Business Communication · Employee Coaching · Leadership · Leveraging Skills & Knowledge · Mentoring

10 Tips For Training Adults-Employees

As a certified trainer for Development Dimensions International (DDI), I train the “Facilitating with Impact” course through The Butte College Training Place. My primary audience is supervisors and managers, but any employee who fills a role in which they train others is welcome to attend the training.

Years ago I developed my own Train the Trainer course, but the participant materials in the DDI training are of such quality, I prefer the organization of their course. There are cross-over concepts in both our courses, one of which is understanding the needs of adult learners.

Understanding these 10 Tips for Training Adult Learners in the workforce can help you create value in one-on-one trainings, team-building meetings, and mentoring your leads and supervisors in their ability to provide quality training for front-line workers.

You can request a downloadable and printable copy of this article by sending me an email request from my website:

  1. People want to know how the training applies to their individual roles. They want to know they will be able to apply the concepts and tools right away.
  2. Adults, like other age groups, enjoy a variety of teaching methods to connect with their learning styles: visual, auditory, hands-on, and – if possible – kinesthetic. Yes, they like to get out of their chairs and DO something. My typical pattern is pitching concepts so the audience can be in thinking mode, and then I design activities so they can apply the concepts by doing something. I like to mix it up so some of the exercises are individual, some are partner discussions, and some are small team activities (usually three or four people).
  3. My participants have given me a lot of positive feedback over the years regarding my training style which allows them to have their own Ah-ha moments through questions that prompt discussions, the ability to practice new skills before returning to work, and creating a safe environment in which people are willing to speak up to share their own struggles as well as sharing tools which have worked for them.
  4. In the types of training I provide, sometimes employees register for courses on their own, and some are registered through their Human Resources office based on recommendations from managers or supervisors. I understand how unsettling it can be to show up for a training when you really don’t know why you are there or have a clear picture of desired goals – why did they send me? Even when people know why they are in a training, it can be uncomfortable. Respecting participants where they are and truly appreciating their openness to participation is key to maintain self esteem for everyone in the room. I encourage participant input by focusing on questions which have more than one ‘right’ answer because I’m asking them what they think – they get to be right! I get nervous when trainers ask questions with one right answer they are prompting because people might be reluctant to speak up for fear of being wrong in front of others.
  5. I’m a fan of checklists and templates, or 1-2-3- types of guidelines which engage the left side of the brain in logical and sequential learning. I also like to mix in a creative activity or two so the people who thrive in the right side of their brains can have fun and inspire others.
  6. A standard trainer approach is to ask participants what they expect to get out of the training. I find that works sometimes, and sometimes my participants don’t want to be put on the spot with that type of question. My approach is to get them motivated about whatever they might learn and then engage them in the pace of the training and those bonus coaching moments based on their expertise and questions.
  7. I’m not a fan of always doing a pre and post test as a method for demonstrating how much people have learned during the training. Why? Because the pre-test kicks things off by making people face what they don’t know and with some topics that kicks people in their self-esteem shins before we even get started. I prefer self-assessments once the concepts are in place and believe this approach is more though-provoking when people are ready to be honest with themselves.  I enjoy circulating during activities so I can provide one-on-one support if needed, and also give people individual attention. It’s during those moments when some participants are likely to request guidance.
  8. Training is like sales: what is the challenge or problem? Here’s the solution. The more specifically you can address their job-related issues in a real-life approach, the more relevant the training will be for them. Use breaks strategically: after a complex or challenging segment, give them a break and encourage them to walk around so the information (the solution) can “sink in” before you move on to the next training topic. In this way participants are more likely to be able to apply learning when they return to work.
  9. The average adult learner has an attention span of about 10 minutes based on research (Cafarella, Knowles, Swanson, and Holton). Also, average speakers might be challenges to capture audience attention for more than 10 minutes. The idea is to consciously plan a change in pace at 10 minute marks throughout your training. In my training world, I take an approach which is a bit different from this training norm as practice. My participants appreciate the fact I don’t take up their time with non-relevant ice-breakers or little stories which have nothing to do with the training topic. I am very content-driven. I usually open with a 20-minute “pitch” intended to introduce the topic through humor and series contemplation. That gives them time to stop thinking about whatever they were thinking about prior to the training, get used to my delivery style, and make the decision to get on board with learning.
  10. I like to highlight participants by giving them opportunities throughout the training to contribute through the sharing of their experiences, wisdom, mis-steps, and successes. In this way they link training points to their own work life and help others do the same. This is a fantastic way to build your examples for future trainings on the same topic. It’s also a valuable method for learning from participants!

If  you have a question specific to facilitation skills, you can email me your question from my website:

If you work in Butte County and have training role responsibility, I encourage you to register for my Facilitation with Impact course through The Butte College business site for The Training Place. Employees outside of Butte County can contact me for a webinar training.

Remember when you are training: it’s not about you. It’s about the participants!

2 thoughts on “10 Tips For Training Adults-Employees

  1. Hi. I’m an account manager for a regional EAP. I found your name on Linked In but didn’t know how to get in touch so I thought I’d try to post a comment. I have a new client in Butte County who will be requesting our one-hour Brown Bag seminars, and I’m wondering if you do this type of work. I have all the materials for our 32 topics (including leaders notes for the PowerPoint) so it’s really a facilitation gig. Could let me know if this is something you’d be interested in?

    If so, I’d love to set a time to talk about your background and Claremont EAP. Either way – thanks for your consideration and I hope to connect soon.


    1. Hello Nancy and thank you for getting creative in your effort to connect with me! I have just recently returned to my blog as I’ve been focused on the launch of my new Attitude Habits book on Amazon!

      Sorry about the delay in my response time – if this request is still in play, I can be contracted through The Butte College Training Place. We have a team of trainers who specialize in various topics. There is a considerable amount of prep that goes into the facilitation of pre-packaged content, and these details can be worked out in our contract.

      Please call my director, Annie Rafferty, at 530-895-9018 to get the ball rolling. I’m going to copy and paste your comment into an email to her to give her the head’s up.
      Or, you can email both of us:

      I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about your program! Catherine


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