First, I think it is worth stating up front that as long as we equate attending courses or completing learning paths with development actions and count those hours as learning hours, we are not likely to see or support the level of development necessary to drive an agile and adaptive performance culture.
With that said, for a person to be motivated to expend effort on effective development actions, it usually comes in response to a personal need to do something that the person currently cannot do. This could be anything from not knowing the answer to a question that one really wants to be able to answer, not being able to make a personally important decision because of inadequate knowledge or level of understanding, or not knowing what to do or how to do something that is needed to achieve a result or get something that one wants.
I call these performance gaps.
Most people think of performance gaps as being negative, bad and associate them with "performance improvement". But that only makes it difficult to appreciate the importance of refocusing our efforts on performance as the goal of learning and development. Season 1 and episode 2 of my perform and grow podcast talks about "learning to close performance gaps", where I talked about three types of performance gaps, remedial, aspirational and growth, as shown in the image below.
So, how do we motivate and optimise development actions in the workplace? By helping everyone identify and own the performance gaps that are relevant and mean the most to them at any point in time. We shouldn't take it for granted that performance gaps in jobs are easy to identify because the truth is most jobs are not viewed or approached (by the individual or supervisor) from the perspective of tangible, recognisable results that make it possible to identify real and meaningful performance gaps. At least not the gaps that motivate development actions.
When people identify meaningful performance gaps, they try to close them by trying harder. If trying harder works, it means they have the capability and are simply not investing enough effort. If trying harder doesn't work, then they have to invest effort in development actions. If the development actions are not very effective, then they have to invest effort in meta-development actions. 😅
I tried to explain this in the video clip below, talking about three layers - performance layer, development layer and meta-development layer.
So, the quality and effectiveness of our learning solutions to support actions in these three layers will motivate people to find the reason to invest effort in development actions and help people develop learning capabilities that will serve them well outside of the work context!
The most important layer to support is often the one that gets the least attention - the performance layer. By supporting the performance layer, we enable the individual to identify relevant performance gaps that have personal meaning and value, thus triggering the motivation needed for the other two layers should they be required.