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6 factors for motivating adult learners

Posted Jul 13 2009 10:49pm
Occasionally I send interesting articles out to members of my team with notes attached that say something like, “Here’s a really interesting article for you to read.”

When I follow up and ask if the article got read, often the response is, “Ummm, not yet but I’m going to!”

While I love to constantly read and explore topics that interest me, not everyone on my team feels the same (hard as that is for me to believe). Motivating them to learn and grow in their jobs – in the way I think they should – is a challenge.

Author Stephen Lief shares the following factors that motivate adult learners
  1. Social relationships. Learning that helps us make new or more solid connections with others is valued by adults. Tip: incorporate small group projects, discussion or ice-breaker activities into your learning activities.
  2. External expectations. Meeting compliance, gaining certification, meeting corporate training goals – these are strong motivators for adult learners.
  3. Social welfare. Gaining knowledge or skills that will help others motivates many adult learners. Tip: always talk about how knowledge and skills involved in training will help your team members provide a higher quality of life or care for your clients.
  4. Personal advancement. Knowing that completing a training requirement will result in a pay increase, a job promotion or other tangible benefit is a powerful motivator.
  5. Escape or stimulation. Learning for adults should be fun and interesting as well as useful. Even the change of pace from the regular work day can be a motivator to learn if the process is enjoyable.
  6. Cognitive interest. Many adults love to learn to get the answers to their questions; thus the wild success of search engines like Google. Checking Google’s top search terms for the last 30 days you’ll find anything related to Michael Jackson at the top of the list. Within the health category, however, people have searched the most for information about Demerol, cardiac arrest, progeria and vitiligo (loss of skin pigment). Adults are curious and eager to learn more about topics that interest them.
Next time I forward an interesting article around, I think I’ll look for a way to tap into one of these motivating factors and see if the results are better. I’ll let you know!
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