With technology changing work environments so fast, it is common sense that if you want to stay competitive on the labor market (or simply to survive and have a job), you need to approach learning and reskilling as a lifelong endeavor.

Those days when you graduated from college, got a job and kept working for the same company for decades are well over. Also, selling a specific skill to an employer might not be enough, as freelancing will gain terrain in the future, so entrepreneurial acumen will be essential.

It’s easy to say that you need to learn new things and, if you think about it for a while, learning comes naturally to people. After all, we seem to learn new things every day.

But the truth is that as we grow older, learning abilities seem to become weaker. There is a cognitive reason for that, as memory and thinking ability change in time and unfortunately, it’s not for the better.

However, the time factor is equally crucial. Young learners don’t have to work and provide for the family, so studying and learning is the job. They spend a few hours in school every day, go to an afterschool program or come back home and do homework.

Almost no adult will have the luxury of spending so much time studying. They are simply too busy, juggling between family and job-related issues.

This is why training adults should take into account the time factor and identify strategies that work with busy learners.

The 5As model to deliver results with busy learners

As a trainer or facilitator you need to address the time factor all the time. The 5As model that Kimberly Devin explains in her book “Same Training, Half the Time: Delivering Results for Busy Learners” might be a useful tool in dealing with busy learners.

1. Appreciate

your time.

Be grateful for taking part in the project and try to understand as well as you can the nature of the request. Training is expendable. In times of financial hardships, training is among the first things to be cut from the list.

For some companies, under certain circumstances your presence there is a luxury. Make the most of that time and make your client come to the conclusion that it was money well spent. Feel free to express your gratitude to your clients and do the best job you can do.

2. Acknowledge

the criticality of the request.

Make sure that you understand as much as possible from the core issues and offer alternative solutions (see point 5) to your clients. Try to put yourself in their place and anticipate the added value of the learning outcomes.

For instance, if the request is for a soft skills training program, perhaps communication is an issue, either between team members or between management and the workforce. Try to show people how to deal with difficult personalities. When in doubt, it is better to go to step 3:

3. Ask questions

about expectations and the background situation.

Explain that to do a proper job, (identify the training needs and create a suitable program) you need to know the background and identify what can be improved through learning programs.


Read more: The need for a Training Needs Analysis


Ask both open questions that will allow your client to describe situations, to talk about expectations or to present the most important issues. Feel free to ask as many closed questions (yes/no question) if you want specific details.

4. Apprehension

Express concerns in a non-confrontational manner.

If very high expectations are not matched with consistent resources, you should say it. For instance, you offer a blended training program (online and offline), as you were told that learners work in several offices across the country and the client does not have the budget to fly them over to a certain location.


Read more: Why Millennials prefer blended learning


Then you find out that the company does not have a video conference system or that there are not enough computers in each office for all trainees. Explain that online training is not the best option.

5. Alternatives

Whenever possible, offer alternatives and adapt to the situation on the field.

Once you have the information provided by your client, use your experience and your expertise to come up with at least two solutions within the allocated budget and allow them to choose the most suitable one.

There is no perfect match, as perfection is hardly ever a reality, but there is always a better way. Involve your clients in the decision-making process and guide them in their choices if you feel that they need an informed opinion.

All in all

When you know more, you can be more efficient and more effective. Einstein said that time is an illusion. It may well be true for physicists, but in business you know it is a precious resource.

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