How to use learning styles in your approach to management

The workplace can and should be a kaleidoscope of talent, knowledge and capabilities. This is what makes a business great. It provides an opportunity for progression, innovation and new ways of thinking. Diversity is one of the biggest buzz words at the moment. As companies strive to gain competitive advantage and meet the demands of their ever discerning client and/or customer base.  However, whilst the desire for workplace diversity demonstrates an evolution in the attitudes of business leaders and their management teams, what it doesn’t account for is how employers can support the learning and development of such a multifaceted workforce. This is a time when you need to understand and use learning styles.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one size fits all approach to management. Each manager will need to adapt their style to reflect on how their employee’s digest and process information. Successful management stems from recognising how to get the most from your employees through the provision of adaptable learning environments. Environments which cater to everyone from visual to kinaesthetic learners.

Visual – Verbal Learners

As the title suggests this type of learning pertains to people who benefit from using visual references alongside listening to the discussion, in order to connect the information they receive to an overall idea. Attending a presentation or meeting whereby a speaker laboriously delivers information through speech, is impractical for this type of learner, as they will leave the meeting non-the-wiser.

When presenting new ideas and concepts, specifically if they involve numbers or statistics, visual learners should be presented with a mix of diagrams, including charts, infographics and storyboards, alongside written verbal outlines. Visual-verbal learners are great at devising strategies and developing solutions when they receive a verbal explanation of a project, which is then followed by visual information to back the conversation up.

Auditory-Verbal Learners

Giving these learners a book full of information to process is useless, as they prefer the opportunity to listen to a problem and then devise a possible solution to rectify it. For this type of learner to successfully grasp new concepts and contribute ideas they first need to hear the issue and sometimes repeat certain parts to ensure that they have understood them correctly. Providing the opportunity to talk through both ideas and concerns will facilitate their learning, preventing obstacles from occurring surrounding a lack of comprehension.

Additionally, it is important to take the extra time to catch up with these employees throughout a project to ensure they are aware of what is expected of them at all stages. Auditory-verbal learners do not always work well in silent atmospheres, often preferring to listen to music or have some background noise whilst working. Having people around them who can act as a soundboard benefits them by allowing them to bounce around ideas and hear their colleagues’ points of view.

Visual-Nonverbal Learner

Similarly to Visual-Verbal learners, these types of learners work best when information is presented through charts and diagrams. Unlike verbal learners, however, visual nonverbal learners prefer to work independently, utilising any visual information provided to help them understand what they need to know and what is expected of them. These individuals are in their element when they are given the responsibility to complete a project without constant meetings and discussions. If they have questions to ask, they like to initiate this interaction.

Kinaesthetic learners

A kinaesthetic learner sees learning take place through participation in physical activity, as opposed to sitting through a presentation. Facilitating successful learning for kinaesthetic employees revolves around building a mutual sense of respect between management and employees within a calm environment. For this type of learner, in particular, the work environment is key.

As kinaesthetic learners are practical in nature, they often prefer to learn through active demonstrations, walk-throughs, and trial and error. In essence, these individuals prefer to move around and be on the go, rather than being fixed to one single position.

Learning should be engaging and fun

Regardless of the type of learner your employees are, development and training within the workplace should be made as engaging as possible. Make learning fun and interactive, drawing from the experiences of both parties involved. Training shouldn’t be a yes or no guide of how to approach a task, but rather a mouldable outline of how to continue improving upon an existing approach.

Training should be designed with your business and employees in mind, consistently relating it to your company’s ethos and current objectives. Learning should be practical, in that it applies directly to the situations employees face in their daily work routine. Creating a well-rounded training programme that incorporates tactics to reflect the different learning styles should produce optimal results in terms of improving your employees’ levels of productivity and in turn the overall productivity and success of your business.

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Liverpool born Alan Price FCIPD, CMgr, FCMI is a successful entrepreneur and senior business figure. Alan is Employment Law and HR Director of Peninsula.

He is also managing director of Peninsula Ireland and Elected Director & Trustee for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development – CIPD.

Peninsula Business Services is the UK’s leading employment law, HR and Health & Safety service provider, with its headquarters based in Manchester.

Alan Price also sat for four years as a board director at The Chambers of Commerce Ireland and on their audit committee. Alan is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD with over 15 years’ experience in employee relations. He is also a non-Legal Lay Member of Employment Tribunals for the UK Ministry of Justice as well as a Chartered Manager and Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute and Fellow of the Australian Human Resources Institute.