Learning & Development

Training: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

by Theresa Damato, Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, Saba Software

Just like your company, every person working in it has a unique point of view, approach, and style. Just like our mothers told us when we were kids, we are all truly one of a kind, and thus, we all have our own unique learning styles.

trainingSome people are incredibly logical, linear thinkers, who can rapidly understand a product by reading a detailed manual. Others are visual learners, and comprehend information faster when they watch a video of a product and can visualize exactly how it works. Still others are tactile learners, and just reading or seeing is not enough. Tactile learners need to get their hands on something before they can truly understand what it does and how it operates.

Layer on top of these styles demographic differences, like Millennials. These super-sharp, super-fast digital natives have a tremendous capacity for bite-size morsels of information and get easily distracted and bored if the point is not reached quickly. The point is, whichever way a person best learns a new skill or digests a piece of information, his or her style of learning is almost guaranteed to be different from the next person.

If you look at this from a training and development lens, it can sound pretty overwhelming. Which is why, at face value, a one-size-fits-all approach to training can be an attractive proposition. The idea that you can “build once, implement many” can save you a lot of time, resources, and implementation headaches. It is also likely to be less expensive in the short term.

But unfortunately, we know that learning and development is ultimately about ensuring the best fit for the individual, and when your training doesn’t differentiate or allow for different learning styles, results are going to suffer. To maximize return on investment (ROI), personal development, and worker satisfaction, learning leaders and managers must tailor professional development efforts to maximize the potential of each individual.

So what should we keep in mind when we approach the process, and when we’re designing and implementing a training program?

Variations in Learning Styles

Studies over the years have shown there are many ways in which people process and learn new information. Per The Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research, 61% of students had multiple learning preferences of the visual, auditory, read/write, and kinesthetic (VARK) categories. The most preferred teaching methodology was practical/dissection with 39% favorability. Tutorial training was the least popular, with only 12% of respondents favoring it.

You can see that while there is some commonality in the types of learning styles that appeal to people overall, organizations can better help their employees during training to retain information by adjusting the program to best suit the individuals involved. By doing this, organizations can improve the efficiency, better engage their employees, and maximize their ROI.

Now, this is much easier said than done, and for that reason, this is where learning technologies that use predictive and prescriptive analytics can be a game-changer. From subject matter to form factor, prescriptive rules enable learning leaders to customize content based on their target audience. And predictive analytics have an “it knows me” capability similar to Amazon and Netflix that can serve up more of what a learner is responding to—and less of what they’re not.

Bespoke Training

To maximize the success of a training program, it is important that learning and development teams take all of these factors into consideration. Here are some best practices to keep in mind.

First, take the time to understand each employee’s learning style, in addition to strengths that need to be developed and weaknesses that must be addressed. Visual learners, for example, can benefit from mind maps, acronyms, and diagrams to understand sequential processes. Experiential learning can help tactile learners get more hands-on with the subject matter and can allow learning leaders to glean more specific information from the results beyond just course completions and grades.

Then, explore and test various methods of training to determine which best fit each learning style. You may find that role-playing certain scenarios that can occur in the workplace best serves your kinesthetic learners, as they are the “doers” of the organization. Group discussions may work best for auditory learners as they provide these employees an avenue where they can brainstorm, explain, and talk through the material.

From there, incorporate the bespoke model into the way you work with managers and their teams in terms of defining their career goals and charting career paths. Use information from training to determine what you and managers can do to create the plans that will get them there.

Evaluate Learning Technologies

Once you determine the training methods that you believe will best fit your different types of learners, consider what technologies you need to support this plan. Modern learning management systems (LMSs) offer important features, such as social collaboration, support for “bring your own” learning, video, and microlearning capabilities, and they of course are mobile-friendly and allow employees to access learning anytime they want in a format that suits their needs.

In addition, some LMS technologies offer simple pulse survey, feedback, and engagement tools that are user-friendly, and they help talent leaders get immediate “in the field” evaluation of programs and courses, so you can quickly identify problem areas and make improvements on the fly.

Beyond the user benefits of an LMS, these platforms improve efficiencies in administration, documentation, delivery, tracking, and audit of training programs.  In addition, LMSs can deliver robust analytics and reporting that can help you evaluate program effectiveness, improve results, and prove the impact your training is having on skill development, career growth, and the business.

Some platforms support formal, experiential, and informal “bring your own” training; enable robust content aggregation and curation capabilities; support collaborative, video, micro, and gamified learning; deliver predictive and prescriptive analytics and multi-language support; and can connect and/or integrate with a broad ecosystem of HR and business applications.

With so many employee variables, there is simply not a one-size-fits-all solution. When developing a training program for your employees, be open to exploring options and tuning them as needed. With a little research and experimentation, you should be able to find the right formula that works for your team as well as your organization.

Theresa DamatoTheresa Damato is the Vice President of worldwide marketing at Saba Software, where she leads the global marketing team and directs brand, messaging, integrated marketing programs, product marketing, and demand creation strategies. Her organization is responsible for positioning Saba’s growth strategy, cultivating opportunities in new and existing customer markets, aligning marketing with revenue and sales growth strategies, and growing demand for Saba solutions globally.

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