Adult Learning: What’s in it for me?

Remember back when you were in high school? Did you ever ask the question: “Why do I even have to take this class?” If you did, you probably got this answer: “Because we said so.”  As kids, we became accustomed to other people deciding what we learned and how we learned it. Most of the time we were never given a reason why something was important to learn; we were just forced to sit in our chairs and learn it. If you look back on most of those classes, you realize that you might have retained the information for just long enough to pass the class. That is one of the pitfalls of “teacher-centered” education; by that I mean education where the learner is secondary.

The reply of “Because I said so” does not fly in the world of corporate America. Adult employees cannot be satisfied with such a ridiculous reason to learn. Every adult learner wants to know one thing: what’s in it for me? They want to know why they have been taken away from their job duties and plopped in a classroom. Many times the employees are losing valuable time to make commissions or get important tasks done. Time is money and, because of that, employees tend to get very impatient and frustrated when they are placed in a training class with no idea why they are there. And a frustrated employee equals an unwilling learner.

So how do we get these employees interested in learning? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Immediately explain to the learners why the training class is important to their particular job
  • Have clear and detailed goals for the training class
  • Link the training class to the employee’s prior work experience
  • Actively involve the employees in the class
  • Treat the learners with respect and treat them like adults, not children
  • Show the learners the benefits of the training, i.e. make more commission, prepare themselves for advancement, stay on top of the competition

These are just a few tips on how to get employees motivated to learn. Remember, each employee brings with them different experiences and attitudes about learning. Keep all of these factors in mind and you will see your training work wonders.

For more information about adult learning, instructional design or elearning, visit


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