How to Make an Adaptive Employee Training Program

Imagine that you’ve been put in charge of developing a learning program for your organization. You look out over the shop floor, or the garage, or the office cubicles and you realize that your employees run the gamut of educational experiences. You have to develop a curriculum that imparts crucial health and safety training, but how can you figure out the best way to reach the most people?

Everyone remembers what it was like to be a student in school, even if it was some time ago. For some, the memories are pleasant. For others, the experience was less positive. And in a few cases, school felt downright terrible. But now, none of us is the same person we were in primary, secondary, or even post-secondary educational life. We have grown and matured into adults, and we bring a host of opinion, memory, and experience to bear.

So, how should you begin to develop a curriculum? Start with the basics. In the 1970s, Malcolm Knowles identified six principles of adult learning:

  • Adults are autonomous and self-directed
  • Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
  • Adults are goal oriented
  • Adults are relevancy oriented
  • Adults are practical
  • Adult learners need to be respected

These principles are very different from those employed in pedagogy, or the teaching of children. Andragogy (adult learning) emphasizes the importance of how someone learns. It is collaborative and problem-based rather than didactic. All of your employees—from those with PhDs to those with GEDs—will need an interactive approach that relates directly to their jobs.

The method of delivery is also up for discussion. Some people learn best in a classroom while others learn better through online instruction. Depending on your company’s budget, you might consider what is known as “blended learning,” where combines in-person sessions and computer-based training in a comprehensive program. If you have the funds available, you might partner with a content creator to develop your own custom eLearning. If you don’t, you can use rapid eLearning or plug-and-play standardized content. Whatever you use, make sure your program incorporates adult learning principles and instructional soundness.

As you develop your training program, you should build in periodic refreshers and “moment of need” learning. Incorporate mobile devices where you can. Talk with your employees to find out what’s working and what’s not. Developing a training program is not an all-or-nothing endeavor. It takes continual readjustment to make sure you’re reaching the most people, on the most relevant topics, in the best way possible.