Learning Styles

How to succeed at work as an associate and manager depending on your learning style

Estimated Read Time: 4 Minutes

The concept of different learning styles dates as far back as 334 BC when Aristotle suggested that “every child [possesses] specific talents and skills.” Today, there are four main recognized learning styles – visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic – that explain the different ways people best take in new information. Not only is it helpful to be aware of our own preferred combination of learning styles in order to become more productive at work and advocate for ourselves, but it’s also beneficial to understand how people around us prefer to receive information to improve our ability to communicate, collaborate, and transfer knowledge in a working environment.

In this article, we’ll breakdown the four learning styles, pointing out the strengths and weakness of each, and providing tips for how to succeed as an associate and manager with different styles of learning.

Visual Learners

Visual learners prefer to see information rather than listen to verbal instructions and learn best through reading and/or looking at diagrams and pictures. Visual learners have strong visual memories, so presenting clear sequences or processes using graphs, diagrams, charts, and pictures can help them stay engaged. While visual learners are detailed notetakers and adept at creating visual aids to help others see what they see, they may struggle to remember spoken directions and become easily distracted by background noises.

If you are a visual learner, you may seek out learning opportunities such as presentations or video demonstrations that include spoken instruction paired with visual aids like charts, graphs, photos, or a written outline that highlight the key takeaways. Try writing down any key words, ideas, or directions that are given verbally (helpful hint: using color to highlight or color code will boost information retention!). If you are the direct manager of a visual learner, take the time to run through things verbally and reinforce that conversation with strong visual cues to help this learner succeed.

Auditory Learners

Unlike visual learners, auditory learners learn best through sound and prefer to listen to instructions rather than read them. Skilled at remembering information that they’ve listened to in lectures, audio recordings, podcasts, and conversations with others, auditory learners’ strengths lie in explaining or presenting information to others and recalling detailed information from conversations. On the flip side, auditory learners can be very distracted by noise and find complex visual aids difficult to understand.

As an auditory learner in the workplace, you may find it helpful to talk through ideas and concepts with co-workers in-person, over the phone, or on a video call rather than an email exchange. Q&A sessions and knowledge shares are a good opportunity for you to both learn about projects and share your work. When managing an auditory learner, check in with regular touch bases via call or in-person to make sure they are clear on expectations and next steps.

Reading/Writing Learner

Reading/writing learners learn best through, you guessed it, reading and writing. These types of learners prefer to work independently and in a quiet environment where they can work uninterrupted. Strengths of this learning style include excelling at reading and digesting new information with little explanation or guidance and taking extremely detailed notes. Weaknesses include becoming frustrated when too many meetings or discussions are scheduled that cut into independent work time. Reading/writing learners also find auditory learning ineffective and have a difficult time focusing during presentations and lectures.

If this sounds like you, it is suggested that you read (of course!) and tell others that receiving information in writing is preferred. Take plenty of new notes and re-write the notes if you need help getting the information to stick. Managing reading/writing learners may look like giving them space and independence while letting them know you are there to answer questions if needed.

Kinesthetic Learner

Kinesthetic learners prefer to learn through physical movement and hands-on experiences. These learners like to move, build, draw, touch and feel rather than listen, read, or watch, and they benefit from opportunities to apply new skills to real-world scenarios. Kinesthetic learners are great at leading demonstrations and brainstorming sessions and problem-solving through trial and error. However, when required to sit for too long, kinesthetic learners may come across as fidgety or disengaged and may have a short attention span unless occupied with a task that requires physical activity.

Being a hands-on learner is especially challenging for those in office jobs. As a kinesthetic learner, try incorporating movement into the day ¬– take a walk, squeeze a stress ball, or tap a pencil to improve focus. If you find yourself in a position where you are managing a kinesthetic learner, establish a calm work environment where the learner feels supported and given the freedom to tackle their problems.

Being aware of your own learning style and of the learning styles of your team members and even clients can help foster effective internal conversations, brainstorming sessions, client presentations, and collaborative workshops. Whether you identify strongly with one learning type, or a combination of many, it’s important to reflect on how you learn best and to engage yourself at work in a way that supports your learning style. If you aren’t sure what your learning style is, start with a quick online quiz (like this one) to help you start thinking about it.

At WD, we support our associates by recommending they have an open conversation with their manager about how they best receive information and to outline a game plan that will help them succeed at work. Furthermore, we offer a variety of benefits including ongoing learning & development courses and career development programs to help our associates succeed at work. Check out our careers page to find open positions if WD sounds like a fit for you!

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