Today’s economy demands that businesses and workers alike continuously learn and apply new information to remain competitive. However, this presents numerous challenges to workplace managers, who must design training programs to fit a diverse array of employees.
Everyone learns differently, which makes it important for managers to identify each employee’s learning style. Whether a worker is a kinesthetic, auditory, or visual learner will determine the optimal method to use when training them. Failure to do this could mean underutilizing or overlooking talent that exists within our organization. By choosing the right program, a team minimizes training time, fully utilizes available talent, and primes the pump for long-term success.
Why learning styles matter in the workplace
In order to train an employee effectively, you have to understand their learning style. This is crucial in a fast-paced corporate environment, where time wasted on ineffective training costs money and slows production.
When employees are trying to learn a new task, mismatches with training methods and learning styles are discouraging. You may misattribute an employee’s failure to effectively learn a new piece of information to a lack of motivation, rather than a mismatch in training style. Avoiding many of these problems starts by tailoring training programs to the needs of individual employees from the get-go.
Identifying your team’s learning styles
Here are some practical ways to identify the three different learning styles of your team members:
The Kinesthetic Learner: Kinesthetic learners gain knowledge through direct experience and practice. They like to dive right into an example project and learn by interacting with the subject matter. Kinesthetic learners appreciate simulations and walk-throughs, but less so lectures or other one-way teaching styles. They benefit less from others sharing their experiences than other types of learners. Given their tendency to explore, kinesthetic learners often take more risks than other learners, which makes for a valuable team member. However, they may require more resources for truly effective training.
The Auditory Learner: Auditory learners absorb information best when it is shared out loud. They learn best from speeches, lectures or one-on-one teaching. Auditory learners may talk their way through a problem or repeat information aloud to aid in retention. They greatly benefit from discussions and learn more by talking about what they know with others. However, this presents many challenges when it’s not possible to easily convey information through words alone, or if there isn’t much room for dialogue in your training system.
The Visual Learner: The Social Science Research Network reports that 65 percent of adults fall into this category. Visual learners assimilate information when it is presented as an image. They learn best when information is broken down into clear sequences or processes and is presented in formats such as graphs, charts, diagrams, and text. They are effective visualizers and work well with self-instruction opportunities. However, they often find auditory learning ineffective and may lose interest during discussions or lectures.
Training your team in the way to go
Once you’ve identified an employee’s learning style, you’ll need to design a training program that’s suited to them. There are three keys ways to collectively cater to the specific learning styles of your team.
- Embrace diversity
Embracing diversity allows you to take full advantage of your employees’ strengths. Acknowledging the existence of different learning styles and crafting training materials suited to each one is a good first step in this direction. It’s important to remember that everyone is an individual, and there will be much variation in learning capabilities even within groups. This becomes especially pronounced when people with different learning styles work together in groups. Keep track of individual development and adjust as necessary.
- Don’t overcomplicate things
While it’s important to recognize different learning styles and accommodate them, this doesn’t mean you should rebuild your training system from the ground up. You may be able to successfully reach workers with different learning styles by simply supplementing your existing training materials with ones crafted for each style. A simple diagram or workshop might be all your team members need to grasp a new concept.
- Deliver new information in different ways
As you develop new training materials, make them accessible to different learning styles from the start. Kinesthetic learners benefit from hands-on training and the experimentation that often accompanies it. Question and answer segments, rhymes, and chances for conversation help auditory learners process material. Flow charts, color coding, and different fonts are great ways to make the material more accessible to visual learners.
Training based on learning styles helps the bottom line
Adapting your training materials to a team’s various learning styles yields a broad range of benefits for the company:
- Reduce the time it takes for employees to learn a new skill, while ensuring no one gets left behind. This makes it easy for your company to implement a change or shift to a new technology.
- Get a realistic appraisal of each worker’s strengths and weaknesses, by understanding their learning style.
- Increase employee engagement and enthusiasm through training, especially by adopting an online training software that allows easier access to company knowledge.
Take the time to discover every team member’s learning style. This shows that the company values them. Also, make learning new skills and constant improvement a fundamental part of your business—this is essential to staying ahead of competitors.
Understanding that everyone learns differently is one of the most important steps for the long-term health of your organization. With the right learning tools in place, your team will find it easier to learn and implement new technologies, and under-appreciated talent may arise. All in all, your organization will develop a stronger institutional capability to learn, adapt, and succeed in an unknown future.
Sha Drena is a digital strategist and inbound marketing expert at Yokel Local Internet Marketing. During the day she works with her team, helping SMBs grow and scale online. During her free time, you can find her designing identities for creative brands, digital personalities, and startups.