Training powers performance and motivation spurs the zest for learning. It’s a continuous cycle. Motivated employees find greater meaning in their work, excel at their jobs and are therefore more likely to remain with the company longer.

What drives this motivation? According to a Udemy Academy survey, 54% of those polled said having more time to learn at work and 46% felt learning paths personalized to their goals would help motivate them.

What Is the Impact of Motivation on Employee Performance?

Motivation is a cycle, wherein:

  • Employees seek learning opportunities to do their jobs better.
  • They apply that learning to the workplace and perform well as a result.
  • This keeps them satisfied and motivated and may even lead to financial or professional recognition and reward for their performance gains.
  • This spikes motivation levels, causing learners to seek even more learning opportunities.

In short, a motivated employee is a higher performing employee. While motivation isn’t the only driver of performance, it certainly is a key element. Motivated employees grow personally, professionally, individually and as team players, and are therefore better performers. The alternative for dealing with unmotivated, low-performing employees is letting them go. However, that entails a further cost for the company, including hiring, onboarding and training costs.

The more trainings they attend, the more motivated employees get, and that results in enhanced performance. The question, however, is how to motivate employees to attend training in the first place.

How Does L&D Play a Critical Role in Motivating and Retaining Employees?

41% of employees leave their employer because they see no career development or advancement prospect. Just as it’s important to invest time in supporting and developing long-term assets, such as conducting repairs and renovations to a home, employers must invest in the workforce through learning and development (L&D) programs in order to engage and retain them long-term.

With a team that’s worked well together for a long time, the impact of motivation on employee performance is clear. The more you invest in L&D programs for your employees, the higher loyalty and retention rates you’ll command from them. Because of their organization-specific expertise developed over their long service, long-time employees are especially valuable to a company’s sustainability over time.

Don’t Forget the “Wow” Factor

Regardless of how well your training programs are designed, if employees don’t attend them, they’re of no value to the organization. If you’re wondering how to motivate employees to attend training, consider what employees really want from training programs.

Training must come with a “wow” factor to motivate learners to pursue continuous learning. Unfortunately, while most instructional designers and L&D professionals focus on building “wow-able” learning, the outcomes often don’t resonate with their target audience. And learners will only be motivated to embrace training if it provides them with what they’re searching for.

To ensure that learning has the “wow” factor learners are looking for (and thus motivates them to learn) L&D teams must design training around learner personas — hypothetical learner profiles that are generated using real-world learner data. These profiles are built through a . This leads to training that matches learners’ preferences and thereby leads to better motivation. The right learner needs analysis leverages multiple data points, such as age, gender identity, cultural aspects, social interests, professional aspirations and preferred learning approaches. Learning designers then use the learner personas to create the most appropriate learning design for motivating specific segments of learners to embrace training.

How Can You Motivate Employees with Training?

The following strategies can help employee performance and motivation through training:

  • Provide growth opportunities (i.e., training and on-the-job support, self-directed learning, a learning culture, etc.): Don’t just empower employees with training that helps them perform their current job better. Instead, show them how, with the appropriate training, they can also grow — horizontally and vertically — within the organization.
  • Offer personalized learning paths aligned to their careers: Offer personalized learning paths so that learners can see the connection between training and their future career development at your organization. For instance, a web designer will see more value in a Java or CSS-themed course than a must-attend course on accounting.
  • Help your employees prepare for the future of work by providing continuous upskilling/reskilling opportunities: Few employees aspire to do what they’re doing now, forever: Most feel motivated by the prospect of continually upgrading their skills through targeted learning programs to take on new challenges — even if that means lateral growth, rather than moving higher up the organizational hierarchy or leveraging training for opportunities outside the company.

How Do You Motivate Your Employees to Attend Training and Learn?

The average employee doesn’t embrace learning opportunities just because they’re accessible. Instead, there’s statistical evidence, as seen in the Udemy Academy study, that ties employee performance and motivation to four distinct factors, including:

  • Their desire to grow (45%).
  • Their need to play catch up (31%).
  • The influence of external factors beyond their control (8%).
  • A continuous thirst for learning (6%).

So, how can you motivate employees to attend training? To get your employees to engage with content and learn, you must:

  1. Understand what motivates employees and demonstrate the impact of learning (i.e., improved performance, career growth, earning potential, etc.): Once you discover an employee’s motivation for learning, which is one of the key outcomes of learner needs analysis, you’ll likely find yourself spending less time convincing them to learn.
  2. 41% of employees and match their expectations: The key to understanding the impact of motivation on employee performance and inspiring them to attend training is knowledge of what employees are looking for in terms of learning opportunities. A learner needs analysis is a critical tool in giving you that understanding. L&D teams must then design learning experiences to match those preferences.
  3. Leverage a learning and performance ecosystem approach: A “standalone” approach to training — offering one-off courses — is unlikely to motivate employees to attend training. Instead, it’s important to build a learning and performance ecosystem — a framework that drives continuous learning.
  4. Make your content engaging: Move away from static, text or slide-based content, and embrace more engaging strategies, such as gamification, 3D simulations and virtual/augmented reality (AR/VR).
  5. Reduce learning friction: Make learning accessible, available on demand and on the device of their choice. Pivot to content on demand; mobile-enabled lessons; and accessible, responsive learning design.
  6. 41% of employees: Provide employees access to microlearning content, “how to” guides, interactive PDFs and online templates so they can leverage them at the point of need. Opportunities for learning in the flow of work (LIFOW) have a significant impact on employee performance and motivation to embrace a continuous path of learning, growing and performing.
  7. Provide mentoring and coaching: Mentoring and coaching programs can motivate and support learners through continuous learning journeys.
  8. Leverage social learning: Peer motivation is the ideal way to encourage employees to join training events and learn from their colleagues. Employees learning from other employees is what social learning does best.
  9. Opportunities for learning in the flow of work (LIFOW) to drive the application of learning on the job: Trainers mustn’t expect learners to retain 100% of the content they’ve been exposed to. Therefore, it’s important to supplement and support learning with on-the-job performance support tools and job aids. These may be as simple as checklists or as complex as 3D visualizations of specific “how-to” content.

Parting Thoughts

Achieving peak workplace performance is a function of how well employees are trained to perform their jobs. A corollary to that objective (driving employee performance) is employees’ motivation to embrace learning opportunities afforded to them by the organization. The strategies discussed here show you how to motivate employees to learn and, as a result, equip your organization with the future skills it needs to thrive.

Learn how to design L&D programs that drive business performance. Download this research brief developed by Brandon Hall Group in partnership with EI Design. The strategies and approaches shared in this research will help you create a stronger link between training investments and performance.