Adults can be tricky to train. Our learning patterns are often established at an early age and most of us are wired to learn in a very specific way, the majority preferring visuals. As a trainer, it can be daunting when faced with a group of people who are busy and need to learn quickly, while having different learning styles and needs. There are proven methods to teach a diverse group of individuals; it takes experimentation, feedback and some creativity to ensure that your audience is absorbing the concepts and processes you are trying to instill. When new software is the subject matter, there is often a process of unlearning the old ways that accompany the new. Since most humans have a dislike for change, the trainer needs to provide time and support for the change in workflow and process to be accepted.
Trial and Error
Experimenting with different styles within a training environment or group will help a trainer improve their own skill set to deliver an experience that is useful and meaningful. Most people identify as being visual learners. It’s important, therefore, to provide key visual aids such as PowerPoints, to help them understand core concepts. Hand in hand with visual learning is a need for hands-on time with the software (pun intended) Tactile learning is a great way to reinforce visual learning, helping students remember different processes and how they interact with each other. Jumping directly into a software user-interface while explaining concepts is too much for people to understand and can exasperate the learning curve for students. This is where a rotation between showing, talking and doing is key to cementing learning.
Connecting the Dots
New software learners respond well when you help them understand how a certain module interacts with different areas within the software. Starting training sessions with presentations that show graphics and workflow diagrams while explaining concepts allows the trainer to effectively impart the high-level knowledge that sets the foundation for understanding the details. Incorporating a demo within the software, followed by adequate hands-on time for users to work through different scenarios, cements their knowledge through the application. Rather than moving quickly through topics, it is often very effective to spend time prior to subsequent sessions working in the live environment entering data. Users then have the opportunity to use what they have learned immediately and feel like they are contributing to the success of the software implementation project. Few things are more disheartening than spending two weeks learning new software and then starting from scratch trying to remember how to do something that was learned 10 days ago.
Calming the ‘Chattering Monkey’
Often, adult learners can feel apprehensive before training starts. New software brings a host of worries. Users will ask themselves, “Do I have the ability to learn this?” or “Will this affect my job or will I lose my job?” The role of the trainer is to help them understand their role within the overall new workflow. A trainer can’t help alleviate concerns around job security, but what they can and must do is help their students feel confident that they understand how the software works and how they can continue to contribute in this new environment.
The greatest satisfaction for any trainer is to see their learners grasp a concept and run with it. Seeing one trainee help another or ask insightful questions that show they not only understand, but also are applying what they have learned to solve other problems, is the ultimate goal for the trainer. Knowledge-sharing is the key to successful human development and professional success.
One of my favourite quotes captures the heart of being a good trainer and is what I gain the most when showing others how new software can improve their work lives. “The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” Mark Van Doren Particularly for adult training, I also like the quote by Henry Ford: “Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” It doesn’t get much better than that!