Magazine article Mortgage Banking

Motivating Learners

Magazine article Mortgage Banking

Motivating Learners

Article excerpt

It's a commonly cited statistic that only 10 to 20 percent of delivered training material is actually learned and applied on the job. If true, part of the blame may be laid to learner deficiency, and some to program deficiency or delivery shortcomings, but much must be laid to insufficient learner motivation. I say this with conviction because, as we all know, when an individual unreservedly applies every bit of his or her effort to an endeavor, the results can be incredible.

To illustrate, this story was told to me by a career military trainer fantasizing about how he would like to train a recruit in weapon assembly: "You lock the recruit in a room that is empty except for a table with a box on it. On the box is a note. The note reads, 'In this box is a disassembled M-16 carbine, assembly instructions and 10 rounds of ammunition. In 15 minutes a starving tiger will be released into this room. Good luck.'"

In that scenario the instructions may not be excellent and the recruit may not be that bright, but the problem of motivation has been effectively solved. Unfortunately, this sort of approach to motivation is frowned upon in our society.

So what do we do? How do we get the sometimes sulky, sometimes surly, always time-stressed, easily distracted, marginally educated people we are called upon to train to put their best efforts into learning and applying what we teach?

There is a first step ... and there is a fundamental question preceding it.

The question is: Are we sure that our training material effectively imparts the skills that the participants require to do their jobs? If our training material is fluff and our participants ignore us, they are right and we are wrong.

Assuming that our training material is correct, we come to our first step: defining motivation. There is no shortage of definitions. The one that works best for me is this: A person is motivated to act out a behavior if he or she will do it for its own sake, and not because of any external reward or punishment associated with it.

Let's use swimming as an example. To me, swimming means staying alive in the water. But for many people, swimming is an inherently rewarding activity. If they woke up one morning and found themselves the only human left on the planet, they would still go for a swim - even though there would be no one to praise them for swimming or rebuke them for not swimming. They are simply motivated to swim.

So how about work? How many jobs do you have in your organization that people would want to come to your office to do even if they weren't being rewarded with a paycheck or threatened with having their paycheck cut off? How many jobs do we offer that fulfill and actualize people, as opposed to ones that demean and benumb them?

Let's put that unsettling question into the category of "important but not urgent," because today we have to get the loans originated, processed, underwritten, closed and serviced. Let's ask instead: Given that few of our subofficer-level jobs are highly rewarding, how do we motivate people to learn to do them?

The answer is: We can't. If a person does not inherently love learning and inherently love administrative paperwork, he or she is not going to be motivated to learn loan processing. Does that mean that our position as trainers is hopeless? …

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