Are You Speaking Their Language?
Your sales associates process information in different ways, some
by reading, some by listening, some by doing
By David Peters
Jewelers of America
Have you ever had an employee who didn't understand something even after
several verbal explanations? Did you make any assumptions about him or her?
Perhaps you thought she was slow. Or maybe you decided he had an attitude
problem. Well, maybe you were wrong!
Too many managers erroneously assume an employee is a "slow learner"
when the employee's learning style is simply different from the manager's
or different from the way a training situation is structured.
Each one of us learns and processes information in different ways. That's
a fact. The primary reason we don't know this is because most of us received
our formal education in schools where teachers pretty much taught the same
way. The teacher talked and we listened, took notes and did the best we
could to learn. Schools didn't help or encourage us to discover our unique
learning styles. Thankfully, those practices are changing. We now know successful
training programs must be designed to accommodate different learning styles.
The Way We Learn
First, let's look at some broad general ways people learn:
- Concrete learning occurs through our five senses. You touch
the stove and get burned. You learn the stove is hot!
- Abstract learning occurs though a process of thoughtful reflections,
imaginings and mental scenarios. Daydreaming produces some insightful and
- Sequential learning is acquired in a planned, structured and
organized manner. This approach is common in schools, churches and other
formal learning organizations.
- Random learning is acquired by chance from disjointed occurrences
and experiences. Most of us learned societal expectations and family values
- Independent learning takes place alone. Reading is a good example.
- Collaborative learning takes place through the interactions
of people working toward a shared goal.
Chances are your sales associates are learning using all six processes
described here, especially if you have an on-sight training program. But
education researchers have found you can narrow down learning styles even
more specifically into three distinct categories (see box at end).
You don't need to spend hundreds of dollars identifying employees' learning
styles. Just keep in mind a few considerations when presenting new information
or training programs:
- Give information in multiple formats supplement verbal explanations
with text, graphics, pictures and videotapes.
- Offer opportunities for your staff to work with new information in
a "hands-on" mode as soon as possible.
- Schedule time to engage in self-study and introspection.
- Create collaborative learning groups to work out role-play scenarios
and facilitate the exchange of ideas.
Hopefully, these concepts will act as a springboard to propel you toward
a journey of self-discovery. By accepting our differences, even using them
to help ourselves and others learn more effectively, we discover the wisest
approach to learning and living!
Next issue: An example of a training session that incorporates learning
tools for different kinds of learners.
David Peters is the manager of education development for Jewelers
of America Inc., where he works on the design and delivery of education
and educational services to members.
Different Learning Styles
Read these different ways people prefer to learn then pinpoint your favorite
style and those of your staff. Encourage them to understand that every person's
unique learning style is valid and acceptable. You may want to share the
information below at a staff meeting and ask each associate to identify
the way he or she best learns. Then keep this in mind when planning education
at your store.
- Visual (by sight). Visual learners prefer to read information
and generally work well with text and graphics. They often create mental
images in the form of words and numbers; they don't depend on interpersonal
interactions to facilitate their learning.
- Auditory (by sound). These learners prefer to hear information.
While reading they may mouth the words quietly. They also may reason aloud.
- Tactile/Kinesthetic (by touch or movement). Tactile/kinesthetic
learners excel when given the opportunity to work with new information
in a "hands-on" mode. They benefit from manipulating objects,
moving around and working through scenarios.
Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.