decoding motivation

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    Global insight into motivational drivers of corporate training



    About Decoding Motivation 4

    Executive Summary 6

    1. Introduction: The challenges of motivation 8

    2. Motivation to begin training 12

    3. Motivation during training 16

    4. Understanding the benefits 24

    5. Whose responsibility is motivation? 28

    6. Conclusions and recommendations 32

  • 4About Decoding Motivation

    In July 2014 EF Education First conducted a

    survey of over 1,000 directors and managers

    with responsibility for training and development,

    working in companies employing over 1,000

    people. There were 100 or more respondents

    from each of ten countries: Brazil, China, France,

    Germany, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Sweden, UK

    and US. Drawing on the survey findings and

    additional in-depth interviews with experts,

    this report aims to shed light on effective

    motivational techniques and strategies.


  • 6 Executive Summary

    There are different factors at play in persuading employees to start training and ensuring that they complete the course. At the initial stage, clearly explaining the benefits of the training for the individual is vital. Once training has started, more emotional factors connected with the supporting environment kick in. Companies need to dynamically adapt motivational strategies along the training cycle to provide effective motivation at each stage. Rewards are seen as the best motivational tool across the board, but should be used alongside other techniques (see fig 9 on page 23). As a secondary tool, competition is more effective in some countries, while direct motivation is better in others. But companies should not shy away from penalties as these can also be very effective. Employers tend to stress the responsibility of the employee in ensuring a successful training outcome, but this is a mistakethere is a key role for the

    employer in ensuring the right conditions for learning, supporting the employee through the course, and making sure that they can expect to be able to practice their new skills afterwards. There are significant differences too between local authorities/public sector on the one hand, and the majority of industry sectors on the other. For example, employees of local authorities/public sector are relatively less motivated to attend training sessions. There are large differences between countries in effective motivational factors. Each culture is unique, and companies need to make sure both that they understand the local variations and that their motivational strategies are tailored accordingly a one size fits all blanket approach will not be effective.

    Companies think they understand motivation,

    but actually face a complex range of

    considerations that they often fail to grasp

    leading to wasted training opportunities.




    adapt motivational

    strategies along the

    training cycle.


    Tailor motivation

    to different



    Continue to take

    an active interest

    in employees



    Create a culture

    that enables training

    benefits to be



    Make sure the

    employee can fit the

    training into their



    Provide a

    good learning






  • 8Introduction: The challenges of motivation1

    Companies planning training need to give careful

    thought to how to motivate employees. Although

    the vast majority of employees proclaim

    themselves willing to learn, 53% of enterprises

    in our survey say that they often or always have

    issues in persuading staff to begin and complete

    courses. This leads us to question how well

    companies truly understand motivation.



    There are different factors at play for motivating people to start learning and to complete the training course. Therefore, businesses must dynamically adapt the learning environment to suit this cycle. In addition, there are considerable variations between countriescompanies need to tailor their motivational approaches to distinct cultures (FIG 1).



    Large differences between countries can be seen even with respect to willingness to undertake training. Some 62% of respondents in Brazil and 60% in China say employees are very willing to undertake training. By contrast willingness is lowest in more mature European economies: Germany (32%), Spain (34%), Sweden, UK and France (all 38%) (FIG 2). Employees in mature economies are also generally harder to motivate: just 3% of respondents in Germany and 9% in the UK never or rarely have problems motivating employees to undertake training.

    What might lie behind these differences in enthusiasm? Countries where motivation is higher are often undergoing major social and economic change, which creates potentially high rewards for the extra edge given by training. Certain cultures, for example China, have historically placed a high premium on acquisition of knowledge. Charles Elvin, CEO of the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM), points to another possible reason. Emerging countries often have a view that theres lots of knowledge out there in the West that, if only they had access to, life would be brilliant. So theres an element of competition, in that they feel they have to catch up, and thats informing their personal need to undertake training and to invest in training. Businesses with employees in countries where motivation is weaker will need to work harder on espousing the benefits of training and creating positive energy around it. Companies based in countries where motivation is naturally stronger should make sure they are harnessing this effectively.

    Businesses with employees in countries where

    motivation is weaker will need to work harder on

    espousing the benefits of training and creating

    positive energy around it.

  • 20%0% 40% 60% 80% 100%

    12% 19% 22% 30% 14% 2%

    1. Introduction: The challenges of motivation


    FIGuRE 1 Difficulties in motivating employees

    Q: To what extent do you have issues keeping employees motivated to complete

    and study for training courses?

    All the time Often Rarely NeverVery often Sometimes












  • 10%





    60% 11

    Quite willing

    FIGuRE 2 Differences between cultures in ease of motivation

    Q: How willing are employees at your workplace to learn new skills

    in the form of training courses?












    Very willing They dont mind

  • 12

    Motivation to begin training2

    It is primarily a rational analysis of benefits that

    is key in motivating employees to start training.

    Some 81% of respondents in our survey see

    rational thought as having a role in motivation,

    most notably considerations of career and wage

    prospects. Companies therefore need to make

    sure that training has an expected tangible benefit,

    and that this is made clear to the employee (FIG 3).


    However, as Shlomo Ben-Hur, Professor of Leadership, Talent Management and Corporate Learning at IMD Business School explains, often people are sent to training, but they dont see a link between what is being taught and what they do in their job, or what they would get to do in the next job. They are looking to really have a benefit, to be able to say I am in this training because at the end of it I will be able to progress my career, do a better job, increase safety, or things like that. Often, even if there is a tangible benefit for the organization, its not very clear what it is to the individual. Sometimes its just about explaining. That being said, emotions should not be ignored. Some 57% of respondents see emotions having a role in motivation to begin training, most notably curiosity, enthusiasm and excitement. The employer can try to stimulate these emotions by communicating the interesting features of the proposed course. Nevertheless, it is clear that to motivate an employee to start a training course, the most important thing is to play to an employees rational calculation by demonstrating the tangible benefits. Setting goals and requirements, even at this initial stage, can help with this.


    Managers from all countries agree, on balance, that rational analysis of benefits is more important than emotions in motivating an employee to start training. However, there are wide differences in emphasis around the world (FIG 4). In France and Russia, rational thinking is strongly predominant. Rational thinking also dominates in Spain, Sweden, Brazil and Germany, but less strongly as emotions start to play a stronger role. In Mexico, the US and to a lesser extent the UK, the stress is on a more equal balance, and in China there is a relatively strong role for emotionsin these countries companies will need to take a much more nuanced approach to motivation that stresses both emotional and rational benefits.

    To motivate an employee to start a training

    course, the most impor