How do adults learn best? Believe it or not, the answer to this question can make or break the success of your training content (and your training programs).
And by optimizing your content for adult learners, you can engage your employees from the get-go and set your training programs up for success. That’s because your team will actually retain the information. Rather than have it go in one ear and out the other.
So, how exactly do adults learn best?
Are you smarter than a third grader?
When it comes to learning new things, kids are like sponges. They can absorb ridiculous amounts of information super quick.
By the third grade, most kids know how to read, are doing basic math, and have picked up a sport or musical instrument. And many have even learned a second or even third language.
That’s not to say adults can’t retain new information quickly. (They can.) They just approach learning differently. And neuroscience plays a major part in that!
Kids only have so much knowledge and experience. So their brains are naturally wired to take in as much information as possible to fuel their development. That makes everything new and exciting.
Whereas adults already have tons of knowledge and experience. And their brains need to filter through for relevance and necessity. So by tuning out new information, the brain is actually protecting itself from information overload.
Get their attention before you start training
That’s not to say that adult brains can’t learn or don’t want to. They can, and they do!
But your training content isn’t just competing with neuroscience. There are also practical hurdles like busy schedules, previous training, biases, ingrained habits, and resistance to change – just to name a few.
You need to give adult learners a solid reason to allocate resources and make room in an already overcrowded brain. So adults need to know why they’re doing the learning in the first place.
When your employees see the value and purpose of your training content, they are much more likely to engage. And they’re also much more likely to retain the information longer.
That means way before you dive into the content, you need to make your employees understand why the training will be valuable to them. AKA how will knowing this information make their lives easier or help them move up?
Then, and only then, will you have their attention.
The 3 stickiest training methods
But if you want lasting results, you need to keep their attention until the end. That means you need super sticky content that employees can engage with, and that delivers on your promised value.
And 3 methods tend to work best for adult learners:
On the job training
On the job training is the gold standard of professional learning and development. What better way for someone to learn a job than by rolling up their sleeves and actually doing it?
And because it takes a “learn by doing” method, it’s much harder for employees to disengage. This makes it super effective for just about any role, skill set, or learning style.
Plus, you can even measure how impactful your training is as it’s happening! Just be sure to use a standardized key performance indicator (KPI), such as consistency of behavior changes!
Interactive learning requires your team to solve the types of problems they will likely encounter on the job. But it does so without the pressure of being out in the field.
Instead, this method relies on quizzes, games, and collaborative group activities (like role-playing) to engage employees with the training material.
And by encouraging critical thinking skills, interactive learning makes it more likely that your team will be able to actually apply what they learn outside of training.
Exactly as it sounds – this is training you can do from anywhere, as long as you have an internet-connected device. And even before COVID-19, a lot of businesses were already implementing online training in addition to in-person development.
But not all online learning (just like in-person learning) is created equal. A lot of it has to do with how the information is presented.
And the best online training programs are similar to a “choose your own adventure.” Meaning, the employee is presented with a variety of content. And they get to choose how they move through it. This way, the content is more engaging, requires critical thinking, and can be personalized.
Be intentional about your approach
Remember, it’s not just about learning styles. Your employees are also coming to your training programs with a lifetime of previous experience, preconceived ideas, and competing priorities.
So a generic, one-size-fits-all approach to your training content is pointless. It wastes buckets of resources and misses opportunities to equip your employees for success.
If you want your training to be wildly impactful, you need to invest in a variety of methods. And encourage everyone on your team to use the ones that work best for them.
We built Trainual, the top-rated employee training software, with that in mind!
By organizing business knowledge in one, searchable place, Trainual creates an interactive business playbook that your employees can access from anywhere.
One that uses a variety of training methods – including video, written content, and interactive quizzes – to make your training stickier. This means your employees get through their training faster and retain more!