5 Things We Know About How Your Workforce Learns

Could the last meeting you attended be characterized as “death by Powerpoint?”  Did the leader of the meeting preach or speak “at” you?  Did you zone out or worse yet, fall asleep during the presentation?  Many executives run meetings as if the room were filled with children.  They end up preaching or presenting in a tone that has little emotion and almost no interaction.

Successful leaders know that for any change initiative to be effective, they are going to have to be good communicators.  Knowing how your team, audience or workforce learns is the first step to getting them to take action.

The following “5 Tips” are an aggregate of past experience, a classic paper by Zemke and Zemke, as well as a recent article by Chris Clarke-Epstein.  See if it helps as you strive to shape your workforce into a change leadership machine!

 1. Your workforce has expectations, and it’s important to take time early on to clarify and articulate all expectations before getting into content.  There is an old saying that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  Take the time to find out their expectations before drilling into stats and spreadsheets.

2. Your workforce will appreciate focus on one thing at a time and a direct connection to the application of the idea or concept. Remember the rule of three.  Only have three initiatives going on at one time.  Focus on a small number of things, accomplish those, celebrate and move on.  In our book “Act Like an Owner“, Bob Bloncheck and I coined a term “Line of Sight” which meant you should be able to tie everyone’s day to day work to the performance of the company.

3. Your workforce has existing beliefs.  They bring a variety of experiences to your meetings.  This is especially true for new leaders or new executives to appreciate and get an early handle on.  Take into consideration the existing norms and behaviors in the workplace as well as the cultural and socio-economic backgrounds of the workforce before rolling out something new and radical.

4. Your workforce doesn’t appreciate being talked down to.  Sure, mistakes were made in the past (and they’ll be made in the future) but don’t create an environment where mistakes are so toxic they keep you from trying new things. Keep trust high and encourage innovation (even at the expense of making mistakes).

 5. Your workforce could be doing other things rather than listening to you. Show them the value of participating in the change effort early.  Give them exciting reasons to join the team.  Create an esprit de corps among the team and reward those that volunteered.

Adapted from: Zemke, R., Zemke, S. 30 THINGS WE KNOW FOR SURE ABOUT ADULT LEARNING Innovation Abstracts Vol VI, No 8, March 9, 1984http://www.hcc.hawaii.edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/adults-3.htm Accessed February 2003

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