By | April 23, 2015

Aretha Franklin knew the value of it when the lyrics traveled from her mouth into ears across the world, uniting us all in one way or another:

”R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me!”*

Did you just sing it in your head? I couldn’t help it, either! So what is respect? According to the good ole’ M-Dub (that’s Merriam Webster in case you didn’t know); respect is a feeling of admiring someone or something that is good, valuable or important. It is also a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important or serious and should be treated in an appropriate way. From a training perspective, how does this apply to your learners?


In order to respect learners, you must first respect learning

According to the definition above, ask yourself the following questions as they relate to your organization:

  • Is the value and importance of learning appreciated here?
  • Do we take learning seriously and treat it as such?

Until you can answer those questions with a resounding “yes” or at least a strong “we’re headed in the right direction,” you probably aren’t in the best position to confidently say that you respect your learners. My advice to you is this: Be proactive and learn about learning! Learn about content. Learn about different delivery methods for training. Learn about gamification, audio and video! There are abundant resources available to you.


What next?

Simply switch “learning” to “learners” in the questions above. Do you appreciate the value and importance of your learners? Do you take learners seriously and treat them as such? Here are a couple of scenarios that might give you a better idea of whether or not you’re on the right track.


Scenario 1: You’re busy

You’re on a tight deadline. Work is piling up. You don’t have time to assess who needs what kind of training, so you assign the same training company-wide, even though only one department will truly benefit from it. From that department, some learners aren’t able to retain the information because the content is dry or doesn’t complement the way they learn.

Learners bring a lot to the table. Know what they need and how they learn.

Take the time to know your learners. How do they want to grow? Does watching a video or being more interactive help them learn more easily? Are they often in an environment in which audio or text might work better? Trust their experience enough to let them have a say in their own training. Welcome their opinions and ideas, but when they provide them – actively listen!

Scenario 2: You’re still busy

Because you are still very busy, after you assigned the above training, you’ve quickly forgotten about it.  Over the next few months you notice a steady decline in performance and morale. Key employees are leaving the organization. You don’t know what went wrong.

Be available. Track performance. Provide specific feedback.

Respecting your learners also includes being available to them.  Answering their questions is a good start, but actively participating in their development has a much greater impact. Show sincere interest in their goals. Track their performance to catch any impending issues ahead of time. Use supervisory assessments and skills checklists. Follow up with specific feedback as soon as you can after training and exams are completed.

Creating an environment of respect might take some time and effort on your part in the beginning, but the long-term impact it will have on your organization is worth it.

…“Sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, RESPECT, just a little bit… just a  little bit…”


Respecting your learners is just one principle of adult learning. Want to learn about the others? Feel free to visit our website to learn more about Adult Learning.

*”Respect” is a song written by Otis Redding, and performed by Aretha Franklin. Source

Jeanine D’Alusio

Jeanine is a senior content marketing manager at Relias. Prior to her career in marketing, Jeanine worked extensively in human resources and learning and development. She has more than ten years of nonprofit experience and was a client of Relias prior to joining the company, serving as an HR Director at a multi-service mental health and community services organization. In her spare time, Jeanine enjoys writing, road trips, and, as a licensed massage and bodywork therapist, helping her clients feel better.

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