Whether you’re building an onboarding, compliance, leadership, or sales training session, your employee training and development programs should include learning opportunities to build critical thinking and decision-making skills. Training role-based skills is the foundation, but beyond that, your training program should build capabilities, not just competencies.
Why? Critical thinking improves employee performance. Training employees in decision-making skills provides your team with the tools needed to fulfill its role, create a better customer experience, and meet the challenges of unforeseen circumstances and changes. Good critical thinking skills help your team members build confidence that they can solve problems, which will motivate them on the job. Fortunately, there are methods you can use to develop good decision-making skills and critical-thinking mindsets needed to improve performance.
Use these training methods to encourage confidence and critical thinking in your employees. You can implement many of them without re-creating your employee training and development content.
3 Learning Methods to Encourage Critical Thinking
1. Create engaging learning activities. Critical thinking is a mindset as much as a skill. To get your learners thinking, you need their attention and willing participation. Don’t seat them in front of a block of uninterrupted text in a binder, on a screen, or in a presentation and ask them to absorb the material—because they won’t. Make learning active by presenting the material in multiple formats—including audio and video or in-person demonstrations—and ask learners to participate in some way.
Active learning includes these best practices:
- Stop a presentation periodically to answer questions.
- Allow learners to control the pace of a course with navigation tools.
- Include rich media and landing pages customized by role.
- Provide collaborative activities.
- Use practice assessments, and give learners feedback.
- Add gamified activities.
2. Build confidence in your learning audience. Use experience-based learning to demonstrate skills, and then provide practice opportunities to help your learners understand and retain information. Allow them to ask questions if needed. Moreover, train your employees to understand when a problem should be escalated, how to escalate (the process), and who to escalate a question to inside or outside of their department. Sometimes just providing the process is enough to create confidence in your team; confidence is the prerequisite for problem solving.
3. Use stories and role-based scenarios in learning and assessments. When you’re designing training modules and assessments, consider adding context by using narratives that walk learners through scenarios they are likely to encounter. When asking questions of your learners, offer more than one option that is fundamentally correct. Then ask them to solve the problem. Give them the option to explain their choices and try different answers to learn which are incorrect and why. Help them consider variables and alternatives based on context. This process will build the skills they need to make good decisions on the job.
To improve employee performance and the success rates of your employee training and development programs, include active learning methods that encourage critical thinking and decision-making skills to improve capabilities and not just competencies. Use learning methods that increase engagement, are customized based on employee role, and provide context to make learning motivating and relevant. These methods are easily incorporated into in-person, blended, and online learning programs. Offering a variety of modalities that center the learner is best.