March 15 2024 08:01 AM

Employees value relevance and interaction when learning new skills.

The author is a freelance writer based in Rockford, Ill.

It isn’t so much that people don’t want to learn, it’s that they don’t want to be made to learn. Instruction by way of mandating — inherently an imposition of necessity — has a way of eliciting, to put it graciously, lackluster appeal. This is common among adult learners, in particular, who tend to approach new material through the lens of practicality rather than curiosity. Oh, to be a child again — in the spring of one’s relation to the world.

Since retrograde aging remains a thing of science fiction, we must deal with what we’ve got. In employment relationships, this means developing instructional material that directly opposes disengaged learning, instead prioritizing what it means to learn new skills as an adult worker and applying this awareness to onboarding and training procedures.

Two avenues by which to approach trainings effectively, according to Jim Versweyveld of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension, are prioritizing interactive activities and accentuating problem-solution correlations.

Is your training interactive?

As Versweyveld noted in a Badger Dairy Insight webinar, adults retain approximately 10% of what they see, 30% to 40% of what they see and hear, and 90% of what they see, hear, and do. This means information communicated visually, audibly, and kinesthetically will have a 50% to 80% higher probability of being retained than that of the same information communicated by just one or two of the three ways.

Thus, a training session that relies solely on a speaker, a video, or an activity is going to be ineffective compared to that which relies on a combination of all three. Not only does interactive training come with the benefit of team building and interpersonal growth, but it also provides employees with the opportunity to gain applicable experience that directly relates to their jobs.

“Interactive training includes simulations, games, assessments — anything that helps employees stay active in the learning process and gets them out of their chairs,” Versweyveld said.

This approach has the further benefit of adhering to each of the three learning styles, which correlate to the aforementioned instruction tactics: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. By building a well-rounded, interactive presentation, an employer may replace the familiar image of monotonous conference room training with one that feels interesting and gratifying.

“Adult learners also benefit from frequent practice of any new skill,” Versweyveld added. “Memorization doesn’t work as well as opportunities for hands-on, interactive application.”

Is your training relevant?

To learn a new skill means to admit ignorance — to admit there is something you do not know how to do. Not everyone — not anyone, realistically — enjoys acknowledging such. Therefore, when conducting a training, it’s important to highlight the value of the information it contains in order to preserve employees’ interest in and appreciation for that which they’re learning.

As a curious life-long learner, I find myself continually asking “why” in regard to the majority of what I encounter. This is what fuels my writing. Employees, too, want to know the “why” behind what they are being asked to do. Why is this change important? What makes it necessary? What does it have to do with me? Recognition of a training’s relevance can mean the difference between disengagement and retention.

One way to communicate the “why” behind a new procedure is to frame it as a solution to a problem. For example, “X is what’s happening, and Y is how we’re going to fix it.” This spawns a greater appreciation for what is being taught and an organic interest in how to apply the information to individual habits and behaviors.

“Adult learners want real-world applications,” Versweyveld said. “They want to have inner motivation for why they need certain skills.”

A problem-solution formula offers a sense of practicality to what’s being taught. For adult learners, this equals an edifying learning environment.

Bringing it all together

Training doesn’t have to be the mind-numbing “let’s get through this as soon as possible” experience most of us are accustomed to. It takes some effort on behalf of the employer, but trainings can, in fact, be a positive learning experience for all involved.

To get the most value out of a session, consider relevance, interaction, and learning styles, as well as how to deliver training content in an engaging manner.

If you are interested in learning more about these training tactics as an employer, Versweyveld cited and the UW-Madison Division of Extension course “Becoming an employer of choice” as avenues to explore.

For our 1,000+ Producers
Welcome to this new section in Hoard’s Dairyman, tailored specifically to you. Here we will provide content focused on the unique requirements and challenges found on operations milking more than 1,000 cows.