Training Tips for Adult Learners

Adults learn at various rates and in different ways according to their intellectual ability, educational level, personality and cognitive learning styles.

If you understand the needs and interests of adult learners, training will be a successful exercise. Here are some key points to note.

RESPECT EXPERIENCE

Adults bring a wealth of expertise to your business. Through previous work positions, they bring a foundation of life experience to their jobs. Your training should reflect this.

Before your training, ask them what specific experience they have in the area. Assess what they know and don’t know, and cater your training to fill particular knowledge gaps—such as operating a computer system or offering great customer service.

Never assume they know things just because they’re older. Some adults need to learn about new ways of service or management. At the same time, avoid teaching them things they already know. That insults their experience.

SET GOALS

Adults are more goal-oriented than younger workers. Ensure them that your training sessions include objectives. You may even say at the outset, “Today, in the next two hours, we’ll look at our customer service techniques.” Outlining what will be covered sets adult learners at ease.

They also respond positively to well-prepared training times that cover relevant information—things that can be applied to their work. In many ways, adults are no-nonsense learners who say to themselves: “Teach me what I need to know, and why it’s applicable to my job.”

SEEK PARTICIPATION

Your adult workers want to share their knowledge. So let them. Elicit responses that draw out their expertise, such as, “Tell us about how you’ve handled a difficult customer. Share a successful experience you’ve had.” Effective training recognizes that adults often learn collectively from each other. These kinds of conversations break down barriers to learning and they motivate employees because they feel they’re included as part of the training.

BUILD RAPPORT

Adult learners value a friendly environment. So from the outset, the training leader needs to build rapport with the employees by setting an open, responsive tone. That means showing concern for each learner, understanding the variety of their responsibilities, and knowing that every one is motivated differently and comes with accumulated stories of success.

OFFER AFFIRMATION

Beyond that, the trainer can offer positive reinforcement. Some adult learners bring fear to their training, or they show inflexibility. By sharing affirmation, the trainer encourages learning. Say things like, “Thank you for sharing your expertise. That was a valuable insight. I’m sure everyone learned something from what you’ve just said.”

MOVE AHEAD

With these few tips, you can offer training that respects the unique needs of adult learners, and values their expertise. At the same time, you’ll create a healthy workplace where workers are conscientious, productive and teachable—which will make your business fly.

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