As an L&D professional one of your main priorities is making your colleagues feel good about the training they complete.
One of the traditional ways to get the good feelings flowing is to offer an incentive for completing a course. There are many ways to reward learners, we’re going to explore some of the common options and the theory behind an effective incentive programme.
Training as a reward
Depending on the type of training you’re offering, it can make sense to offer the opportunity for learning as a reward itself.
Sandra Porter, HR director at Starbucks told the Telegraph how training is a big motivator for their employees staying with the company:
“Our partners tell us the more employable we can help them become, the less likely they are to leave.”
By offering development training to high potential employees Starbucks is able to promote 75% of store and district managers from within.
Some elearning courses can be created to help identify talent at the same time as imparting the knowledge required. This type of approach is perfect for induction or sales and product knowledge.Compliance elearning or any company specific training courses are harder to offer as a reward to employees. There are several other ways to offer incentives to motivate your learners to take on this type of training.
Types of training rewards
Richard W. Moore identified two types of rewards that were being offered by companies in the 2003 book Training That Works.
- Explicit incentives – immediate, often financial rewards after taking training
- Implicit incentives – employees expect to be rewarded but it is not explicit
He highlights examples of both cases and shows how employees can be motivated to complete traditional training with an actual financial reward, or just the implied promise of one.
Implicit rewards are often part of organisations with a strong learning culture. By showing a track record of rewarding employees who complete or seek out training opportunities you can encourage more people to do the same.
Making sure employee’s achievements, including in training and elearning, are recognised is part of the HR strategy of most high performing companies. Explicit rewards are easier to introduce but can be harder to get right.
Taking ideas from research and examples that are seeing positive results you can start get your employees motivated using explicit rewards.
How do rewards work?
The aim of your incentive should be to increase the amount of training that an employee takes on in the long term. To help introduce a culture of learning, rather than a one off boost in completion rates of a particular course.
It’s important to consider the way in which the incentive is framed – in psychological terms this means describing the incentive in a way that makes learners find it more appealing.
In a paper by Haas School of Business University of California Berkeley, it was found that framing the incentive as a reimbursement of training costs, rather than a reward for completing training, made it more likely that people would complete the course.
Teck-Hua Ho, co-author of the paper, said:
“A one-time, outcome-based financial incentive— when leveraged on proven psychological techniques—can effectively induce workers’ long-term commitments to training”
When used in the right way even a one-time reward can make a big difference to an employee’s chances of taking more training.
The employees who were asked to make a non-binding commitment to taking more training and were offered the incentive in the form of a reimbursement were 6 times more likely to continue training than those who were given the cash as a reward and didn’t commit to more sessions.
When you introduce any type of incentive you should plan how you will present it to the learners.
Getting a commitment for future learning actions, even if it’s not official, is an effective way to get more people to take on future training.
Real life examples
Many successful companies offer a training reward programme.
IBM use their Know Your IBM scheme to issue real life rewards for completing training to partners who sell their infrastructure products. It’s available worldwide and offers gift cards and products as rewards for completing online training courses. There’s a benefit for the trainee in that they’re better able to explain the capabilities and benefits of IBM’s products, as well as the physical reward.
There are Learning Management Systems (LMS) that can provide a similar “digital wallet” that gives your learners access to real life vouchers after taking a course.
But is there a way to better tap into the psychological factors that make some rewards so effective?
Specsavers introduced a less traditional incentive in their recent induction elearning module. When a learner completes the online training they are given a choice of SpecSavers official charities to which they can gift a virtual coin.
Specsavers themselves then donate to the charities proportionally based on the virtual votes cast by the learners. Although an induction course is primarily aimed at new employees it’s open for all Specsavers staff to complete and vote for their favourite cause.
By aligning the incentive with the established culture of charity, and the official organisations they have a relationship with, it motivates learners to find out more about the way SpecSavers work with charities.
Making a difference to someone other than themselves is a novel way to give learners an incentive to complete training. It gives the learners a positive reward, reinforces the principles of the company and encourages everyone to complete the training at the same time.
Implementing your own rewards scheme
Before introducing your own scheme you should carry out research into whether it would be suitable for your employees.
Learners using modern Learning Management Systems (LMS’s) are used to seeing gamification elements built into their online training programmes. Many learners will respond favourably when asked about real life rewards for completing training.
A report by softwareadvice.com showed that real life reward schemes are highest on the list of gamification motivators for LMS users. With 35% of learners saying real life rewards would be the most likely incentive to get them to complete more training, winning out compared to 25% who rate “level progression” highest.
It’s obvious that there are lots of ways incentives and rewards can be implemented which can result in a positive outcome for your training. Don’t rush into an explicit rewards scheme without thinking about the desired outcome and the possible alternatives which could help achieve it more effectively.
If you’d like to talk to us about introducing an innovative rewards programme to your L&D strategy get in touch using the buttons below.