Learning & Development

10 Proven Learning Strategies to Upskill Employees

Summary: When it comes to employee development it's important to have several learning strategies in place for on-the-job training, because not everyone learns information the same way. These strategies are set in place to accommodate training for different learning styles. Why? Because the way the training materials are presented is just as important as how the employees learn.

A learning strategy is a method used by learners to utilize their skill set in order to understand training content or solve on-the-job challenges effectively and efficiently.

Here are the top learning strategies you should be incorporating into your corporate training to keep and develop top talent:

1. Bite-sized learning

Everyone’s attention span is different, but it’s been proven you retain more over time if you break learning up. Instead of offering one large training session, use bite-sized learning. Take key topics and spread them out over a course of time. That way employees can digest one concept before moving on to the next. Plus, this method allows employees time to recap what they’ve learned so far before applying it to the next lesson.

2. Retrieval practice

It’s one thing to learn information, but it’s a completely different concept to retain it. Since employees are always multitasking on jobs, what’s learned is often soon forgotten. That’s why one of the great learning strategies is the retrieval practice. Instead of attending in-classroom training, taking notes, and then studying these notes to be quizzed on what’s learned, retrieval practice forces you to use your memory. Recalling information without the crutch of notes will help employees learn more effectively.

3. Elaboration

Elaboration is a learning method that forces employees to dig deeper beyond simply recalling what’s learned and actually explaining in great detail what the concepts are. The goal is to connect what’s being learned to actual real-life experiences so that the new material gets incorporated into a person’s decision-making process.

Basically, employees make lists of everything to be learned, then they formulate questions around each topic. Once they begin to answer some of these questions, employees will begin to see connections between various topics within a lesson. This will help make sense of what is being taught and the mind starts to better retain the new information.

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4. Interleaving

The best learning strategies focus on retaining the new information taught. That’s why interleaving is a great method to incorporate. Interleaving is memorizing new material but woven in with other skills. So instead of focusing on just one concept, there are other concepts within the same lesson plan. For example, your training is on a new product rollout. You may mix in quick lessons about your existing products. Doing this forces the learner to pay attention. He or she must focus on the topics and pick out new information.

5. Concrete examples

Often concepts or new skills are introduced and it’s hard for a learner to see how these skills relate to their actual life. However, by using one of the learning strategies called concrete examples, abstract lessons become usable ideas. So what exactly are concrete examples? They are examples that you can see, taste, touch, smell and hear. In other words, they are physical and resonate with the learner. Since they are concrete, they easily translate into actual experiences. Plus, these examples can be measured and observed to deepen their understanding of them.

6. Dual coding

In today’s world, there is so much noise that people tune out. It’s no different when it comes to learning new concepts. That’s why learning strategies are a great way to break through this noise. Dual coding is a learning strategy that uses visuals. Just like advertisers use social media like videos, memes, and other concepts to catch your eye so does dual learning when it comes to training and development. Some employees view training as a formality while others half pay attention to the concepts presented. By using dual learning it makes learning fun and more interactive. Thus more employees will pay attention and remember what was presented.

7. Metacognition

As far as learning strategies go, metacognition is an important one to consider. Basically, metacognition is the process of thinking about thinking. In other words, it is how you think about life and work. It’s the self-reflection on your future goals, actions to take to achieve these goals, and strategies to reach personal targets.

Unlike other learning strategies, metacognition is already built into each and every one of us and is even found in animals. Although we all possess metacognition, it can become a learning strategy if you start to hone it.

When practiced, it can propel a learner to improve knowledge, skills, and character beyond what is being taught in a classroom. If practiced, a person can learn a certain skill and not only apply it on the job but to personal situations as well. Additionally, metacognition is the ability to take a concept learned and apply it to multiple situations at work versus just the one that was given in training.

8. Double-loop learning

Double-loop learning involves thinking more broadly about the problem at hand and is great for employees when it comes to learning skills related to company culture like workplace communication.

So, for example, an employee notices a product could be improved based on customer feedback. However, they don’t approach senior management for fear of overstepping boundaries. Then this product gets recalled due to poor performance costing the company a lot. However, had they used double-loop learning and noticed there was a problem, thought about the best solution, and worked with senior management to resolve the problem, the loss of income could have been avoided.

9. Conversation theory

Some learning strategies like conversation theory lend themselves to online learning. This concept was developed by Gordon Pask, a noted cyberneticist. His goal was to create a system that produced a productive society free of conflict. To do this, people learn from computers and computers learn from people. In other words, the computer learns about a person through their interactions digitally whereas a human learns new technology and skills through the computer.

10. Lateral learning

Doctor Edward De Bono developed lateral thinking or sometimes called lateral learning as a way to “think outside the box.” In order to understand lateral learning as one of the noted learning strategies, let’s put it into context. Say for example you developed a course in sales techniques. Your end goal is to get employees to use the new strategies taught to win new customers.

The issue is although you are providing these new skills, you are assuming the ideal situation will play out when using them. But in real life, textbook examples never play out exactly as taught. So that’s where lateral learning comes in. It teaches employees to take what is taught and then use perception and instinct to know when to use each given skill.

Training is only as good as what’s put into action

We’ve talked about several learning strategies and mentioned how to use these. It’s one thing to create a training and development program, but it’s quite different for your employees to actually engage in the learning process. By using these learning strategies, you can help employees absorb the new material and actually use it on the job.

By incorporating learning strategies within your training program you can impact how and what your employees retain. Plus, you can offer a customized learning program to fit everyone’s unique learning style.

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