Like many people, I love to learn. It is not surprising that Learning is one of the 33 core behaviors measured with our assessment tools here at The Devine Group. In fact, it’s fascinating to see how organizations consider learning in their discussions of how a candidate might fit a particular role. In our world, the learning behavior is a measure of both:
- interest in advancing knowledge, skills and abilities, and
- determining which style of learning is most effective for an individual.
Much research has been done on how to understand learning styles, and this research can certainly help organizations design their training programs. However, the ability to understand learning styles is a skill that is just as important for working effectively with others on a day-to-day basis as it is for training.
Turnover statistics for new employees in the first 12-18 months often run as high as 50 percent! One reason for this is that new employees feel frustrated about learning so many new things at once. Unfortunately, there is a lot of focus on “what” to teach a new employee and not enough emphasis on “how” to teach it. There are many routes to getting new employees up to speed and they all vary by individual. Some people learn best by doing while others prefer to study written manuals. Sequential learners need to attain job responsibilities in a logical and orderly fashion. Still others require an understanding of the “why” behind things in order to truly understand their role and accept responsibility. Therefore, it is to the advantage of organizational leaders to customize learning approaches to each individual.
When building teams, there is often a large focus on personality styles and skills, with little focus on how various learning styles and approaches may impact the way a team operates. For example, think about the dimension of Active Learners vs. Reflective Learners. The former will usually take on a task quickly and learn by “doing” while a reflective learner may need to study and spend some time processing the information before jumping into something new. Some leaders might get the impression that a reflective team member is slow or resistant to take on new tasks, when it really may just be that that person needs to absorb the information and opportunity before committing.
Understanding how your mentees best learn is a great tool for building effective working relationships and productive employees. Think about your groups. Do you have a mix of visual and verbal learners? If so, you need to vary the way you communicate. How are you presenting information to your team? Mixing in charts, diagrams, videos or other visual materials may help employees absorb and retain what you’re sharing.
Also remember that your preferred communication style may not be best suited for those who work for you. It is worth taking time to understand your own learning style as well as the styles of those you work with, then consider whether adjustments need to be made.
Educating yourself about different learning styles can be enlightening and enjoyable. It can even be done in the form of a team-building exercise within your groups. Some of my favorite research and work in this area comes from Richard Felder and Barbara Soloman of North Carolina State University. They have developed an online tool that will help you and your employees discover your different learning styles. Click here to get started. Happy learning!