Did you know people learn in different ways?

I watched an interesting training session the other day.

I was to provide the trainer with feedback on their performance – not an unusual process in the world of people development.

It was a sales training programme and I was watching a session about how to handle objections, which is usually fast paced, interactive and fun. On this occasion, though, my colleague struggled. Her delegates were quiet and getting anything from them was a bit like pulling teeth, only less fun.

Why was it that a session that’s normally so good to run was so difficult this time round?

The answer lies in the way people learn. There are a number of ways to categorise learning styles but I like the Peter Honey model. So what do you reckon you are? Are you a Theorist, Activist, Pragmatist or Reflector?

More importantly, how do you think your employees learn and how do you know?

Well, you could get them to complete the eighty questions on the questionnaire but that’s not much use if you’re trying to teach a new member of your team something and they’re just not getting it…

There are some easy to spot indicators and it’s probably worth starting with yourself. Think about the last time you bought some flat pack furniture. When you got it home, what did you do?

If you ripped open the box, flung the instructions aside and got stuck straight in, the chances are you are an activist. The wardrobe probably went up quickly but went up wonky!

If you thought about it for a bit, then opened the box, read the instructions and then thought about them some more and then started putting up the wardrobe in a thoughtful way, you might well be a Reflector. All well and good, but you might just be too cautious.

If you got a couple of books from the library about wardrobe building and the best tools to use, then put the thing up and took it down again because wasn’t quite perfect, even though no-one would have noticed then Theorist is your most likely learning style.

Finally, if you got straight on with the building, using the instructions, but rejected any of the little bits in the packet that came with the wardrobe because their use wasn’t immediately obvious, then you might be a Pragmatist.

Okay, so what?

The point is that people learn in different ways, there’s no right or wrong, just differences. But if you happen to be an Activist trainer and you expect everyone to simply jump in, have a go and learn from the dreadful mistakes they make, you’re on a hiding to nothing.

You need to take a step back and think about the Learning Style of the person front of you and if, say, you believe your staff member is a Reflector, you need to give them the opportunity to ask questions and then get into it in their own time.

And the results if you do this?

Better trained staff, more capable of doing what you need them to do… and your own frustration an awful lot lower than it might have been.

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