Five Theses on Adult Learning

Adult learners require new, innovative approaches and an enabling learning culture. The goal is to address future skills across all functions and especially at the shopfloor.

From our exchange with around a dozen DAX companies on corresponding topics, we identified five theses on adult learning:

#1: Learning needs to be playful and easily accessible, and it must be possible to integrate it into everyday working life.

  • The concept of learning through play is not only suitable for children – gamification of learning content helps adults to better understand content in context. Gamification also enhances overall motivation.
  • In addition, gamification offers the possibility of learning in a social context (e.g. with colleagues). The “competition effect” enhances the motivation to learn as a welcome by-product.

#2: Leaders play an important role in learning.

  • It is important for managers to proactively encourage their employees to learn, to show the employee that learning is supported, allowed, and desired. Furthermore, learning is often forgotten or postponed due to lack of time, so that a proactive push to learn is required.
  • Managers must create enough freedom to learn. Even if the impetus and clear support for learning comes from the leader, learning will not occur if there are insufficient framework conditions such as (lack of) time, an appropriate environment, and the right support.
  • Opportunities to apply and immediately transfer the learning content create relevance, deepen learning, and thus enable deeper understanding and ensure a greater success of the learning opportunity.

#3: Learning in a social context and with or from peers strongly supports learning.

  • Learning with peers (e.g. colleagues) enables direct exchange about what has been learned. This helps to better understand and suitable anchor the learning content.
  • In addition, learning with others creates a perception of increased relevance (others learn this too, thus it must be important). Moreover, learning in a group and in exchange is simply more fun!

#4: The target group of shopfloor learners is much more heterogeneous than expected.

  • Not only do different locations require different knowledge, there are also many different machines, all of which have their own specific characteristics and therefore require special know-how. So the group of shopfloor workers, which often seems very homogeneous, is much more heterogeneous than expected.
  • This is where user-generated content is extremely helpful. Not only can the specifics of the various locations be addressed. Teaching the learning content through colleagues that face the same challenges also creates a deeper understanding of its relevance. Since the colleagues who create the learning content do the same job as you, the same (technical) language is spoken in a similar tone of voice. This promotes the understanding of the learning content.

#5: In order to address future skills (there), the application need must first be created to ensure perceived relevance.

  • To anticipate future skills, it is helpful to encourage experimentation with situations, technologies, and methods, as it creates relevance to learn new skills. This in turn helps to prepare the ground for the learning of future skills.
  • This can be done, for example, by acquiring a new technology. Subsequently, the ad hoc relevance becomes conscious, since this technology must also be served.

Where do you experience examples that confirm or contradict these statements? If we can assist you with any learning questions and beyond, please feel free to contact us.

Ann-Kathrin Krimmer
Ann-Kathrin Krimmer

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