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Robin Hoyle

Huthwaite International

Head of Learning Innovation at Huthwaite International

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12 top learning personality traits


Robin Hoyle of Infinity Learning offers a few of his character assassinations to the TrainingZone community. So, which one are you?


Remember the old adage "The learning gained from doing the task is more important than the output of the task itself". An apprentice is new – you've got to give them space and time to screw up. But if that's all they do, they'll be pretty despondent pretty quickly. So: clear learning outcomes for each task you give them, clear immediate debrief and feedback using the feedback sandwich – "You were great at this, this needs work, but I'm really pleased at your progress". On the job is best for apprentices, but don't ignore a bit of input (or they'll pick up bad habits real quickly) and don't give them a task to do which you can't afford for them to make a mess of.


Every organisation has some people who are more like Eeyore than Tigger! They may be actually overworked and stressed out or they may have a lower tolerance for getting their hands dirty, but either way overwhelming them with a major development plan isn't going to change much. One-to-one coaching and baby steps – short, easily achievable and measurable inputs and outputs and plenty of review time is the only way to make them feel positive about their development.


The saboteurs are usually pretty bright. Their creativity being under-used, they turn their formidable intellect to undermining their team, their team leader and potentially the whole organisation. They need strong short and unequivocal input and the chance to turn their obvious creativity towards the good of the organisation. Identify something they're good at and then ask them to blog about it. The process of creative reflection will channel their energies positively and you might learn what's making them so grumpy!

Willing but time-pressured

The saying goes, if you want something doing, find a busy person! Not always true but not far off. These are the people for who elearning – properly designed to work in short chunks – was invented. Explain the flexibility which online learning gives them and help them access it in otherwise unoccupied moments, such as travelling time. Give them a dongle and external access to your intranet and work with their feedback to ensure that your learning helps them to achieve better results in less time.

Part-time for the money

It's inevitable that as family budgets get squeezed a portion of our workforce only work because they have to.  Short, well-focused inputs work best for these people. Sending them on day long courses often doesn't work because their working hours and possible domestic responsibilities simply don't allow them the luxury of taking a full day for a training session. Set up a learning circle of similar learners and give them elearning to do in small groups – helping each other but without the inconvenience of having a trainer available for half an hour here and there. Ensure there are follow up work-based tasks and that managers provide feedback immediately on completion.


The best way of motivating these learners is to help them build their competence and skills towards a recognised qualification. Each training programme they use should add shine and glitter to their CV. By linking their development to their career aspirations in this way, you can harness their desire to learn by providing self managed learning – pre-reads, elearning modules, work-based assignments. Well designed, these inputs can provide real return on investment. Of course whether you keep them after they're qualified is another issue so ensure your HR team has visibility of the progress it is making and the commitment it is showing.

Generation Y

If these young tyros are as advertised, values driven, and looking for something beyond the money, then your training materials will need to reflect that. Focus on values – either the intrinsic values of your organisation or the corporate social responsibility activities which your organisation engages in. In fact use community and voluntary group working as a development route and then ask our connected and media friendly generation ys to share their experiences with others. Learning about team work in a community group in a disadvantaged area of your town is one of the best learning experiences and potentially presses all the right buttons.

Here because they've got to be

There's a proportion of any team who would rather be elsewhere than in their current job. Let's be honest, sometimes we all feel that way. If it's a permanent state of mind, relying on these guys to do some self-managed learning is probably wasted energy. Project-based learning which changes the dynamic in the team is not a bad idea. Why not give them some (limited) responsibility and feedback positively when they achieve. Involving and engaging learning with outputs that actually matter and which people take notice of can be a route to turning round the most reluctant team member.

Senior manager (status-driven, can't admit he doesn't know)

At the higher echelons of many organisations there will be a couple of managers who have to pinch themselves every morning that they've actually managed to get away with it still. Something fundamental may be missing from their prior learning but having got the executive car parking space, it's tricky to enrol on that finance fundamentals course or explain to their executive coach that they don't know the basic principle of delegation. Elearning modules they can take in privacy without anyone knowing how they've got on is a good route to plugging some of the earlier gaps in their business knowledge. Give them access to online resources – articles, digests of business publications, anything to get them learning. And enrol them as testers for the programmes you create – asking them to sign off a module may be a great way of getting them to actually look at some of this stuff.

Good time guy socially – confident underachiever

The life and soul of the party often covers up their lack of knowledge or skill by going on about last night at Jezabel's night spot rather than the problems the team may be facing. Use their social skills positively and put them in project-based learning roles, but don't put them in charge. Give them a string project leader who can manage their input and identify gaps in their knowledge – recommending a little extra study so that they don't look foolish. Not looking foolish is a real motivator for the good time guys and gals.

Will smile, but no intention of follow-through

You know the sort – agree with everything, say they understand, make commitments to do something different, but funnily enough nothing changes. Often they're covering up for something; occasionally they have good intentions but just don't carry things through. They're probably members of at least three or four gyms! Courses are great, elearning may work, but it's the follow up that counts. Short-term, observable targets which are relentlessly followed up by coaches. Give them no place to hide.

Nice but dim – bubbles

The rest of the team have been covering up for this person for ages. Supposedly in charge of something quite important, they spend much of their time making the coffee or fetching the post. Even then they'll give the lactose intolerant milk in their tea and return without the important parcel you needed. Coaching by an expert is usually the only route – 'sitting by Nelly' can work wonders, so long as 'Nelly' is very patient and gets support too.
Robin oversees all learning design activities within Infinity Learning and was nominated for outstanding contribution to the training industry in successive years 2006 and 2007. Robin has been a key speaker at the European eLearning Conference in Monte Carlo, Learning Technologies, Word of Learning, CIPD's HRD conference, and the HR Forum. Read Robin's blog here 

Author Profile Picture
Robin Hoyle

Head of Learning Innovation at Huthwaite International

Read more from Robin Hoyle

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