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Personalize Training According to Employee Learning Styles

There is a push for personalized learning. Gone are the days of mass producing training to try and blanket the masses. Why? Just look at the statistics from business and consumer viewpoints about receiving tailored information.

  • 77 percent of Learning and Development professionals think personalized learning is vital to employee engagement
  • 94 percent of businesses say personalization is critical to their success
  • 74 percent of consumers get frustrated when they receive content that has nothing to do with their Interests
  • Personalized emails have 29 percent higher open rates, 41 percent higher click rates, and generate six times more revenue per email
  • 61 percent of consumers feel more positive about a brand when marketing messages are personalized

So as you can see personalization is key. And this should also carry over to training. The best way to personalize training is by employee learning styles. Since each employee learns in a slightly different way, every individual receives key messages in a fashion they can understand and digest the needed information.

What are the benefits of employee training by learning style?

We’ve mentioned personalization as a major reason to tailor employee learning by styles, but there are other benefits. Here are some of the other reasons to vary your training methods.

1. Less employee turnover

Employees leave for several reasons, but one major one is lack of training. Although you may say you have a robust training program, employees may not understand what is being taught. This in large part is due to no employee training by learning style. You can throw all the training you want at an employee, but if it’s presented in a way they don’t understand, how do you expect him or her to actually learn the material? They get frustrated because they aren’t getting the needed skills to do their job effectively and leave for a new opportunity. So if you train by employee learning style, you’ll keep valuable staff.

2. Keeps interest

This may sound like a given, but if you are interested, you are more willing to pay attention. This goes for employees too. By using employee training by learning style, you vary your training methods. This creates an increased importance on the training and employees pay better attention, retain what is being taught and actually apply it on the job. 

3. Reduces time and costs

You may think creating more learning modules to accommodate for different employee learning styles is costly, but really it’s the opposite. When employees don’t understand the training, they either spend more time taking the same modules over and over again or put off the training until they have to be reminded several times to complete it. . Both of this takes more time away from actual job duties and the company. So tailor your training and save both time and money.

4. Increases soft skills

When employees understand why they learn the way they do, it naturally increases their soft skills. Tailoring a learning style to fit their needs, helps employees become better communicators, better at problem resolution and better team members. So by facilitating employee training by learning style you’ll build these needed skills.

Eight different learning styles to note

Now that you know some of the benefits matching training with individual learning styles brings, you may wonder what the various learning styles are. Depending on which source you tap, you’ll find anywhere from four to nine learning styles. Below is a learning overview of the eight most popular ones to help you understand your employees’ mindsets better.

These eight are taken from “the theory of multiple intelligences” developed by Dr. Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard University. His idea is IQ alone is not a good indication of learning potential. That everyone can be categorized in different ways they learn best and this helps absorb what is being taught. Here are those eight employee learning styles.

1. Visual learners

Visual learners just like the name suggests use pictures or images to help them learn best. They have a good sense of direction, can visualize strategies before they carry them out and like drawing to learn. 

So for this group, using things like videos or tutorials where learners need to create a PowerPoint slide to explain what they have learned works well. Also, having visual learners watch movies or short webinars are also helpful.

2. Aural learners

Aural learners respond to sounds and voices. So not surprisingly, this group likes music and likes listening to speeches. Employee training by learning style for the aural employee could be blended learning. That way, an aural learner can listen onsite to an instructor or log in online and play a short audio lesson plan clip. Another method would include background music during lessons or incorporate sounds throughout a training module. 

3. Verbal learners

Employee training by learning style for verbal learners involves words. This could be saying or hearing words. If you were to give verbal learners a choice between a multiple choice and essay test, they would choose an essay style. So if you wanted feedback from this group a list of open-ended questions would get the best responses. 

As for ways to teach this group, it could be repetition exercises using key phrases. Another example would be acting out case studies in a classroom setting. Or another method would be giving a verbal learner a topic and having them use peer-to-peer learning to teach others on a key skill. 

4. Physical learners

Physical learners just like the name suggests, like to be physical. In other words, they use their hands to touch, feel and understand how things work. They are usually animated, like art, drama, have lots of energy and great memories. 

Employee training by learning style for the physical learners could be a new product demonstration where they are solving a problem using that actual product. Another example might be role-playing where a physical learner is putting into action a new skill. And physical learners can also learn through drawing, so having them create a diagram of what they learned is also useful in training exercises. 

5. Logical learners

Logical learners tend to be engineers, computer programmers and scientists. They like reason and a systematic approach to learning. In other words, they need to understand why they are learning what they are learning, what the exact approach is and how to use this once on the job. 

Employees who learn this way would do well with multiple choice tests or short assessments post training modules. Other things to keep in mind during training is using numbers, statistics and facts to explain key points. So giving logical learners a manual post learning session or a list of key takeaways resonates well with this group.

6. Social learners

Employee training by learning style for social employees involves group activities and constant interaction. They like to communicate and discuss what’s learned with others. They also like a chance for follow up questions whether through in-person training or a chatbot online. 

Some of the training exercises for social learners might be group projects in small breakout sessions, or a lunchtime learning session where open dialogue. Another idea is real-life case studies where a customer complaint needs to be resolved. Basically any activity that lets social learners talk through the exercise or training module is beneficial.

7. Solitary learners

Unlike social learners, solitary learners prefer to work alone. Think introvert versus extrovert. So these people do well given a project and asked to complete it on their own. They like to write down answers to help memorize new skills and they are self-motivated to improve on set goals.

So learning exercises for solitary learners could be online training modules to be taken by a set date. Specifically, reading over materials and being asked to explain the key points in writing once the exercise is complete. Another example may be having solitary learners journal how they will use the key skills taught in their everyday lives.

8. Naturalistic learners

These learners like patterns that relate to nature or their natural environment. They like to categorize or order information learned to make it easier to retain.  They also notice subtle changes implemented both in their daily work lives and set at the company level. Naturalistic learners like a certain rhythm or balance to their work environment. 

Using training modules like a company retreat which is set in a natural environment would work well for both teaching hard skills and soft skills. Another option may be tying an individual's job function to the greater company level. This shows how this person’s skill set fits naturally within the large company framework.

How can you use different learning styles to drive home training?

You may say, this is great, but there is no way to develop each training module eight different ways. Yes, this is true, but there are ways you can better personalize training and account for the various ways employees process information. Here are some ways to account for those different learning styles

Extroverts versus introverts

People generally fall into two categories. They are either more outgoing, like the spotlight and enjoy socialization or they prefer quieter more intimate settings and relationships. By varying your learning styles and methods, you can account for both of these groups. For example, use a blended style of learning with some group exercises in-person and some elearning individual training modules. That way, training can fit both personalities.

Flexibility and accommodation

If you realize everyone has their own learning style and that all training modules may look slightly different from one another, than be flexible. For example, allow plenty of time to take the training. If a training session favors a social learner and you have a logical learner taking it, then allowing extra time to digest the information is important. You should also add a Q and A or a forum for asking for help if an employee needs help completing the assignment. In other words, be as accommodating as you can.

Cater to departments and skill sets

Although not every employee will have the same learning style by department, they generally have similar personalities. For example, the human resource department may be full of social and verbal learners where the information technology group might be more logical and solitary learners. So when teaching new skills, keep this in mind. Develop training either based on departments or how a new skill will best be learned by the majority of employees.

Use more than one method

Try to incorporate more than one style within the same training module. For example, say you are creating a new employee orientation session, you could have a short video introducing the company, followed by a few documents to read over and ending with a group ice breaking session with this employee’s new team. So the more you can vary the training within the same session, the more learners you will engage.

Ask for feedback

Create an employee survey and run a personality test. For example, Extended DISC is a great personality test to determine how a person thinks in general, but also on the job. And you can also survey your employees on top of this test. In your survey, ask what’s working in the training and what’s not. Specifically ask questions about how your employees learn and if the training matches their preferred style to retain the information. Then, tweak your training based on the feedback you receive. That way, everyone feels the training is working for their personality.

How can you help your employees learn?

There are several training methods and ways in which employees learn needed information. We’ve talked about the various learning styles and what training works best within each method. But the key is to incorporate a robust selection of training and ways of administering it. That way, every employee feels the training is personalized to their needs. And when you do this, you’ll have happier employees who are better trained and see the value in the training they are receiving.

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