14 practical strategies for motivating your staff to learn and grow in the workplace

  • DeakinCo.
  • 8 December 2017

Employee learning and growth are an essential part of a business strategy. To fully leverage your staff, which are your number one asset, they need to be open to learning and growing in the workplace, while you as the manager need to be committed to motivating employees to learn. Incentives, recognition and a positive work culture that values learning are some of the ways to boost staff motivation to develop and grow.

1. Incorporate employee development into strategic planning

Make employee growth and learning part of your strategic planning. In practice, this could mean aligning your human resource planning with your company objectives for the next year and beyond.

As you define what your organisation wants to achieve, work from a high level to ensure your human resource planning – incorporating employee learning and growth programs – aligns with your strategic goals. By taking this top-down approach, your HR development initiatives will align with your goals, and your entire organisational culture will value employee development and learning.

2. Formalise learning and development

Formalising learning and development could be part of incorporating your human resource planning into strategic planning. By formalising employee learning and development (for example, through personalised training programs), you ensure sufficient resources are allocated for training. This cultural emphasis on learning and development allows employees to recognise learning and growth as integral to their work.

For example, DeakinCo. offers a range of Professional Practice Credentials designed to improve the skills and performance of employees, covering a number of areas including self-management, communication, digital literacy, data analytics and more. These blended learning solutions are an excellent way to upskill employees and measurably enhance staff performance through learning in the workplace.

Along with training and development, you can also involve employees in the learning and development program through performance reviews, along with regular discussions about their current responsibilities and future career paths.

3. Incentivise and recognise employee achievements

Managers play a critical role in motivating employees to learn and grow, but this role should complement incentive and recognition structures. Design your organisation’s incentive system to provide rewards and recognition to employees when they go above and beyond performance standards. When an employee makes a major achievement at work, make sure they are appropriately rewarded for it.

4. Offer both financial and intrinsic rewards

A mixture of financial and intrinsic rewards can feature in your overall employee incentive system. Employees are more motivated to grow on the job and maximise their work performance if they are incentivised by both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. Pay attention to how employees react to intrinsic factors like a sense of achievement, the feeling associated with succeeding at a challenging task and feeling valued.

Even the opportunity to undertake training at work and upskill can be a reward in itself, rather than a job requirement. If you highlight the inherent value in learning and growth, you can successfully motivate employees to keep growing and developing at work.

5. Reward growth and upskilling

Cultivating a culture of continuous learning in the workplace has become a business imperative for any organisations looking to future-proof their operations. To do this, ensure you recognise and reward not only employees who meet their work KPIs, but also those who demonstrate their thirst for continuous learning and upskilling.

Your rewards can be financial or intrinsic, and if they are financial, note they don’t have to be costly. A $100 gift voucher for successful application of new skills can be all you need to show your employees that you value those who learn and grow in their jobs. Over time, these small measures can help you foster a culture of continuous learning at work.

6. Make education the reward

Instead of emphasising training programs as compulsory for employees, position them as rewards for top performers. Free training at work can open up new work opportunities for your staff, so it’s not difficult to offer learning and development opportunities as a reward rather than a mandate. Education and training opportunities can be presented as incentives to individuals, as well as teams. For teams, you could offer these as a reward for a team project that’s delivered well and on time.

7. Link employee growth to business outcomes

Meaning and purpose can be highly effective intrinsic motivators for staff. If you can link an employee’s growth to organisational benefits and outcomes, employees can feel rewarded with this type of recognition. The sense of meaning and purpose can drive them to feel more enthusiastic about progressing in their role and learning the skills that will directly impact the organisation’s bottom line.

One way to do this could be through regular communications highlighting how new skills contributed to KPIs like customer satisfaction or higher sales. You could publicise a ‘Learner of the Month’ in recognition of employees who undertook a training program and brought valuable skills and outcomes to the business.

8. Offer interesting and challenging work

Whenever possible, be flexible about redefining job descriptions so your staff have an opportunity to do work that is novel and challenging. The right degree of challenge can encourage employees to go beyond their comfort zones. It can support higher motivation to learn and develop. Rather than boxing employees in rigid role descriptions, expose them to new tasks, and you could end up with employees who are keen to learn and develop their skills.

9. Offer customised training programs

Each employee in your team has a unique set of characteristics, skills and experience, so offering customised training programs is the best way to address any skills gaps you might have. Requiring employees to take uniform training programs – even when the training won’t enhance their job performance or career prospects – can result in frustration. On the other hand, if you evaluate skills gaps of your individual employees and give them an opportunity to learn the areas they need to, you can better motivate them and achieve the best training outcomes.

10. Conduct regular performance reviews

Regular performance reviews not only allow you to assess employees and give valuable feedback, they can encourage employees to learn and grow. See performance reviews as an opportunity to underscore any skills gaps and motivate employees to acquire additional skills. Provide the necessary training as well, and follow up with employees once they have completed their training to assess their performance. Remember to give positive feedback about training outcomes as this will also encourage them to view training and learning in a positive light.

11. Take an interest in employees’ career paths

You can raise employees’ motivation to learn if you take a genuine interest in their career path. Find out about their career aspirations and contribute to helping your employees to achieve them. Align your training programs, especially individualised training programs, to career aspirations and goals of your employees. If they are given opportunities for advancement and if what they are learning supports their career aspirations, employees are naturally motivated to learn.

12. Look for opportunities to empower and demonstrate trust

As a supervisor, give individual team members the chance to lead and direct their work as and when it is appropriate. Look for avenues to empower them and allow them to feel like they are going beyond the confines of their job descriptions and the standard expectations. By allowing them to do more and go beyond their comfort zone, you support their growth on the job. In the process, employees can develop more confidence in their own abilities.

You should incorporate a feedback loop into your efforts in motivating employees. This way, your staff can continue to learn and grow, perform well on the job, as well as receive the trust, positive feedback and empowerment they need to keep developing.

13. Take employees’ feedback into account

Regularly seek feedback from your staff about training and development initiatives, and use this feedback to inform your training decisions. For example, if your team members question the relevance of a specific training module, be receptive to their feedback and adjust your approach if necessary.

Encourage a culture of openness where employees feel comfortable about talking about what they experience with training and development programs. Make it clear it’s fine for employees to approach you about their desired areas of learning and their ideas about training and development at work. This way, your employees will feel involved in their training program and not feel frustrated that you’re not listening to their perspective.

14. Provide mentorship opportunities

Coaching and mentoring offer your team members invaluable opportunities for growth on the job. They are also excellent ways to engage employees, build a trusting and respectful company culture, and avoid high turnover. One-on-one coaching and mentoring can provide a trusting, safe space for employees. Regular contact with a mentor can give them a place where they feel they can speak openly about challenges in their learning and growth.

Mentors can provide informal guidance on learning and development. Matching the right mentor or coach to the employee is probably the biggest challenge, so make sure the mentor you have in mind has the right experience and insights to guide employees.

Encouraging employee growth benefits your business

Providing future career paths and training opportunities at your organisation is the best way to encourage employees to learn. However, a strong culture of achievement and reward is also conducive to motivating employees to develop and grow. By working on both culture and multifaceted incentive structures, managers and leaders can drive employees’ motivation to learn, grow in the workplace, and ultimately become valuable contributors in the organisation.

DeakinCo. offers purpose-built learning and development solutions to help businesses prepare their teams for the future. To find out more about how our bespoke training solutions can revolutionise your approach to human resource management, contact us today.