Tips for Training Adults

adult-learningTips for Training Adults 

Generally, the purpose of training is to maintain, upgrade and update skills for the betterment of the employee and the company.  Here are some ways to make your training effective.

Get results from training.  Take time to consider the needs of your audience and to consider how adults learn.  It is essential to recognize the importance of the learning environment as it affects the outcome.

The “Bermuda Triangle of accountability” highlights the complexity of managing training accountability among the trainer, the manager, and the employee — each tends to hold others responsible for the effectiveness of the training, when in actuality, all need to be held accountable for their particular responsibilities for the results of the training.

Have the trainer, manager and employees actively involved in the training.  Most adults are self-directed learners, they want to learn what they want, when they want, and how they want. Adult learners have their own style of learning that includes four key elements.

Below we provide those four key elements with ways to spark interest for each element specific to training adults.  Trainer and manager must collaborate in all aspects of determining and establishing successful training.

  1. Motivation – to motivate adult learners, set a friendly or open tone at each session, demonstrate your sincere concern, and set an appropriate level of difficulty
  2. Reinforcement – use both positive and negative reinforcement to be successful in training adult learners. Frequently, use positive reinforcement such as verbal praise, when teaching new skills in order to encourage progress and reward good results. Use “negative” reinforcement, such as constructive criticism to stop bad habits or poor performance
  3. Retention – adults must retain what they’ve learned in order to realize benefits on both the personal and company wide levels. Achieve great retention rates by having trainees practice their newly acquired skills three to five times or until they are comfortable
  4. Transference – adults want to bring what they learn in training directly to the workplace. Positive transference occurs when adults are able to apply learned skills to their jobs. Negative transference occurs when learners can’t, or don’t apply skills in the workplace.  As you are training, be sure to ask open ended questions regarding how a new skill or technique will directly apply to the trainee’s work.  Once they answer how it applies to their job or task, have them provide examples as well

There are simple but important matters which must be thought of prior to training.  Be sure to consider the training environment including lighting, classroom size, temperature, sound (can they hear you) and check for other distractions that could be mitigated ahead of time.

Other important factors to consider are relevance and skill level which go hand-in-hand.  If you’re not sure of the skill level, design questions to begin the training where the answers will give you an understanding of their current knowledge.   If you know the skill level ahead of time, determining the type of training to offer will be easier.  Keep the training and information relevant to the trainees and their specific industry.  You can keep a finger on the pulse of relevance by asking open ended questions throughout the training to make sure the subject matter is relevant and satisfying the trainee.

Adult attention spans are short because we, as adults, have so many things going on in our lives.  Keep the more difficult lessons shorter and recap after short recesses.  Keep the trainees alert and involved with questions, examples and hands-on demonstrations.

Adults cannot be forced to learn. The trainer is a “facilitator of learning.”  The trainer must present the program in a manner that provides each trainee the best chance of successfully completing the training.  Adults, of course, are able to learn, and when motivation, reinforcement, retention, transference, relevance and environment are considered, anxiety will be reduced, the material will be learned and results will be produced.  Provide the best chance for the best outcome by taking the time to collaborate with management and prepare for excellence.


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