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How do we motivate employees to take charge of their development? How do we hold them accountable?

(Question posted by participants in recent webinars)

This is an easy one.  Stop doing it FOR them.  Stop doing learning TO them. Stop dragging people to what YOU think they should do.  They then have 2 choices:  own their development, focusing on what they want and need, with the tools they have for doing it.  Or get passed by for promotions, and maybe even keeping the job, if they don’t have the skills (which are probably changing) and keep up. If they don’t do it, someone else will.  They either want to grow, or they don’t.

You can’t change the motivation of a complacent employee.  Only they can do that.  But if everyone around you becomes more engaged and learning new things, and having better conversations with their manager, and getting new challenges or even new positions, and you’re not… well, maybe that will change their intrinsic motivation. 

If they are close to retirement, and they lack the motivation to learn something new, make them a lead player in knowledge transfer and in being a task-based mentor to others.  Have others shadow them.

Another technique is to embed development into everyday work.  If the only things you offer are formal learning, including eLearning, you’re going to lose a lot of people who don’t respond to it.  Workflow and social learning are two of the ways millennials happen to learn best.  When I say workflow or experiential, these are job aids, check lists, skill practices (which we think work great), and performance support.  In other words, “help me learn while I’m doing the thing I need to do.“

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