Learning Styles in the Workplace: Why you should care
What is Learning Style?
How do you prefer to learn? Do you like to read marketing blogs? Listen to lectures on management techniques? Process what your boss said while taking your morning walk? Learning styles relate to how you process new information and knowing your style and the style of others can improve your communication skills and productivity! There are a lot of theories out there, but like all things pertaining to the human brain, it’s complex and there is no one right answer. What we do know with relative certainty is that we all have different ways we prefer to learn and that we are a combination of “styles.” That said, let’s look at the three most common styles and some tips on interacting with them in the workplace.
1. The Visual Learner – “Let me show you something.”
This person learns best by seeing things.1 They are a reader – emails, charts, PowerPoint’s – anything visual is fair game. Over half of the people in your office will fall into this learning category so make sure you’re communicating to them. Tips for presenting to a visual learner: Avoid verbal instructions, if it isn’t written down or you don’t have anything to “show for it,” it isn’t real. They tend to like graphic organizers, take detailed notes, and benefit from lists and flashcards. They tend to be good proof readers2 so use them for editing purposes. They’ll also use language that relates to their visual style: “Do you see what I mean?”
2. The Auditory Learner – “Can I talk to you a second?”
For the auditory learner, listening is the key.3 They do well with lectures, sounds and music. The auditory learner will also be very distracted by any noises, so don’t put them in high traffic areas if you want them to be more productive. Around 20 % of your office should fall into this style of learning. Tips for presenting to an auditory learner: Avoid visual presentations (such as PowerPoint’s) that don’t have sound or music. Because they learn better with sound, they should have computer speakers and/or headphones at work so they can listen to music while working. They should be allowed to tape presentations and tend to enjoy discussing and talking through issues4 so use them to lead roundtable or question and answer meetings. “Do you hear what I’m saying?”
3. The Kinesthetic Learner –”Let’s come to grips with the situation.”
Here’s the employee or co-worker that likes to jump in and do!5 They do well with things that require hand-eye coordination. These are the people who won’t be able to sit still in meetings. They are also very empathetic towards others. Your mood and approach will definitely impact them, so try a softer approach or you may get some pushback. A true kinesthetic learner is a very small group, but many people have a strong secondary kinesthetic style. Tips for presenting to a kinesthetic learner: Avoid static situations where they have to just sit and listen – put them at the whiteboard taking notes, let them stand or walk around, or give out something to keep their hands busy to engage them. Use them to participate in simulations, demonstrations, or to lead in role-playing.6 I know this information is a lot to handle, “How are you feeling about this?”
How does this help your bottom line?
Think about it. It improves your communication and your efficiency and, in general, makes for a friendlier work environment. Identify your own style and invest some time to find out how each person you work with prefers to learn by listening to the way they phrase things, how they present information to you, or even just come right out and ask them. Then strive to present new ideas in those ways. It will feel cheesy at first, but knowing this will make you faster, better and more profitable! Give it a try. You may be surprised to find out what and how you learn.
What Learning Style are You?
Learning Styles Inventory
Learning Styles Chart