August 29, 2019 dmh

Using evidence from a rapid evidence assessment (REA), carried out by CFE Research  and dmh associates this report commissioned by Nesta’s Digital Frontrunners identifies what motivates working adults to take part in and complete training in digital and digital-complementary skills.


Nesta have commissioned this rapid, systematic review of evidence (REA)  to identify what motivates working adults to take part in and complete training in digital and digital-complementary skills. The REA is extensive, synthesising 65 core documents from a longlist of 285 relevant sources. Here we want to highlight four specific findings from the report:

  1. Motivation to learn is complex: On the one hand, learners are motivated by external rewards, such as financial incentives, improved job opportunities or approval from a manager. However, learning also needs to be personally rewarding to feel worthwhile. Therefore, skills policies and training services which consider both internal and external motivators are the most likely to succeed.

  2. Drivers to learn are personal: For each adult, the decision to participate in learning comes at a tipping point where ‘personal benefits outweigh personal costs’ (Kantar, 2018). For some learners, the balance might be tipped when the financial costs of training are reduced, for others it might be when they have access to childcare.

  3. Self-reflection and goal setting increase motivation to learn: One of the most effective ways to motivate learners is to pair then with an advisor who can help them navigate their own personal barriers to training.

  4. We need to test and learn to find out what works: Crucially, our REA highlights a lack of evidence about what works to motivate workers to learn digital or digital-complementary skills. We believe it is critical that governments invest in evaluating what works and identifying best practice.

There is more to be done to understand what policies can effectively increase workers’ motivation to learn digital and digital-complementary skills. Throughout 2019 and 2020, Nesta’s Digital Frontrunners will be testing training and learning interventions to help policymakers understand what works for for upskilling and reskilling.

Digital Frontrunners is a programme led by Nesta that aims to find solutions to the challenges of digital transformation.

Thanks to the authors of this report:
Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE
Alex Beard
Alex Stutz
John Higton
Dr Guy Birkin
Andrew Corley
Chris Milner


Leave a reply