Every organization relies on quality training. From onboarding to introducing new/updated policies, procedures, and systems, quality training is seen as being effective in ensuring that employees learn and apply their learning correctly, safely, and productively. It also achieves training goals in the most cost-efficient and time-efficient ways for the company.
Sometimes, however, it is all too easy to slip into emphasizing efficiency over effectiveness and to confuse information dissemination with training. Crowding groups of employees into a room might work for simple information dissemination: retiring staff announcement? Ok. Upcoming conference dates? Alright. They’re physically present to hear (and perhaps see) what needs to be delivered. And it’s ok if they weren’t thoroughly paying attention. But what if what was shared needs to be applied to improve work performance, safety, and/or productivity?
Effective training is rarely a “one-size-fits-all” endeavor. While the content to be learned is usually uniform, adult learners are not: they have unique learning needs that must be addressed for the training to optimally achieve desired training outcomes. It begins with an expert understanding of general adult learning traits and a specific respect for the individual and diverse learning styles present in a workplace.
General Attributes of Adult Learners
Your employees bring a wealth of learning and knowledge with them to the workplace. As adult learners, they typically have pursued advanced content-area/skills training on their own and feel they have a level of expertise with such. In addition, when they are told it’s time for professional training, they tend to exhibit some or all of the following attributes:
- They need to know why they need to learn something.
- They need internal motivation.
- They want to know how learning will help them specifically.
- They are self-directed and want to take charge of their learning journey.
- They find the most relevance from task-oriented learning that aligns with their own realities.
Effective training modules will be designed with these traits in mind. Further, the training will explicitly address them at the beginning of and throughout the training materials/educational experience to create optimal learning. Doing so is overt acknowledgement that the training respects its adult learner audience
Specific Learning Styles of Workplace Learners
In addition to addressing general features of adult learners, effective training will address the different, more specific learning styles present in a workplace. A learning style or learning preference/modality simply refers is the way an individual learner most effectively understands and retains information. There has been and continues to be much research on learning styles. Among the most useful in the workplace is the V.A.R.K. Model which outlines four main learning modalities:
- Visual (V): Visual learners prefer information presented in graphic forms such as maps, diagrams, charts, graphs, shapes, and images. They benefit from mentally visualize their learning and from creating their own graphics (doodles/illustrations) to process and retain new learning.
- Aural/Auditory (A): Auditory learners prefer information presented through voice-over videos, lectures, and audio clips. They benefit from verbally paraphrasing, thinking aloud, and engaging in pair or group discussion to process and retain their new learning.
- Read/Write (R): Reader/Writer types prefer receiving knowledge through text such as articles, text accompaniment with video, manuals, and written instructions. They benefit from taking written notes to process and retain their new learning.
- Kinesthetic (K): Kinesthetic types prefer hands-on learning. They best process and retain new learning when engaged in simulations, role-playing, and project-based learning.
- Multi-Modal: Some workplace learners use two or more of the above modalities when learning and/or change modality depending on the material to be learned.
Given these modalities, effective training will be designed to deliver and assess competency with uniform training material in a variety of formats so that the learner can choose to learn in the way that is best for them.
When it’s time to train workers, investing in efficient AND effective learning design pays off. A Learning Specialist/Instructional Designer perspective can help to create training that respects adult learners and addresses the unique mix of learner preferences in a workplace, leading to customized training that meets any organization’s training needs.
SPARK THOUGHT can help. Our Learning Solutions specialists work with you to discover your training needs, assess your workplace learners, and create customized training solutions that work for you and your workforce. We listen. We collaborate and innovate. We deliver customized Knowledge Management Solutions.