Back To The Basics

You are probably aware of the major schools of thought and theories related to human motivation and behavior. Classic studies by noted researchers such as B.F. Skinner (Behavior Modification), Ivan Pavlov (Operant Conditioning), Frederick Herzberg (Motivation/Hygiene Factors), Abraham Maslow (Hierarchy of Needs), and Douglas McGregor (X/Y Theory), continue to provide trainers with insights into how to encourage and influence learner motivation and behavior. According to such researchers, motivation that drives behavior is something that each person has within or something provided by his or her environment. As a trainer, you cannot make learners become motivated or learn. Nor can you make them change their behavior. However, you can influence them through a variety of creative strategies by setting up an environment in which learning is not only expected, but also encouraged and supported. You can do this by identifying what is important to learners (e.g., through a needs assessment), then either providing it or giving them the tools they need to attain it on their own.

Many times, learners believe that they do not want or need what your training offers. When this occurs, you have to become a salesperson or therapist of sorts. You must first determine why they are resistant (as you read in Chapter 9), or what they need. You then have to address barriers to learning and seek ways to remove them to fulfill learner needs. Keep in mind that what motivates one does not motivate all. Although some of the small toys and incentives discussed in this book might work well to encourage some, they may appear childish and insignificant to others. This is why your ability to assess your participants' needs in advance is crucial. For example, I once had a group of upper management members, including several vice presidents, in a teambuilding program. Analysis showed that they needed to communicate better and to learn to work as a team. One way to accomplish this was to allow them an environment in which they could relax and have fun while getting to know one another better. We used an off-site location and wore very casual clothing. I also decided to use some of the incentive processes described in this chapter and others. When I first introduced the idea that I would be using stickers on name tents to reward participation I could see some of the more autocratic people bristle. However, after we got into the program and I started rewarding some people during the first hour, the competitive nature of these managers emerged. At one point I even had a Senior VP call out, "Hey, Bob, you forgot to give me a sticker for that last answer. " What I likely was witnessing was a "need" to be recognized and to excel. They saw peers (some junior) with more stickers than they had. The prize that I was going to give at the end of the session for the person with the most stickers was not important. They

did not even know what that prize was. What was important was their internal need to reach a goal of being the best (self-actualization, according to Maslow) while satisfying their own intrinsic need.

For any reward program to be effective in your training, it is important to outline the guidelines for usage. I generally discuss my reward philosophy and system at the beginning of a session and stress the fun aspect. This sets the tone for later implementation.

As it is for me, your challenge in using reward and incentive programs is to do so in a manner that does not distract from the learning. In my preceding example with the upper managers, I explained to them that they did not get a sticker every time they said something (random reinforcement). Otherwise, I would have spent all my time running from one name tent to the next placing stickers rather than facilitating. This would have been ineffective and distracting.

Performance satisfaction comes from two sources—internal (intrinsic) or external (extrinsic)—depending on what a person values and needs. Because each of your learners will have differing perspectives on what is important to him or her, you should build in a combination of activities, recognition, and rewards to help fulfill both intrinsic and extrinsic needs of all your learners.

Throughout life, learners are exposed to many experiences that shape their values and beliefs. Their exposure leads them to appreciate, desire, and covet certain things over others. Some people become more materialistic, seeking to collect "things" or build their resources. Others strive for a more cerebral balance in which emotional experiences and intangible opportunities create more enjoyment for them. For this latter group, self-satisfaction or a feeling of accomplishment is more important than receiving material rewards. For example, such learners are often just as pleased when receiving sincere, descriptive feedback about their performance as they would be getting a gift certificate.

To understand more effectively the importance of human motivational theory, do an Internet search for information on the researchers listed in this section. Also, type in key words, such as "Motivation," "Learner Motivation," and "Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation." By learning as much as possible about human nature and behavior, you can become a more effective trainer of adults.

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