MicroBenefits Blog

Start with Adult Learning Strategies to Engage Employees

Posted by: Jeff Martin on 7/1/17 4:44 AM

A training program built around Adult Learning Strategies will be more successful in motivating and engaging employees.   

As we become adults, our learning styles and priorities shift. We are busy, know what is important to us, and we want to control how we spend our time in continued professional and personal development. This is why it is so important for every training program to be built in consideration of adult learning theory.

There is a whole area of research dedicated to how adults learn. This is often referred to as andragogy, and was pioneered by Malcom Knowles in the 1960s. He concluded that adult students learn best when:

  1. They understand why something is important to know or do.
  2. They have autonomy in choosing what they learn.
  3. The process is positive and encouraging.
  4. Adult learning is highly experiential.
  5. They have control over the pacing of learning.

While there have been countless studies on adult learners over the past decades, one message is clear: There are specific considerations that course designers and instructors must take into account when designing and delivering training to adult learners. In this article I will share a few of the adult learning strategies fundamental that we have incorporated into CompanyIQ as an effective training solution.

Training relates directly to employees' daily lives.

One of the first and most important questions employees ask when taking training is whether it is a good use of time and relevant to their personal and professional lives. These questions are front and center in our process in building a proprietary training library. We've learned that constant direct communication with our learners and continually implementing feedback is key to improve training and select new topics.

Additionally, by asking adult learners for continued feedback around topic selection and course design, we provide validation that their experience and insight matters, which is important to adult learners.

Give adults autonomy to select a customized learning path.

Adults are adept at understanding what is important to them and what isn't, and the more control they have over what they learn, the more likely they are to be engaged and successful in online training. Our extensive training library covers relevant issues such as workplace safety, personal health, leadership training and career skills.

With CompanyIQ, learners are free to complete which courses they want, when they want on a device convenient to them, their mobile phone. They control the direction and pacing of their online training. They can even download the course through wifi and take it offline when it is convenient for them. We've found catering to adult learners' needs by providing options increases the chances they will participate and retain what they learn. 

You can also foster flexibility by breaking up the content into smaller pieces that deliver focused learning objectives in a shorter amount of time, known as micro-learning. Micro-learning makes it easier for learners to be in control as they create an individualized learning path.

Motivate adults with a positive learning environment.

It might sound like a bold statement, but training does not have to be boring. There are ways to create an interesting, positive learning expereince through gamification and social learning.

Adult language learners are goal oriented and direct their learning to particular needs or demands, like advancing their studies, progressing up the career ladder, following business opportunities, assisting their children with homework, or simply to be successful users of the language. They usually require immediate value and relevance from their studies, and they often learn best when they are engaged in developing their own learning objectives.

One tactic I've seen work with CompanyIQ's training platform involved giving credit for what they have learned. Badges that learners earn, display and share provide positive feedback. You could take this one step further and provide tools to earn and document professional credentials. This further motivates employees to engage in continued personal and professional learning, which can lead to promotions and other opportunities.

In a subsequent post I'll discuss more of Knowles's findings on adult learning strategies, particularly the role experiential learning and controlling the pace play into learning effectiveness.

Posted by Jeff Martin

Jeff Martin is a prolific curriculum and instructional designer with passion and ingenuity for developing disruptive learning solutions.

LinkedIn Google+


Topics: Employee Engagement, digital learning, learning strategies