What motivates people to learn online at work?

I asked this question to a group of 20 or so L&D folks last week. The responses I got back included:

  • Accessibility
  • Speed
  • Ease
  • It’s ‘free’
  • It’s just-in-time
  • They don’t have to leave their desks

Did you notice anything missing from that list? What do you think is the number one reason that people want to learn online at work?

According to Towards Maturity’s Learner Voice series, the number one reason why people want to learn online at work is:

To do their jobs better and faster

I didn’t ask the question to catch anybody out. I wanted to help focus us on what digital L&D could (and should) be focused on. But why did nobody guess that answer and is that common across L&D?

Could it be that, when approaching technology in L&D, we think more in terms ‘means’ (provision of content and how it’s presented) rather than ‘ends’ (better working)? Is this why so many companies fill a Learning Management System (LMS) with eLearning and think that’s the online learning box ticked? Job done! Of course, it’s not job done. But this is an example of the tail wagging the dog rather than the right way around.


What we need to be doing is solving our organisation’s real performance and capability problems with the help of technology and not buying generic solutions to plug perceived content gaps. Another way of looking at this is that your L&D strategy should be supporting and enabling your business strategy, and so in what ways can digital technology do that with you – and for you?

According to Josh Bersin, Digital Learning means “bringing learning to where employees are” and not just in terms of their devices but in terms of their jobs, responsibilities, challenges and prospects.

If your online learning is not helping employees’ to do their jobs better and faster, then you’re not appealing to their primary motivation for engaging with online learning at your company. On the flip-side, the opportunity for digital to be enhancing every day performance in your organisation is huge.

David James is Digital Learning Strategist with Looop and was Director of Talent, Learning & OD for The Walt Disney Company’s EMEA region until 2014.

Now an authority in contemporary L&D practices, David works with businesses, globally, to develop and implement social, agile and digital learning strategies that make learning work, with Looop

See also:

Digital L&D pt 1: Beyond e-Learning

Leading Away From Face-To-Face Training Towards Self-Directed Learning

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