How Can We Motivate Our Employees To Learn?

As a leader in a team or an organization, it's crucial to train people to learn knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs). That is why U.S. organizations spent approximately $83 billion on formal training programs in 2020, and investment in training is expected to continue to grow in the long term (Training Industry Report, 2020). Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of workers' learning environment for technology-based training over traditional formal training (e.g., face-to-face) is increasing. However, the effectiveness of the training program is not always necessarily high in the organization. And this is a pervasive concern to leaders at the workplace. Why?

This is because of the "motivation to learn" of your employees. Motivation to learn refers to employees' desire to master training content and to apply newly acquired skills in the work setting (Noe & Schmitt, 1986). Our research team recently published new research at Journal of Applied Psychology about the new updated model of training motivation in the 21st century.

We conducted a statistical method called a meta-analysis and analyzed the results of 167 studies to provide the factors that influence people's learning motivation and the outcomes from learning motivation. Overall, we found that people's motivation for learning is influenced by multiple factors such as personality, cognitive ability, self-efficacy, support from the organization and job involvement. Additionally, we also tested and found that learning motivation affects learning outcomes such as learning skills, knowledge, turnover intention and job satisfaction in the short-term and job performance in the long-term.

The results suggest and highlight the steps managers can take to enhance employees' learning motivation.

First, our findings reinforce the importance of a supportive learning environment. Managers should develop organizational policies or provide any incentives that facilitate workplace learning culture. These practices can help leaders to help their subordinates' personal growth.

Second, our research findings also highlight the dispositional traits that managers should pay attention to in the selection process to ensure employees are predisposed to have high levels of motivation to learn. For instance, hiring managers may want to weigh job applicants' dispositional traits such as conscientiousness, openness to experience and emotional stability for their future learning motivation.

Third, our results also suggest that managers need to ensure subordinates have high levels of commitment and involvement at work to enhance their motivation to learn. For example, managers need to proactively show support for their employees and express appreciation at work.

Therefore, it is worth thinking about how we want to boost employees' learning motivation because it relates to various individual and organizational outcomes. We can start to provide a comprehensive approach to create a positive environment that can increase employees' learning motivation.

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Original Articles based on:

Chung, S., Zhan, Y., Noe, R. A., & Jiang, K. (2021). Is It Time to Update and Expand Training Motivation Theory? A Meta-Analytic Review of Training Motivation Research in the 21st Century. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication.


Noe, R. A., & Schmitt, N. (1986). The influence of trainee attitudes on training effectiveness: Test of a model. Personnel Psychology, 39(3), 497–523.

Training Industry Report. (2020, November/December) Training. 22-37. Retrieved from

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