Author Profile Picture

Marijn De Geus


Founder & CEO

Read more from Marijn De Geus

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

8 ways to improve extrinsic training motivation


Imagine you have put a nice online training in place and you have thought of everything: the program meets your employees’ needs, it’s relevant to their work and it maps their growth. Everything seems to be in order and it kicks off! But then... After a few weeks, it appears that most employees haven’t even started yet, or have already given up. How to prevent this?

It doesn’t matter how good the program is, the way you introduce it and pay attention to it will for the large part influence the level of success. How can trainees ever find out that a program is amazing, if they don’t even start? They must be motivated to get started. Use the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to achieve this. In the former, the motivation comes from within: you like doing something or you want to achieve a higher level. If you perform a task from extrinsic motivation, the motivation comes from an external source. Employees who haven’t started need something extra to continue: extrinsic motivators. We suggest the following eight, from actively stimulating which addresses and improves not only extrinsic motivation but intrinsic motivation as well, to making it mandatory, which relies solely on extrinsic motivation.

1. Creating awareness

If you mention the program multiple times in your communication, the employees will be reminded to start. You could mention it in emails or in conversations, but you could also organize a specific kick-off. Our research shows that this leads to a significantly higher activation, up to 73%. It’s important that relevant and practical information is shared, so that it is as specific and easily available as possible for the employees.

2. Enthusiasm is infectious

Talk enthusiastically about the benefit of the program to convince employees. It also helps when direct managers know about the program, have experienced it themselves, believe in it and talk about it enthusiastically as well. This triggers curiosity and makes sure that employees at least take a look to see if the program is as good as it’s made out to be.

3. Good example

Of course, every change is scary, this isn’t different for online programs. Most of all when you have to do something yourself, your reaction will be recorded and/or you’ll have to assess yourself. To take away some of that fear, you can work with a leading group. This group will start earlier with the program and they are peers to the bigger group. You can give this group the roles of ambassador, or a special title like ‘on-site champions’. The goal is to let them spark the conversation on the work floor about the program and to start it positively. Seeing as the leading group has experienced the process themselves, they will form an accessible ‘helpdesk’ for employees that are having trouble.

4. Give them time

The argument we hear often is a lack of time. If it’s possible, you could block periods of time for the employees so that they can do the program. If there is a location available for the employees, they can do the program in a relaxed way and in their own pace.

5. Active coaching

You could work with coaching in online programs as well. You could give a coach the responsibility to make employees start and finish the program. If the employees believe in the coaching skills of these coaches, they will do the program with more enthusiasm, because they are curious what the coach will think of their skills. Next to this, the coach can actively start the conversation with employees that haven’t started yet.

6. Gamify your program

Who doesn’t like a little competition, between divisions for example? Everyone wants to be the best and encourages the rest. Which division scores highest, or finishes the program first? This stimulates mutual addressing on progress. But don’t spill the beans half-way through, because they will lose motivation!

7. Work with positive consequences

If you know what triggers your target group, you could connect positive consequences to the training program. Finishing the program could, for example, be part of the performance review where an employee might receive a reward or promotion.

8. Mandatory with negative consequence

You could make the program mandatory and set up a negative consequence. It might sound heavy, but it’s effective! It’s important that there’s a fitting consequence to not starting and not finishing the program. In other words, the trainees must feel that it’s mandatory. Think of excluding them from other activities, like a live training. We have seen this solution work very well: not only do more employees finish the program, they also rate it higher! Do you want to be sure that your employees experience all advantages of the program and that they notice that it’s beneficial for them? Making it mandatory, with a fitting consequence is the best extrinsic incentive that you can choose.

In an ideal world, your employees are extremely intrinsically motivated and they all finish the program on their own accord. But in reality, every organization, every division, every person is unique and every situation asks for a different motivator. Fortunately, there are multiple to choose from. Which one to choose, depends on your target group, your goal and the importance. Are you working on a program and curious as to what fits your challenge? We would gladly talk it over!

Author Profile Picture
Marijn De Geus

Founder & CEO

Read more from Marijn De Geus

Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!