Five ways to motivate staff to complete courses

Your company may embrace continual learning for its employees and as a human resources professional, you may have helped establish an exciting array of courses to help them grow their skills and careers.

But if they start to study, but fail to complete their courses, little is accomplished and a lot of effort and money is wasted.

Motivation can often be an issue when people study alone. To complicate things further, a research study conducted into e-learning course completion motivation found that there is no one size fits all solution to encouraging students to complete their courses.

The study, called Examining Motivation in Online Distance Learning Environments: Complex, Multifaceted and Situation Dependent, found that student motivation is a complex issue with many facets, and is dependent on each student’s unique situations.

Nonetheless, there are things you can do to help staff stay motivated to finish their training. Here are five strategies:

1.Incorporate gamification into the course design. Take elements like game mechanics, design and philosophy and find a place for them in the non-gaming context of learning. Employees will find the fun in learning, they may even be able to compete with each other, and the entire process of playing the game can alter their behavior.

2. Ensure the relevance of your course materials. People who work all day and then have to go home to work around their homes and take care for their families want to know why they should consider giving up portions of their downtime to study. If they cannot clearly see an end-goal to their study, it is very difficult for most employees to stay focused on a course until it is completed. You can help by explaining from the start why the course is needed, and how it will help them do their job and advance their career, and how it can enhance their current position. Knowledge for knowledge’s sake may work for the academically minded in your crew, but others need something more tangible to stay motivated.

3. Establish a reward for reaching the end goal of course completion. It does not have to be financial; it can be some kind of recognition, a certificate of accomplishment, or some kind of coveted gift. For example, you could team up with the local theatre or sports franchise to offer tickets to successful applicants, or even offer one Friday afternoon off in the summer each time a course is finished.

4. Ensure that the course is well written and logical so employees can complete it without high degrees of frustration. Have a clear outline at the start of what they can expect to learn, review questions throughout and suggested methods of ensuring their learning journey moves forward steadily. Ask yourself if you would be able to follow the course easily and you will soon recognize whether or not it could work for someone else.

5. Check that the employee has enough technical skill to take the course. For example, if they have to use a computer or do high school math, make sure that the employee can perform those skills at a reasonable level. Otherwise they may require a remedial course to prepare them to take the required course. If an employee understands the material they are studying, they are much less inclined to become frustrated, and much more motivated to finish it.

Share with us your experiences in regards to motivating staff to complete training courses or give us more tips that you feel would be helpful.

Roz Bahrami
Roz Bahrami
Roz Bahrami is a blogger for SkyPrep, an online training software for companies to train employees and measure results. Roz is a regular contributor to blogs related to corporate training, L&D, and HR technology. Visit my personal blog at

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