Imagine a company that focuses on the art and science of adult learning so that you don’t have to fall into the habit of “checking off boxes” when training your staff. Imagine a fully engaged workforce that actually looks forward to training!

It’s no surprise that work is where we spend the majority of our time.  I recently read a quote that caught my attention: “There’s no way I was born to just pay bills and die”. Think about that. If you anonymously surveyed your staff today, would the majority respond that this is exactly how they felt?

Unfortunately, no one has created a system in which we don’t have to pay bills (wouldn’t that be nice?), but what if I asked you to replace that quote with “Learn what you love and live what you learn”? Think about the potential that phrase could have on your staff and your organization. Is that just a feel good phrase, or is it really possible?

It is possible. Based on Malcolm Knowles’ principles of adult learning, the following needs must be met to effectively accomplish “learning what you love and living what you learn.” Take a look. Are you currently addressing these needs when you train your staff?


Build on prior knowledge

People attach meaning to learning by drawing from prior experiences.  They have various levels of experience and require different launching points.  They need to know that the new information makes sense and has personal meaning. The most effective content connects learning to the learner’s life experiences.  Structure your curriculum and content appropriately.


Strive for goal-oriented learning

When people need to learn something specific to accomplish a goal, they are more motivated to learn. Provide learning experiences that include explicit goals for their practical experience. Incorporate real-life scenarios into your content and ask questions that encourage reflection to clearly show the relevance of the information to their work.


Make training practical

People need to recognize how the information they learn relates to their lives and their work by means of practical application. Practical does not equal boring! Keep them engaged.  Use video, audio, audience participation and interaction. Use emotion and gaming elements. Be original and creative. Make sure they understand that the information is useful and applicable.


Answer the question: “What’s in it for me?”

Why learn something without gain? People need to know that if they put in the time and effort to learn new information, they’ll gain something of value in return, whether that’s a new skill, a new outlook or a new understanding. Use course objectives to explain what will be gained. Explain the applicability and relevance.


Respect your learners

Imagine assigning required training to your entire staff on a regular basis. They don’t know why the training is assigned or how it pertains to them individually. They complete assessments but never know if they passed or failed. Respect your learners by providing personalized, constructive feedback.  They bring considerable life experiences to their roles and have a part in directing their own learning. Take interest in their individual development. How are they doing? Where do they need to improve? Encourage ideas. Provide prompt feedback after exams. Supervisory assessments and skills checklists can also be used as feedback and development tools.


Promote self-direction and internal motivation

People tend to resist learning if they feel that information is being forced on them. Facilitate an approach that fosters internal motivation. Invite them to ask questions and then actively listen to what they say. Create courses using the “test, then tell” method, which lead the employee to inquiry. Encourage self-motivation by providing links to available resources or downloadable documents within courses.


Focusing on the value that training provides to your staff is definitely important, but try keeping the opposite in mind, too. The value that your staff provides to your training can exponentially increase that value and have a much greater impact on learning.

Do you want your staff to learn what they love and live what they learn? To learn more, please visit our adult learning page.