their own pace and typically prefer to learn on their own. In this case, an instructor-led experience would probably not meet their conative needs, but perhaps a self-paced online tutorial would.

In order to adapt the learning experience for different individuals, L&D program designers need to define and develop multiple delivery methods. Learning that is collaborative and generally involves group formats, as in a workshop or classroom, is called ‘synchronous’ learning. Independent learning on your own—the sort done when you read a book, listen to a tape or work through an online training module at your own speed—is called ‘asynchronous’ learning. Web-based training and technology allow trainers to offer multiple sorts of curricula to serve the needs of different kinds of people.

3.       Keep fine-tuning the learning content to maximize effectiveness.

Once you’ve established a general set of curricula to serve the needs of a wide variety of team members, keep refining it and ask for feedback. Also, test retention and satisfaction continually.

Remember, most of us don’t fit neatly into a ‘prefer to learn totally alone’ or ‘prefer to learn collaboratively’ sort of box. There are a wide variety of learning styles. Most of us prefer a mixture of styles, depending on the subject, the context and the rest of the team. Learning content is something that can always be refined to better serve the conative needs of your team members.

Learning dynamics and conation vary not only from individual to individual, but from team to team and throughout an organization. The best L&D program designers are constantly fine-tuning their curricula to meet the changing needs of their learners and organizational goals.

Doug Upchurch is the global learning innovation strategist at Insights Learning and Development