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How to Shift Employees’ Learning Mindset from “Must do” to “Want to”

Encourage your employees
Encourage your employees

Often, employees do not feel as motivated and eager to learn. They treat it as a part of their work that is more of a compulsion rather than something to look up to. How many times have you been in a boardroom surrounded by people who not only want to learn but also grow in their professional spheres and personal life? The answer may be not many.

What is the “Must Do” attitude?

One of the most underrated desires of employees in the competitive modern world is to work with a purpose.

Unfortunately, you will find this drive and sense of purpose missing from millions of employees! It is this sense of purpose that boosts their productivity, morale, motivation, and increases job satisfaction. According to a study conducted by Mercer, it was reported that employees are three times more likely to work for a company with a strong sense of purpose. However, only 13% of surveyed companies offer an employee value proposition (EVP) differentiated by a purpose-driven mission.

The 2018 Global Talent Trends study by Mercer revealed a few employees’ desires that many organizations seem to be missing.

The study undertook a multi-perspective approach to collect input from 800 business executives and 1,800 HR leaders, along with 5,000-plus employees across 21 industries and 44 countries around the world. What this statistical data depicts is there is an imperative need to bring about a change in the workplace trend to keep their motivation intact. The reason why this is an issue is so common across the world is because training and work are usually a must-do rather than a want-to. Corporations and industries all around the world will soon lose their footing if they do not restore their employee’s job satisfaction.

This has proved to be difficult for even those who have always been eager to learn sometimes struggle with the lack of excitement and motivation to learn new skills. Even if they are mandated to undergo training, they still feel compelled to do so due to various reasons that could make them associate their job with a compulsion rather than passion. It is not just employees but even employers such as yourself who might have felt that your work was more taxing and more of a compulsion. After all, we are all humans, and monotony sets in even before you can realize it.

Many of your employees might feel that training is a necessary evil that they have to attend despite not wanting to as it tends to distract you from your other engagements and responsibilities.

How To Change the Work Attitude to “Want To” rather than “Must Do”?

That is a tough question to answer because having enthusiastic employees eager to learn and be open to training is a very difficult feat to achieve. Wondering how you can get your employees to want to learn? How would you turn the tables around for them to willingly and wholeheartedly want to learn not for the sake of fulfilling a sense of duty but fulfilling a sense of belonging and for the sake of learning? Here’s how you can execute a well-researched plan to action!

To achieve this feat, it is important to unwind their minds and open them towards the desire to learn for which relearning and resetting the mindset is the first step, to begin with.

Schoox’s Matthew Brown, the VP of Learning and Brand Success helps you unravel the reasons why your employees might feel hesitant about the process of learning and undergoing training. He also shares his well-found theories on what you can do to change their learning mindset and tap into their wants. (Source: The Learning Xchange).

Steps to change the mindset from ‘Must Do’ to ‘Want To’:

1- Current mindset: Learning is often compliance-heavy

From the first moment, we were introduced to the concept of learning, we have been pre-programmed with some very specific expectations.

Going back to our school days, the teacher would stand in the front of the room. They had all the answers. They told you what to do when to do it, and how to do it. But they didn’t always say why.

The most important principle of root cause analysis is one simple-worded question: why? The principle of five whys will always help you to drill down to the core issue. Ever since the inception of learning as a process, humans have set in rules and expectations that limit others to go out of the box and think. Back in your school days, your teacher would always instruct you as to what you should do, when to do the task, or guide you as to how to do it. But the most valuable question they rarely answered was to explain why. Why are you being put to that task or being taught this lesson?

Why are you doing what you are doing? When you keep asking these why’s trickle down to your ‘want’!

Due to this classical conditioning, the creature of habits has preconceived ideas about the process of learning that carry forward even later in life. This conditioning makes you associate learning with something you must do rather than want to do.

Later in life when you have entered the corporate world, your employees working under you are told what to do and when to do it again! These learning activities mostly go about similarly:

a-You MUST complete these training modules

b-You MUST complete your on-boarding training

All of these phrases have an undertone of compliance that poses conditions on your employees. Therefore, always ensure that you choose the language that tweaks their interest and does not sound like a compulsion.

If you want to create a highly engaging environment of learning, you reprogram some of these conditions and democratize the process of learning wherein they want to learn voluntarily. Try and rephrase the language when you engage them in training sessions to enable them rather than commanding them to shift that compliance mindset.
No one is completely against the notion of learning but it is important to break down the muscle memory that retrains their brains so that they accept learning as a volunteering process rather than a compulsion.

2-Barriers against learning

You may have used these excuses too to brush off topics that demand your time and involvement. You may have also come across others giving excuses to not attend the training sessions such as ‘I’d love to but I am afraid, I do not have enough time.’

It is fair enough to expect these excuses but everyone leads a busy life and they cannot be expected to have the time to actively partake in all the training sessions.
However, another common excuse you may come across is, “I have attended a session with similar content so I am familiar with the content.” Even if they somehow end up attending, the time dedicated to the training sessions is the time that is not being dedicated to their pile of pending work which then creates a huge burden for them.

If you want your employees to attend these training sessions, start addressing the workload that keeps them busy and lessen the tasks that affect efficiency and performance. The sooner you do this and the more you explain the perks of training sessions, the more they will want to attend the training. (source)
Lack of trust affects employees’ learning mindset

Another important roadblock could be a negative environment that spreads a lack of trust in the workplace. To have your employees invest themselves in the company’s core values and goals, you need to be ready to invest in them.

If your employees do not place their trust in you and doubt whether you have their best interests, they will not understand why learning has any benefits for them and will never feel enthusiastic about being involved in learning.

When organizations push training, it is usually with the intent of completing a mandatory task off the list rather than to provide the benefits training to the employees.

3-Take a different approach to learning

Our goal to accomplish here is to help employees learn how to be learners again by enabling the will to undergo the process of learning and training.

When they require any help to solve their problems, they will reach out and have no problem in seeking your help to learn something new at their convenience. The issue isn’t that they’re averse to learning as a whole. It’s all about how it’s presented and integrated into the workplace.

Another approach is to start making this learning process highly engaging and exciting for them so stay tuned. Use marketing techniques to their essence by making it all-inclusive and diverse. Start introducing newer and exciting opportunities for them to learn and grow for a job that they want to have.

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and labor shortage, big fortune 500 such as Google, HCL, Goldman Sachs, etc. have started to introduce programs of internships, free courses, and other free resources and training modules that train them for a job they want to have in the desired organization. This has enabled learning and development cells to tap into the experienced individual who has undergone the training to eliminate the skill gap.

You can encourage them by targeting their passion and hobbies to help them want to sharpen their hobbies and find purpose in their passion.

It is important to make training and learning a benefit for the learner, not the organization which fosters growth and development by enabling transformation!