Overwhelmed, distracted, restless: Regain your employees’ attention! Insufficient participation, low commitment, lack of satisfaction: When it comes to in-house training, companies today can find it difficult to motivate their employees to obtain a qualification. Why is that? According to a U.S. Bersin by Deloitte study, the main reason for this is that companies themselves, their employees, and trainees are experiencing rapid changes. This primarily has to do with digital development. Employees worldwide are constantly available, continuously exposed to a flood of information, and often overwhelmed by separating the relevant from the irrelevant. Many personnel development departments have recognized this, but cannot keep up with the corresponding prepared offers. They usually lack a starting point, a clear definition of employee development. That is why we would like to give a jump start with an overview of different learning types and the appropriate learning strategies.

Overview of different learning types

The study aims to clarify who it is that companies are dealing with today. Who are today’s employees? And what do they need to stay up-to-date in their jobs? According to Bersin, five learning types can be identified.

1. Overwhelmed type

Between receiving and sending countless emails per day – not to mention meetings, telephone conferences, and the irrepressible burden of information overload – there is increasingly less time for “real” work. This leaves many people very little time for formal training and development – on average, only 1 percent of a typical week. Are you also the overwhelmed learning type?

2. Distracted learning type

Since everyone is connected virtually, employees are now interrupted every 5 minutes – ironically, often with collaboration tools such as emails and instant messages meant to facilitate cooperation with each other. Doesn’t this sound familiar? Many people check their smartphones up to nine times per hour. Such digital “snacking” of the distracted learning type can lead to superficial information rather than more valuable activities and insights. How often do you look at your smartphone in an hour?

3. Impatient types

Maintaining the attention of adults for more than a quarter of an hour has always been a challenge. Now, however, attention spans and patience are measured in minutes and seconds – especially on laptops, tablets and smartphones. More than 70 percent of trainees turn to search engines to find out immediately what they need to do for their work. How long can you concentrate? Are you the impatient learning type or when did you have your last flow?

4. Collaborative types

People also want to learn from their colleagues and share what they know. According to the Bersin by Deloitte study, 80 percent of all workplace learning takes place through business interactions with peers, teammates, and managers – often without involved HR developers. The distribution of knowledge is correspondingly uncoordinated and inconsistent. In the best case, this leads to an at least rudimentary applicable half-knowledge. In the worst case, there are blatant gaps that lead to disorientation and lack of productivity. Because if I do not know how to do it right, I would rather not do it at all to avoid making a mistake. Are you familiar with this collaborative learning type phenomenon? Are the training groups also gathered around your coffee machine in the break room rather than coordinated in a workshop?

5. Empowered types

Increasingly fewer people have the time, patience, or inclination to learn on a “just in case” basis. They want to know whether what they have to know is really being used in their daily lives. Only then the empowered learning type does have the necessary motivation to really absorb the knowledge. If this is not the case, many skills have a half-life of less than five years. Nothing is permanent, everyone has to keep on learning without knowing where to get “quickly” secured information. A greater number of people are looking for opportunities for themselves for further education. At least 50 percent of the approximately 10 million people enrolling in open online courses are adults who volunteer for further qualification.

Which learning types need which learning strategies?

Companies seeking effective training for tomorrow’s work environment should identify the composition of their workforce, learning strategies, and opportunities accordingly. Entertaining and appealing formats that compensate for reduced attention rates are important.

It is obvious that workplace learning is poisonous for learning types 1 and 2 and will hardly produce any results: both the overwhelmed and the distracted types are not masters in discipline and self-management. You need guidelines and fixed free-time that are reserved exclusively for learning and do not allow excuses, preferably in the form of face-to-face seminars outside the workplace and, if necessary, even a cell phone ban during class time. Attention and concentration can thus be more effectively focused and distractions avoided.
Sending the impatient and empowered learning types to a moderated external face-to-face seminar with a fixed daily schedule could prove to be a failure. Short, targeted and, above all, self-determined learning units are much better – e.g. in the form of web-based training, training on demand or dialogue simulations with timely user feedback – “which lead to much higher self-effective success with these target groups than analogue half-day formats.
For the collaborative learning types, interactive webinars and serious games (gamification) are ideal formats; aligning to fixed dates is no problem for them. Webinars usually have live chats, which allows them to make contact and benchmark themselves against others. The social factor is a big plus, especially in serious games: the participants can connect with others, compete against each other, or simply work together and exchange ideas.

Personnel development that wants to keep up with the times should at least know some modern, innovative working and learning methods. It is best if they also apply these to themselves and set a good example. At this level, they achieve more coherent, continuous learning experiences that better meet trainees’ needs and ultimately help their organizations perform better.

So, who actually works for you? And which learning type are you?

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