Jeff and I celebrated our 20th anniversary this past summer. What a summer to celebrate 20 years! I’m happy to say that some of the things that may have perplexed us earlier in our marriage, have now become endearing.

To this day, something that makes both of us smile, is the amount of time it takes me to do mental math.

Jeff is a whiz at mental math. Me, not so much. When asked to do fairly straightforward mental math I often will close my eyes and picture the numbers, or better yet, write them on paper. When I see them written, it’s easy. While I’m not as fast as Jeff’s mental math our results are the same.  

In my teen years I concluded that I was ‘dumb’ (regarding math) because I struggled with mental math tasks. But that’s not the case at all. Thankfully, I learned about learning styles many years ago.

I’m a strong visual learner. I learn by seeing things.

Jeff’s ability to do mental calculations is neither better nor worse, it’s just different.

What does this have to do with business? Well, if you have employees, it’s critical to understand the reason behind our differences.

How Long Does Onboarding Take?

It takes, on average, from 8 to 20 weeks for a new employee to get through Onboarding and training to reach full productivity. Most people are very surprised by this statistic!

I was blissfully ignorant and extraordinarily hopeful that my new staff would take from 2-4 weeks to reach independence and full productivity. Unrealistic. However, I continued for many years to operate with this delusional optimism.

Financial Impact

It’s important that we do everything we can to shorten the period of time it takes for people to be fully productive in the workplace. While new hires are going through this learning process it’s not just the new hire who are not at full productivity. Anyone and everyone who is helping to educate and train the new staff member is not operating at full capacity.

When you translate this to dollars lost in productivity it stacks up quickly, especially for a small business.

Thankfully there are specific actions we can take to reduce time spent learning. 

This brings me right back to my math story.

Using Learning Styles in Onboarding and Training

People learn differently and if we want them to learn as quickly and as efficiently as possible, we must make sure that we teach and train while incorporating all the learning styles.

There are many learning styles but these four are the most important and relevant to business.

  • Visual learners prefer to learn by observing through pictures, graphs, charts, and other visual imagery.
  • Auditory learners are good listeners that learn best through verbal presentations.
  • Kinesthetic learners are hands-on participatory learners who need to take a physically active role.
  • Reading/Writing learners have a preference for the written word.

Studies also show that between 50-70% of the population are “multi-modal learners”, engaging with multiple learning styles

Typically, we create a handbook with policies and procedures. We hand it over and expect new hires to absorb it all. While this is an extremely effective process for some, it’s leaving others at a huge loss.

If we’re to maximize Onboarding efficiency in order to get everyone up to full productivity as soon as possible, we need to incorporate all the learning styles in the process.

This blog post was first printed in the Columbia Gorge Press

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