5 Power Strategies to Build an Effective Rewards-Driven Learning Program

by Hawley Kane | Posted | Learning

5 Power Strategies to Build an Effective Rewards-Driven Learning Program

We’ve all had moments in our lives where we felt that we were truly achieving something: whether it was crossing the stage at graduation, winning a competition or words of encouragement from parent or mentor. These were moments of growth and achievement.

But once we enter the workforce, it can be a challenge to continue to dedicate time to learning and growth. That’s why it’s critical to create and maintain a rewards system for learning and development (L&D). Implementing a powerful and effective rewards-driven learning program is built on moments like those that shaped us as we grew up.

Overcome Compliance Training Fatigue

No matter what you dreamed of being when you grew up, I’ll bet you never even once thought that you might have to complete compliance courses, periodically. Mandatory compliance training is a vital day-to-day operation and yes, sometimes the material can be dry or repetitive depending on how often your people need to re-certify. It can be especially tough to achieve a 100 percent completion rate by the deadline when your people can’t relate to the content. If you’re experiencing lower course completion rates, look at it as a fantastic opportunity to get creative with your learning and performance rewards and recognition strategies.

For example, if you award points for completing compliance training modules, you could award additional points for early training completion. Make it clear that there are tangible benefits by offering rewards such as gift cards or new company swag. Though sometimes it’s the spirit of competition that motivates your people. Creating a team leaderboard and ranking system is all the motivation some people need.


It’s up to you to know what rewards and recognition would have the most impact on your people.

Compliance training is just one slice of an effective learning and performance program. You can use both rewards and recognition as incentives for learning- and performance-based achievements. In fact, recognition is the number one trigger for employee engagement, according to the Harvard Business Review. And it’s important to link those rewards and recognition to your organization’s business goals in order to establish and build a company culture that values and rewards learning

Creating – And Rewarding – A Culture of Learning

Alignment in your goals and training can help your organization make progress in both tangible deliverables, like increasing sales, and developmental objectives, such as cultivating the leadership within your organization. It’s a simple formula: identify your business goals, link those goals to the training that will enable your employees to achieve those goals, and then offer rewards for completion.

For Hudson Trail Outfitters (HTO), an outdoor-gear retailer, its rewards and recognition program is intrinsically linked to its learning and performance programs, which directly support the business’s goals. The higher employees rank in the “Mountaineer Program,” the more likely they are to stay with the company, receive promotions, and receive salary increases, which are based on sales performance, customer service and training. And they’re clearly onto something. During their 10 years of running the learning and performance incentives program, HTO executives realized that their people work twice as hard to earn gear incentives rather than cash.

Saba Cloud’s My Rewards page allows learning leaders to make the same adjustments to their own rewards system for L&D. Administrators can link recognition and rewards to training and business objectives, allowing employees to focus on their learning and performance while enjoying their organization’s customized incentives.


How to Build a Rewards-Driven Learning Program

Ready to get started? Here are five powerful strategies to keep in mind as you start and grow your own rewards-driven learning and performance program:

1. Identify and align your objectives

Let’s cut through the noise. What is your business objective and how does your training objective support it? Establish the metrics and benchmarks that will help you measure whether you are successful. You not only need to identify your goals, you need to ensure that they support each other from the ground, up. Think of your goals like dominos: you need to align them correctly so that they build momentum and help the next domino (goal) move in the right direction.

And your rewards need to line up with your objectives as well. If you want to grow your people in a particular skill or competency, you’ll want to line up better incentives for working on such things.

2. Determine what motivates your learners

It’s time to break it down: Who are your learners? What do they value? What drives specific departments or teams to bring their best every day? Investigate their goals and targets, and the biggest challenges they face. What do they need to achieve to become engaged high-performers? You may find variation across the business. You may find that one department responds positively to company swag, while another one is interested in monetary incentives or added days off.

It’s critical to know what motivates your people in order to implement an effective rewards program for learning and development (L&D). Implementing a rewards system for L&D doesn’t mean you need to go carte blanche with the budget. Implementing a gamified rewards program in your learning management system (LMS) helps to both engage and recognize your employees in a way that means something to them.

Memorable moments of growth and achievement affect how we approach learning for life @Hawley
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3. Connect learning to gamification

Gamification is the process of applying gaming concepts to learning or training scenarios to make the learning experience more fun. It’s become common to see LMS training programs include features such as points, leaderboards, digital badges for completion achievements, and other forms of recognition and feedback. Incentives create an atmosphere of healthy competition and engagement, which affects overall performance.

Be sure to clarify your training and incentives strategies. Ensure your rewards and recognition align with your organization’s compensation strategy. Are the incentives culturally appropriate and learner-centric? Feel free to experiment with what works best for your people! The use of leaderboards, for example, causes people to return to the activity and spend more time with it. Spending more time, in turn, leads to better learning performance, says gamification expert Richard Landers of Old Dominion University.

4. Market the new experience

You won’t be able to roll out your new programs and strategies until you get buy-in from the executive team. Explain the ROI logic to your C-Suite using baseline data you’ve collected from your LMS. You could quantify how specific programs could incentivize key teams to boost sales, deepen their product knowledge or ensure 100 percent compliance. You also need to decide how to communicate the new program to employees.

5. Analyze and evaluate

Rewards and recognition help incentivize employees to achieve results but the real reward is the ongoing learning and training sparked by your program. This is where you need to analyze the data from your employees’ program participation to see what’s working and well, what needs work. If this is a net new program, it doesn’t hurt to start small. Experiment by running training programs for several weeks or months to gather feedback on its success rate.

Keep in mind that you might want to evaluate more than concrete outputs. More than 50 percent of employees feel recognition programs influence corporate culture. And about 31 percent of organizations with highly effective recognition programs experience lower turnover. Make sure you capture the baseline metrics of your organization’s top business goals before you start. If the results don’t seem quantifiable, distribute or launch a company-wide survey asking for specific feedback.

Our memorable moments of growth and achievement don’t have to stop once we reach the workforce. In fact, it’s time we raised the bar! Cultivating a culture of continuous learning is built on our beliefs, systems and goals. Done right, we can feel rewarded for our own performance even beyond the rest of our working lives.

Want To Enable A Rewards-Driven Talent Development Platform

Drop us a line to learn how Saba Cloud can help!


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Want To Enable A Rewards-Driven Talent Development Platform

Drop us a line to learn how Saba Cloud can help!


Contact Us


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