Large and small retail businesses often do not consider incorporating learning styles into their training programs. This article explains how learning efficiency and retention are improved by understanding how people learn and retain new information. The key takeaway for employers is to be aware of learning styles and ensure that training programs are flexible enough to include all of them. In this blog, we will provide the steps necessary to train someone for a current or new position in retail effectively and efficiently.
Part 1: Applying Learning Styles to Employee Training
What are Learning Styles?
A Learning style is the way an individual concentrates on, processes, and remembers new information or skills. Learning styles are individual preferences in learning; similar to being “right-handed” versus left, we all have a dominant way of absorbing, retaining, and internalizing information.
Due to differences in learning styles, we all approach learning new job duties, tasks, and the overall employee training experience differently. Therefore, a person’s approach to learning is an indicator of how they perceive, interact with, and respond to the new work environment.
Why are learning styles useful to retail business managers?
- Americans spent an estimated $83 billion dollars in corporate training in 2019.
- People forget about 70% of new information within 24 hrs
Companies should always be looking for ways to use training dollars effectively and to innovate whenever possible. Thus, adapting learning style techniques and applying them to an employee training program will allow trainers to tailor the way company information is presented to new employees for efficient learning retention. Over the long-term, employers will see a better ROI for their training dollars.
The four learning Styles and How to apply them.
Visual Learners– visual learners can retain information more effectively when presented to them in pictures, diagrams, symbols, etc.
- Take detailed notes rather than get involved in discussions
- Tend to sit in the front so you can see clearly
- Benefit from pictures and visual presentations, especially those in color
Auditory Learners: auditory learners prefer listening to information that is presented to them vocally. Hence, these learners work well in group settings where vocal collaboration is present.
- Enjoy discussing topics, talking things through, and listening to others speak on subject matter
- Acquire knowledge by reading aloud
- Read aloud to themselves
Reading & Writing Learners: Focus on the written words, reading and writing learners succeed with written information on worksheets, presentations, and other text-heavy resources. These learners are note-takers and perform well when they can reference written text.
- Learn best by reading and taking notes
- Tend to remember information that they read or write down
- Prefer writing essays to oral presentations
- Express themselves better when writing rather than when talking
Kinesthetic Learners: Prefer taking an active role such as on-the-job training. Kinesthetic learners are hands-on and thrive when engaging all of their senses during coursework (and all the training.)
- Need lots of breaks and will want to move around
- Speak with hands and gestures
- Remember what was done, but have difficulty with lecture material or visual presentations
- Learn through activities and doing things
Recognizing different learning styles in business is crucial in understanding how your employee’s process information and which working environment will help them reach their full potential. Effective training will keep you ahead of rivals and provide a competitive organization managers and employees will be proud to work for.
How Employee Trainers Can Assess Learning Styles
Understanding how people learn can help employees reach their full potential and improve their productivity. For years formal education institutions have been applying the Learning Preference Inventory (LPI) to help students improve their academic performance; why not apply the LPI to learning generally?
These self-tests show how individuals learn best, and this knowledge can be used to improve employee training exercises, skill development and career potential.
Learning Styles Preference Inventory (LPI) – Middlesex Community College
Middlesex Community College LPI instructions: Read each statement and select the appropriate number response as it applies to you.
Often (3) Sometimes (2) Seldom/Never (1)
Visual Assessment Questions
- _____ I remember information better if I write it down.
- _____ Looking at the person helps keep me focused.
- _____ I need a quiet place to get my work done.
- _____ When I take a test, I can see the textbook page in my head.
- _____ I need to write down directions, not just take them verbally.
- _____ Music or background noise distracts my attention from the task at hand.
- _____ I don’t always get the meaning of a joke.
- _____ I doodle and draw pictures on the margins of my notebook pages.
- _____ I have trouble following lectures.
- _____ I react very strongly to colors.
Auditory Assessment Questions
- _____ My papers and notebooks always seem messy.
- _____ When I read, I need to use my index finger to track my place on the line.
- _____ I do not follow written directions well.
- _____ If I hear something, I will remember it.
- _____ Writing has always been difficult for me.
- _____ I often misread words from the text-(i.e., “them” for “then”).
- _____ I would rather listen and learn than read and learn.
- _____ I’m not very good at interpreting an individual’s body language.
- _____ Pages with small print or poor quality copies are difficult for me to read.
- _____ My eyes tire quickly, even though my vision check-up is always fine.
Kinesthetic Assessment Questions
- _____ I start a project before reading the directions.
- _____ I hate to sit at a desk for long periods of time.
- _____ I prefer first to see something done and then do it myself.
- _____ I use the trial and error approach to problem-solving.
- _____ I like to read my textbook while riding an exercise bike.
- _____ I take frequent study breaks.
- _____ I have a difficult time giving step-by-step instructions.
- _____ I enjoy sports and do well in several different types of sports.
- _____ I use my hands when describing things.
- _____ I have to rewrite or type my class notes to reinforce the material.
How to Interpret the Assessment
- Total the score for each section. The highest of the three scores indicates the most efficient method of information intake. A score of 21 points or more indicates strength in that area.
- The second highest score indicates which boosts the primary learning style. For example, a score of 23 in the visual assessments indicates a strong visual learner—such a learner benefits from the text, filmstrips, charts, graphs, etc.
- If the second-highest score is auditory, the individual will benefit from audio tapes, lectures, etc. If you are strong kinesthetically, taking notes and rewriting class notes will reinforce information.
There is no Wrong Way to Learn.
There is no right or wrong way to learn. Many individuals use a combination of learning styles, while others learn best by following one. If you don’t know your learning style, it is worth finding out as there are many benefits to discovering how you process information best. Moreover, it will help you understand how others learn and internalize information. For example, if you coach, supervise, manage or train employees; or are interested in learning a new skill such as first aid; it is beneficial to have some awareness of learning styles.
Note: Learning styles are not just for new employees. Current employees training for a different position in the company will also find it useful to know what their dominant learning style is.
Part II: Employee Training & Learning Retention
Why is learning retention vital to new employee training?
Learning retention is our ability to take new information and store it in our long-term memory so that we can recall it quickly and put that knowledge to use. If the information is not absorbed, it will briefly stay in the short-term memory and soon be forgotten. Below are ten tips to help employees remember their training.
10 Tips To Help New Employees Retain New Skills and Information
The benefit of the learning retention process involves strengthened knowledge and an increased probability that trained employees will apply what they have learned, understand the results that can be achieved, and reflect and document progress toward a business goal. Below are 10 tips to improve learning retention, they are as follows:
- Build a solid foundation: Think of the entire training program as one machine designed to create model employees. Therein, the foundation needs to align with the training program and goals of the organization.
- Teach by telling Stories: People remember stories more effectively than facts. So tell the story of the biggest challenge in your business and give your learners leading roles. Employees can grasp context and training purpose through the characters in the story.
- Make training activities relevant: make training relevant and personalized to the individual employees; the information they learn should be relevant to their role in the company. Information overload is what occurs when a training program is too broad.
- Personalized training sessions: Ensure that knowledge learned in training objectives from session one is linked to sessions two, three, etc. This will help the trainee to understand how the information relates and supports their role in the company.
- Keep training activities focused: One of the realities of being human is that we have limited attention spans. Thus, when training sessions are too long, we lose concentration. For this reason, design training presentations/sessions to take place in 40 – 50 minute intervals.
- Encourage repetition: Repetition is key; take advantage of devices, training apps, audiobooks, social learning platforms, etc. Using these resources will increase trainees’ exposure to training information.
- De-formalize Training when it is practical: Some formal training is necessary. However, only about 10% of what we learn at work comes from traditional instruction, such as texts or eLearning. The remainder comes from practice, experience, on-the-job training, and interaction with coworkers.
- Blended learning styles: As mentioned earlier in the article, ensure that a variety of exercises, materials, and technologies that appeals to each learning style are blended into each training session.
- Keep learning fun: Trainees get engaged and retain more information when training is fun. For example, Gamified learning platforms encourage repeat visits and learner-led training. These are essential for successful knowledge retention.
- Add Variety: Do not fall into patterns and routines of pushing multiple-choice assessments to gauge knowledge retention. Instead, include activities requiring higher engagement levels, such as presentations, short writing tasks, or practical on-the-job training assessments.
Knowledge Tests & Assessments
At the end of each training session, it is important to assess what information has been remembered or forgotten. Tests and assessments help determine how much knowledge, skills, and information employees have retained after training. They are also helpful in providing feedback regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the training program. Therefore, tests should be administered after each training session to check if employees:
- Retain the desired business learning-outcomes
- Determine if follow-up training is required
- Ensure the training program requires updating or changes.
Retention in Summary:
- Learning retention can help internalize skills and support the application of knowledge and skill development while encouraging the achievement of results
- Learning retention assessments can deliver essential data to update training programs and document employee skill development and learning outcomes.
- Learning retention supports employee engagement with the trainee, demonstrating a commitment beyond the delivery of the training program.
To create an effective employee training program, trainers must be aware of the different learning styles of their employees and make an effort to match the training program to those styles. Additionally, content should always be relevant and engaging to retain learners’ attention. Finally, giving new employees something they can identify with and creating opportunities for application and interaction is critical to a successful training and learning retention.
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