Employers must offer a menu of learning styles

Future-proofing your business with multimodal learning

Ian Rawlings, Regional VP EMEA at SumTotal

According to a new report by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), 90 per cent of UK workers will need to have some type of reskilling by 2030, at an additional cost of £13 billion a year. Evolving technologies and the changing nature of our economy are transforming the skills needed for many jobs, while other roles are being lost entirely. And, as Covid-19 accelerates changes to the world of work, organisations should utilise this momentum to drive their reskilling efforts to future proof their business and employees. 

However, consultancy company Mercer has identified a sizable gap between how executives view their staff’s flexibility and how those employees rate their own capacity to change. While executives believe that only 45% of their employees can adapt to the new world of work, 78% of employees said they are ready to learn new skills. Employers need to support this willingness to reskill by making a broad range of learning and development opportunities available. 

It is important to remember, however, that skills development is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach, and adherence to a single learning style may restrict employee agility – negatively impacting on talent development. Not only will offering just one learning style limit creativity and flexibility, reducing employees’ capability of adapting to changing business needs, but it may lead to employees failing to realise their full potential. 

Learning turns modal 

Typically, an individual learner may have been categorised into a single learning type, which would determine their primary learning mode. For example, a visual learner responds best to information pictured pictorially or graphically; an aural learner absorbs information by actively listening and discussing; a verbal learner acquires skills by reading, researching and writing information down; and a solitary worker learns best alone in a quiet environment.

Thus, whilst a physical classroom would be the ideal environment for aural learners, it would not be a great fit for solitary learners.

However, whilst individuals may have an underlying preference for a particular learning style, in reality, most people are combination learners: a mix of several or all learner identities. As such, organisations should provide employees with a multimodal approach to learning: A mix of face-to-face instructor led sessions, virtual-led training (VLT), self-directed on-demand learning, micro-learning and virtual reality experiences, for example. This will help in developing agile learners that are adaptable to changing work conditions. 

What learners want

The way employee’s wish to learn is also dependent on the training topic and goal of that educational endeavor. Gaining a certification in a mandatory complex compliance regulation varies considerably from gaining communication or collaboration skills, for example. 

Learners aspire to have options that they can access easily, with options to blend combinations of learning modes during a single study course. Shifting back and forth between two or more learning styles (such as an hour-long classroom training session, followed by five minute bitesize learning segments to test previous learnings) can help employees retain knowledge more effectively. Furthermore, contextual on-the-job education which correlates to the employee’s current or future role are beneficial, especially when these learnings can fit seamlessly into the working day. 

Personalised learning journeys 

Everyone works and learns differently, and learners should be treated as individuals who are looking to carve out their own learning journey. To do so, organisations should avoid making blanket statements about groups of learners, and what would best suit them. For example, not all millennial employees will learn best through consumable mini-bites of knowledge – it’s important to understand what works for the individual, and offering a variation of styles. 

Making the move towards personalised learning pathways, based on the challenges an employee faces in their role, their content usage, their career aspirations and their personal preferences, can be far more successful. Not only will it help propel learning growth, but it will also steer learning provisions and can enable better profiling of employee’s skillsets and career aspirations. This will help employees realise their full potential, while making them better adapt to future changes. 

Reimagining learning

Expanding the variety of learning styles on offer to employees should be a must as organisations embark on their transformation journeys. After all, organisations that embed learning into part of every day work – supporting employees to update existing skills, gain new knowledge and replace old habits with new approaches – will be fully equipped to overcome talent development challenges and meet future business needs head on. 

Author: Editorial Team

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