One Size Does Not Fit All: Part II

A while ago, I wrote about how employee recognition programs very often fail because they do not take into consideration individual preferences, wants and needs. The same can be said of training plans.

At a recent coaching workshop, a participant shared how frustrated she gets when she is training someone who doesn’t take notes.  It drives her completely batty and she admitted that she starts to think less of the person’s capabilities for the job when that happens.

The training process can be frustrating, for both the trainer and the trainee.  A big reason that both trainer and trainee find the process frustrating is because their learning styles are very different.  Trainers tend to create training plans and activities based on how they learn best, but their preferred or dominant style may be very different from the person they are training.

When developing training plans, it’s important to plan activities for three different types of learners: visual, auditory and kinesthetic, also known as the VAK learning styles.

Visual learners learn by reading and writing.  They like to write down directions. They like charts, graphs, diagrams and workbooks.  They place themselves where they can see the trainer because they need the visual to support what they are hearing.   They tend to sit at attention, pen or pencil in hand, ready to learn.  Visual learners will say “I see what you mean” instead of “I understand.”

When training a visual learner, have handouts or direction sheets printed out for them.  Leave space on the paper so they can take notes.  Give them a detailed agenda of the training process … in writing, so they can cross things off a task is completed.

Auditory learners don’t like taking notes.  Because auditory learners rely more on hearing than on sight, they cock their head to one side when listening. They may not look at the trainer directly because the visual could distract them from the verbal.  When asked to review some information, they very often move their lips while reading or read out loud.    Auditory learners will say “sounds good” instead of “ok” or “I understand”.

When training an auditory learner, walk through training plan together, instead of just handing it to them.  After each segment or session, debrief. Ask them questions.  This repeating of information and answering questions is an auditory learners version of note taking.

Kinesthetic learners like to touch and move.  They learn by doing.  They get bored and lose concentration if asked to sit still for too long.  When they start to fidget, you know it’s time for a break. The break may be an actual break or a switching of gears.  If you’ve been in demonstration or lecture mode, stop and let the kinesthetic learner do.  With kinesthetic learners, you may need to break your training down into shorter segments with more opportunity for practice.

When you hand out the training plan to a kinesthetic learner, give them a highlighter so they can highlight areas of interest.  If you do have a training segment where you are describing a fairly complex, detailed task, give them something to do with their hands.  Ask them to make notes as there will be questions after or have a stress ball close by.

The participant who expressed frustration when trainees didn’t take notes was a visual learner and her training activities were developed based on her learning style.  Many of us do that because that’s that what we know.  We know what works for us.  We know what we like, which makes training that way easier and more comfortable for us, the trainer.

Effective trainers need to adapt and plan for all three learning styles.  It’s more work at the beginning, but in the end, so much more effective, fun and productive for all concerned!