The 4 different types of workplace learning styles
April 17, 2019
It’s no secret that some of the most successful companies today are the ones that have fostered a diverse workforce. Over the years, studies have shown businesses that bring together people of different backgrounds, perspectives and talents result in a competitive edge and even higher profits.
While gender and ethnicity are critical components of diversity in the workforce, so too are learning and work styles. And as an organization attracts different types of learning styles and personality types, leadership teams need to understand how to adapt their management style to provide the best environment possible for each employee to succeed. That starts with developing a broader understanding of effective communication with workers who all process information and learn in different ways.
What are the 4 types of learning styles?
From visual to auditory, here’s a closer look at the different workplace learning styles, along with some advice for managers and learning development professionals to communicate effectively with and encourage success for each type of learner.
Style 1: “The Student” (Visual & Verbal Learners)
This type of learner probably misses those big lecture hall classes from college, and thrives in a more holistic learning environment where they can both listen to and look at information. They learn best when supplementing a discussion with visual examples around key points or stats — such as charts, graphs, photos or a written outline. So, always be sure to take the time to run through things verbally and reinforce that conversation with some strong visual cues, in order to help them succeed.
This learner is great at doing research for projects and coming up with solutions, so don’t hesitate to assign them the in-depth work that comes up for your team. These learners also tend to do well at public speaking and writing, so you can also rely on them to present their findings. And finally, if you’re ever looking to recall a detail from a meeting, look to these learners: they are the most likely to have taken detailed notes that they will happily share with you.
Style 2: “The Independent” (Visual & Non-Verbal Learners)
A visual, non-verbal learner does best while alone in a quiet environment, and can get frustrated when there are too many meetings or discussions scheduled. They are excellent independent workers who can read and digest materials like documents, charts and graphs on their own — without much additional explanation or direction.
This type of learner tends to make excellent artists or graphic designers, and feels right at home in online or remote work situations. You should make yourself available to answer questions in those uncommon instances where that is needed, but try to avoid micromanaging them. Giving them space and independence to solve things own is the best way to manage them in most cases.
Style 3: “The Conversationalist” (Auditory & Verbal Learners)
As the name suggests, this type of learner is at their best during back-and-forth dialogue. They love to put coffee dates on your calendar to talk through their ideas — or stop by your desk for a quick chat on a problem. That said, they’re also often very good at writing responses and putting together reports after verbally hashing out the details.
Auditory learners also tend to feel more comfortable when there is background noise in their work environment — rather than a silent, static atmosphere. One easy tip to help them succeed is encouraging them to listen to music at work in order to help them concentrate. It’s also critical for this type of learner that you check-in with them in-person frequently to make sure they’re clear on expectations. After all, this type of learner performs best after talking things through, rather than reading long-winded instructions over email.
Style 4: “The Hands-on Learner” (Tactile & Kinesthetic)
These are the folks who learn best by doing. Tactile and kinesthetic learners can be tricky manage in certain work environments, since they primarily solve problems through methods like trial-and-error. The best management approach involves establishing a calm work environment where the hands-on learner feels supported to spread their wings and go tackle problems.
This worker may also come across as having nervous energy, and appear fidgety while listening or during a conversation. However, that can simply be related to how they tend to process information differently from other learners — only about five percent of the population learns this way.
When it comes to being a great mentor, there’s no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all approach that you can use on all the different types of learners. However, with a greater understanding and appreciation for differing perspectives, work habits, personality traits, and of course, learning styles — you can become a better leader and foster a more creative, productive, and inclusive working environment.
For more tools to support learning at your organization, visit Cornerstone Learning and see how our software can help your managers tailor learning to each employee's preferred style.