We’ve all heard of learning styles. If you’ve done any kind of training or education in the last ten years, it’s likely that you’ve taken a learning styles assessment (like the VARK questionnaire). But can this knowledge of how people learn go beyond the classroom and have any practical application in the workplace?
Building a diverse workplace has many benefits. Studies have consistently proven over time that ‘the most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability’. However, it’s not enough to simply hire more diverse employees and hope for the best. True inclusivity is achieved by recognising individual differences and preferences and taking steps to support everyone to thrive within it.
That’s where learning styles come in. Having an innate understanding of how your employees learn and communicate, along with their personality types, equips you with the knowledge to facilitate better collaboration and growth at work.
Different Types Of Workplace Learning Styles
There are 4 different learning styles that reflect the experiences of students. Many different learning style questionnaires are based on the following 4 modalities:
Visual learners better receive information that is depicted visually. That is, information presented in charts, graphs, flowcharts, maps, etc rather than content delivered via videos or photographs.
In the workplace, visual learners benefit from seeing visual examples that back up key points or statistics. For example, in a team meeting they prefer to see sales figures in a graph for better understanding. Alternatively, they will retain information better if it’s presented as a flow chart or diagram.
Auditory learners prefer to receive information that is heard or spoken. This can be through lectures, discussions, audio (such as podcasts), chatting with colleagues, or even talking to themselves.
In the workplace, aural learners love to talk things out. They might repeat certain points, or ask lots of questions. This is because, saying and hearing the information out loud helps them to form solutions and retain knowledge. They might also find verbal instructions easier to understand over written ones, and find problem solving easier when they’re able to talk it through with a co-worker or manager.
This learning style favours information displayed as words. Read/write learning is sometimes referred to as ‘traditional’ learning. This is because many teachers and students have a preference for this modality. Individuals who learn best this way like reading articles and writing things down in the form of lists or reports.
In the workplace, reading/writing learning can be accommodated by presenting information in the form of text-based visual aids. Employees should also be encouraged to take notes or be given a list of further text-based resources to deepen their understanding. For tasks, read/write learners perform better with written instructions, and will thrive when asked to write reports, essays or whitepapers.
Kinesthetic learners perform best by doing. Knowledge and information is best absorbed when the person can get hands on with a task, or see a process happening in action. This can be through demonstrations, simulations, practicing a task, microlearning case studies, interactive documents and videos. This type of learner might find themselves distracted in meetings or lectures, instead preferring to get involved with a task over passively receiving information.
In the workplace, kinesthetic learners enjoy role-playing certain scenarios or being able to get hands on with a task. For this learning style, immersive learning experiences work well as they can get involved. Kinesthetic learners benefit from regular breaks or the freedom to move around as they work.
Why Are Learning Styles Important In The Workplace?
The above examples of different learning styles and their applications in the workplace demonstrate why it’s important to appreciate them in your employees. While each individual might not fit neatly into a modality, using a mix of approaches when it comes to leadership styles, communication and professional development can go a long way to making your workforce more productive, efficient and skilled.
Imagine what a difference it might make to an auditory learner’s problem-solving skills to have regular one-to-one meetings? Or, how a kinesthetic learner might better learn a process when they’re given the opportunity to physically do it?
By having a deeper understanding of employee learning styles, personality traits, and work habits employers can create a working environment that is more:
Productive and Efficient
By presenting ideas, tasks, concepts and information in a format that is understandable for everyone, employees can spend more time getting on with their jobs rather than trying to work out what is being asked of them.
Collaborative and Creative
Personalities will always clash. But if everyone has a deeper understanding around how their teams work, they can communicate better. Teams that are communicative and understanding of each other are far more likely to work positively together – and be more creative both individually and as a team.
Inclusive and Diverse
Diversity and inclusivity are one of the cornerstones of a successful business. Having a workforce that brings different perspectives and approaches to the table offers multiple opportunities for growth. If you only cater to one personality type or learning preference, you run the risk of a workplace filled with too many similar people who can’t bring anything new to the table.
Growth happens when everyone is pulling in the same direction. Growth won’t happen if your employees aren’t engaged or applying their skills in a productive way. Working with different learning styles allows employees to flourish in their individual goals and learn new skills, equipping them with the tools they need to thrive.
Understanding and taking into account different learning styles in the workplace is fundamental to not only communicating effectively but helping your employees to grow. Getting under the skin of what makes your workforce tick gives you the tools you need to work better together. It also helps in putting together a comprehensive learning and development strategy that actually sticks.
We’re passionate about helping organisations get the very best out of their employee, whether that’s through engaging learning experiences or employee experience hubs. We believe that, when you treat your people in a human way that takes into account their unique personalities and learning preferences, you get the absolute best out of them