Employee Training Requires Adult Learning Strategies

Corporate training must be teaching. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Much of corporate training serves a different purpose. Social interaction, a break from the monotony of work, etc… In these cases, training is secondary to the ulterior purpose.

For the HR training departments who want to corporate training to be true to its name. It should be skill development. It should be team development. It should be some form of development which leads to transformation in the way that the corporate employee accomplishes work.

When we consider corporate training, we see that concepts are laid out in front of employees through a brief 1-day to 1-week course of sessions. Through collaborative brainstorming, those concepts are translated into ideas for what change can be implemented. In the case of in-house HR training, at least there can be an evaluation to see the success of the program in bringing about this change. External corporate training, presented in a 1-day to 2-week session, cannot do any real evaluation because the relationship with the corporate student is too brief.

That being said, there is a fundamental flaw in the one-day session approach to corporate training. The brief session corporate training doesn’t consider that adults and children learn in very different ways.  For employee training to be effective, we need to consider the ways in which adult learners are unique from child learners.

Children learn, Adults Teach

The first thing we need to understand is that when a child transitions to adulthood, they transition from student to teacher. The purpose of childhood is to learn. The purpose of adulthood is to teach, to pass on that learning.

There is obviously a scale. In our 20s, we are still eager to learn, but we are now beginning to feel that desire to pass on our knowledge. The shift to the “passing-on” phase continues to grow. By the time, we join the ranks of the elderly, we no longer have a desire to learn, but we have a burning desire to pass on knowledge.

When we are dealing with adult learners, like employees, this desire to pass on knowledge must be incorporated. A child can be taught a concept and can embrace it solely through their desire to learn, especially within a mentor relationship.

There’s a reason why children are better at passing exams compared with their adult counterparts. When I was a kid, I used to be pretty good at passing exams. I could focus just for the sake of drilling information into my head. For me, learning was only that, and that was enough. I never cared how it would be used. I was not at the point of my life where any of my knowledge could be useful to me.

An adult, on the other hand, needs to see the application of knowledge. That doesn’t mean we teach implementation, telling them how to use it. They need to put it in practice. One of the best ways of putting knowledge into practice is to pass it on to someone who can benefit from it.

When we consider where a child discovers their self-worth (the vision of Hope Torch), it is found in the understanding of their innate value and their ability for that value to be useful to themselves, their families, and their communities. A child becomes aware of their self-worth as they prepare for this future usefulness to community. They are aware that their role as a contributing member of society is yet to be played. They are ok with this fact.

An adult needs to play that role now. They have a desire to transform themselves, their families, and their communities today. Unless they feel that transformation happening as a result of their newly acquired knowledge, it does not reveal their self-worth to them. Knowledge acquisition just becomes another task.

Children need mentoring, adults desire discipling

Another difference between a child learner and an adult learner is that, although both need teachers, a child needs a mentor, but an adult needs a discipler. While this term is typically used in religious settings, we see the same principles in place in a good manager-employee relationship.

A child needs to be coached, encouraged, challenged, and held accountable. An adult needs all of what a child needs, but from someone who walks along beside them as they put their knowledge into practice.

For this reason, many employees feel that great leaders get their hands dirty with their employees. The amount of value that the leader might provide the team could be insignificant, but the discipling role is critical to adult learning and motivation. It can’t just be mentoring from an office.

Children seek a vision, Adults cling to their vision

Yet another difference between a child learner and an adult learner is that a child can share or even adopt the vision of another. They have not yet reached their own vision for their life or their effort, and they are comfortable piggybacking on the vision of their mentor. An adult has formed opinions about life and the world. Their worldview has been established. While a worldview can be shaped in the future, it cannot be neglected in the adults efforts today.

An adult must have a personal vision. For an adult to sit in a classroom at all, that vision must overlap to some extent with their discipler. If they don’t overlap, then there is no point for the adult to sit in the classroom.

Children imagine, Adults experience

Finally, while a child can simply be taught a concept and embrace it through their imagination, an adult needs to experience the concept. In this, experiential learning becomes essential. Teaching the concept is only the first step in experiential learning. Unfortunately, most corporate training stops at this first step.

The following steps of experiential learning is that they need to then design a solution, implement it, and then reflect on it. This cycle is critical for adult learners.

A child learner can be satisfied with simply understanding a concept and perhaps hypothesizing a solution. An adult learner needs to go through the experiment. Only then can they engage with the subject matter.

Only if all of these factors are considered, can adult learning lead to transformation.

Hope Torch Corporate Training Designed for Adult Learners

The Hope Torch model for corporate training was designed with these factors in mind. Our concept first began with the notion that people wanted to help kids. While many do, the majority have their own vision for how they want to contribute, and not everyone has chosen kids.

For this reason, we refocused our design on the real need of a corporate. We want corporate employees to engage with us. Employees want themselves to be trained and transformed. We had to find a connection between training and our work with kids.

It turns out, there are key overlaps between what we do with our kids, and what employees could be trained on. Factors such as work culture, team unity, advocacy, delivery, and even customer relationship all have parallels with our work with the kids.

A corporate realizes that although these are great concepts, adult learners need to point it into practice. The overlap between these principles relevant to the corporate and our work with the kids, is what makes experiential learning possible.

This is the reason why we don’t train on attributes which we don’t focus on with the kids. We would never take up a training session on financial management. It becomes almost a fraud because there is no overlap with that and our work at the chapters.

Experiential learning means the adult must implement it. The adult learners contribution to the chapter is how their knowledge is put into practice.

Knowledge is not engagement. Education is engagement. And adult education must incorporate teaching, design, implementation, and reflection. If these are in place, then corporate training can result in employee engagement.

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