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How Custom eLearning Programs can Motivate Employees

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There is nothing quite as demoralizing as being forced to sit down and watch a training video that you do not want to watch.  The opening credits role, and if you are lucky enough to be allowed to watch the video on your own time on your own computer then usually the first thing that happens is you mouse over the progress bar to see how long this video is actually going to take.  Then comes the sigh, either of relief that the video won’t take too long, or of exasperation that you will be forced to sit here when you could actually be doing something worthwhile.

The problem with these sorts of traditional training videos is that they do not connect with their audience. Just as every person is different, with their own specific background and preferences, so every company has a specific culture and set of needs.  The better training videos can take this latter type of specificity into account.  Rather than creating a single training course for multiple companies, a unique course is created for each company.  Creating a unique training course allows for variations in company culture to be incorporated into the training presentation, in the hope that this sort of specificity will resonate with the company members who have to watch it.

While this type of custom training is definitely a step in the correct direction, it still does not address the problem of personal specificity.  No matter how well tailored to a specific company a traditional training course may be, it still treats every person who takes that course the same.  It is by addressing this lack of personalization that custom eLearning can really help to motivate employees.

By creating eLearning courses which are customized not just to the specific company but to the specific person, it becomes possible to have a course which resonates with each employee.  A course which resonates will be a course that employees are actively engaged in, and a course which employees are actively engaged in will be a course that contains information they remember and that motivates them.  

Motivation generally comes in three main forms: internal motivation, external motivation, and intrinsic motivation.  External motivation comes from outside sources, usually incentives or threats.  Promise of a promotion or the threat of docked pay are classic examples of external motivations.  By contrast, internal motivations are things which resonate on a personal level.  Identity, duty, and personal fulfillment are all excellent examples of internal motivations.  Lastly intrinsic motivations are motivations which are inherent in the activity itself.  A desire for completion, wanting to succeed at a specific task, and winning a game are all examples of motivations which are intrinsic to a specific process.

As it happens, internal and intrinsic motivations tend to be much more effective than external motivations.  This means that when trying to motivate employees to finish a training course it is always better to rely on internal and intrinsic motivators rather than external motivators like increases or decreases in pay.  Unfortunately traditional online training has very little in the way of either intrinsic motivations or internal motivations.  There may be an intrinsic motivation to complete the course once it has been started, but other intrinsic motivations are unlikely to be incorporated, and unless the subject is already one that resonates with the employee internal motivations are unlikely to be factors either.  

One of the major benefits of custom eLearning over traditional online training is that it can incorporate more intrinsic motivators as well as appeal to the internal motivations of employees.  We have already mentioned the intrinsic desire to complete a task once it has been set, but custom eLearning can also incorporate more instances of intrinsic motivation by using games, interactions, or exercises as part of the course.  Internal motivations can be appealed to in how the course is presented and framed.  Custom eLearning can be presented as a chance for an employee to better themselves personally rather than as a mandatory requirement, or as something which contributes directly to the company culture and ethos.  This is an area where custom eLearning has clear benefits because it can incorporate a company’s culture into the design of a course specifically to appeal to internal motivations.

Because custom eLearning can appeal to multiple different forms of motivations, it is vastly superior to more traditional online training which does not take these sorts of motivations into account.  But motivating employees is only one of the benefits of utilizing custom eLearning.  Along with motivation, eLearning can promote employee engagement, help teams function better, and improve retention as well.


Photo Credit: David Rzegocki