When it comes to training your employees, it’s important to note that adult learners in the workforce present unique challenges when compared to educating children or higher educational institutions like graduate or doctoral programs. These learners are different for several reasons and have preexisting thoughts and experiences that impact their learning, a lower tolerance for inauthenticity, and less time in their day to devote to learning.

However, these challenges don’t mean that training adults in the workplace is a lost cause!

By understanding and incorporating adult learning methods and learning preferences into your programs you can use these realities to help guide the design and implementation of your training programs and set your learners on the path to greater knowledge and skills.

Understanding Adult Learning Theory

Adult learning theory, also known as andragogy, was founded by Malcolm Knowles and is the practice of educating adults to develop their knowledge and skills.

The theory differs from traditional pedagogy in that during these adult learning programs, each learner brings unique knowledge and insights allowing them to learn from both the instructor as well as their peers, whereas in traditional teaching or pedagogy students primarily learn from the instructor.

The theory contains 5 main principles to consider when teaching adults.

  1. Adults are self-directed.
  2. Adult learners bring a wealth of experience to the educational setting.
  3. Adults enter educational settings ready to learn.
  4. Adults are problem-centered in their learning.
  5. Adults are best motivated by internal factors.

This theory suggests that training adult learners is most successful when you incorporate the 5 principles into the design of your program.

For example, programs that:

  • Give adult learners some level of autonomy over their learning,
  • Present learning subjects that are relevant to the learner’s job role, and
  • Allow learners the opportunity to relate the subject matter to their personal experience,

are wildly more successful than the traditional training route of simply dolling out training assignments or forcing employees to attend dry training summits or lectures.

Additionally, incorporating learning preferences is an important part of adult learning theory.

Incorporating Learning Preferences

Learning preferences refer to methods of adult learning like in-person, instructor-led training, group projects/training, or assignment of online video courses. Each of your employees will have a different preference for how they like to learn and may even overlap, or switch preferences based on the course material. The problem is, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to incorporating learning preferences for training adults in the workplace. 

The best way to train adults in the workplace is by using a blended learning method to implement training assignments. This means a balance of both instructor-led and self-directed online video lessons to balance out the assignments you wish to use to upskill your workforce.

When using a blended learning approach, you are incorporating both the adult learning theory and learning preference methodologies to create a tailored learning experience that will appeal to all types of learners.

If you’re ready to take your training program to the next level using blended learning, consider the following to get you started.

1. Identify your audience to see whether your learners are on-site, remote, or hybrid

Knowing this will help you decide how to implement blended learning into your training program. For example, if your workforce is primarily on-site you will need to decide how to incorporate online learning objectives into their schedules. This can prove especially challenging for those employees who are required at job sites to complete their responsibilities, or who work in high-risk situations where it can be difficult to access their online assignments.

2. Use the right tools to support your programs

Having the right tools for implementing successful blended learning can make training your adult workforce much easier. The most helpful tools could include having a robust learning management system with diverse, vetted content, and a system for implementing live training either in person or online.

BizLibrary’s products are designed with blended learning in mind. Our LMS includes a virtual classroom feature that is perfect for creating custom live or recorded training events, and our upskilling and reskilling platform BizSkills makes personalized learning easy through skills ratings and skill mapping by job role.

Consider the following example as a demonstration of utilizing both adult learning theory and learning methods in tandem. An HR director wants to improve the use of feedback in their organization. They have decided that they first need to train managers on how to give effective feedback. The director assigns the managers and leadership in their organization 5 video lessons to be completed within a two-week time period. At the end of those two weeks, the learners will be invited to a virtual meeting where they will share their key takeaways and engage in a role-playing activity. At the end of the meeting, each participant will have had the opportunity to share what they’ve learned and will have practiced applying their new knowledge in a guided situation.

In the example, the topic, modality of training, and activity can all be representative of adult learning theory, while the online video lessons, virtual meeting, opportunity to share key takeaways, and roleplaying activity give learners with different learning preferences the opportunity to learn in a way that most appeals to them.  

The ability to assign content and hold virtual meetings is all available within BizLMS, as are guided activity outlines segmented by today’s top training topics.

Our newest product, BizAcademy, also highlights the best of adult learning theory and learning preferences through the use of live, instructor-led training sessions led by industry experts on topics like Leadership Essentials, New Manager, and more! These cohort-based learning sessions allow learners to interact with the instructors and their peers for a more inclusive learning environment and encourage deeper retention of important skills.

3. Measure your success

The final piece to any successful training program is the ability to measure ROI. This piece of the training puzzle is critical to showing just how successful your programs are at training adults in your workplace and for measuring the impact of integrating adult learning methodologies into your programs.

Our ROI ebook and corresponding workbook are resources designed to help you understand and create success metrics unique to your adult learning programs.

Access the entire Proving the ROI of Your Training Program ebook for insights into aligning and showcasing the successes of your programs.

Reaping the Rewards of Blended Learning Training Programs

Designing training for adults can be a challenging and rewarding experience! The benefits of implementing successful training programs can include reducing turnover rates, increasing employee satisfaction, improving productivity across your organization, and so much more.

The genius behind utilizing a blended learning methodology is that you appeal to all types of learners at your organization. With blended learning, there is a little something for everyone, and each learner can feel included in the ways that satisfy their unique learning preference while honoring their diverse experiences and desired outcomes.

With the right set of tools and resources at your disposal you can create incredible training programs that add value to your organization and create exceptional learning experiences for your workforce.

Learn more about developing KPIs and improving ROI by reading “The ROI of Training Programs.”