“Education is its own reward.”

While there’s certainly truth to that, you can’t always expect it will be enough to motivate your workforce. Keeping employees consistently enthusiastic about learning means going above and beyond simply providing them resources and hoping they’ll engage. There are lots of ways you can go about it, although some can backfire if not carefully considered for a specific employee. The occasional Amazon gift card is a nice gesture but not necessarily personal or meaningful. You could celebrate top learners at company All Hands, internal newsletters, Slack, etc. — just be aware that not all employees want to be the center of attention.

It’s an understandably tricky balance for HR or a team manager. You want to keep folks motivated but don’t want to over promise with rewards. Whatever constraints may be holding you back from incentives, focusing on the employee experience and providing growth opportunities will be critical to the success of your business, as Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends Report notes. Here are just a few ways to you can incentivize their hard work for professional self improvement:

Make Them Eligible for Promotions

Now, the important distinction here is to not promise promotions. Career growth is a terrific motivator, but just be real with your team about what’s opening up soon and what skills it will take to be considered for that new role. As long as you’re presenting them with new career opportunities, providing them a learning tool like Treehouse, and giving them time to learn, it’s more than fair to expect them to do their part.

There’s no better way to answer the “What’s in it for me?” question than to promote from within. Showing faith and trust in non-technical teams to advance their careers means you’re seeing the whole person and their potential. Make it clear to them what’s expected, and build out a custom training program (our webinar will show you how!) to provide them a path to reach new heights.

Send Them to a Local Conference

Conferences are a terrific way to meet new people and discover new ideas in your field. If certain employees are showing high engagement and interest in learning new skills, explore what lectures, conferences, and meetups are available around you. Selecting high achievers and self-starters shows that you’re paying attention to their hard work and investing in their continued development.

There’s nothing like a little break from a regular workday to spark curiosity — plus having them exposed to the latest and greatest innovations gives your company the added benefit of those employees coming back to work with fresh perspectives and new ways to contribute. To help them get the most out of conferences, check out these handy tips.

Provide Mentorship and New Project Opportunities

Don’t let the absence of open job roles stunt employee training. Even if nothing is available now, there’s a good chance that will change. Pair your top learners with other people at the company who are already in technical roles and set up weekly mentoring sessions. This opportunity allows learners to see what the day-to-day work is like in a new role and build meaningful relationships in other departments. The mentors themselves are also given the chance to share their knowledge and build better teaching and interpersonal skills.

Additionally, give employees the chance to work on new projects with the skills they’ve been learning. You may be thinking, “Why would more work be motivating?” Well, if you’ve ever been named a captain in sports or been tasked to lead a new initiative, you know that the added responsibility provides meaning and purpose. When someone sees potential in you that you may not even see in yourself, that can be a powerful thing. Work paired with purpose will always stand out above the rest.

Filling skills gaps while boosting retention and engagement

We at Treehouse at big fans of the idea of hiring for fit and training for skills. When you invest resources in internal training and provide the proper motivators, you’re solving the problems of technical knowledge gaps and employee retention/satisfaction at the same time. You’re giving employees a chance to see what they’re capable of. So if you’re having trouble filling a new technical role, why not take a gander at who’s in your own break room? You may just find your new star junior developer.


Learn how to diversify your teams and win the talent bidding war with TalentPath by Treehouse.