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Engaging with Adult Learners

As a manager, training is an inescapable part of your responsibilities, and unlike teaching wherein your audience is usually children chances are you will be working with adult learners.

Engaging with adult learners has its own unique set of challenges. When you train adults, there is a greater need for mutual respect and for the learners to find the trainer credible with enough character authority to teach them something new.

Once the trainer has established their skills and credibility with the trainees in a thoughtful, friendly, compassionate, and empathetic manner, the next step is determining the best ways for the trainees to retain information.

Here are some statistics you may find useful when constructing your training plan:

People retain...

  • 10% of what they READ

  • So training manuals or documents usually aren’t enough, though they are excellent resources to provide as reference documents

  • 20% of what they HEAR

  • Which is part of why we here at RCS say “talking isn’t training”—because not everything you say is being retained.

  • 30% of what they SEE

  • Now we are getting closer. But how do you really make it stick?

  • People will retain 50% of what they HEAR AND SEE

  • ​So for example, video training (like our online training portal, RCSU) can be very effective.

  • 70% of what they SAY OR WRITE

  • Taking notes or providing verbal summaries during group training can be useful. And here's the big one...

  • 90% of what they SAY AS THEY PERFORM A TASK Yes, that's right! Generally, people have the highest retention rate when they speak out loud about what they're doing, as they're doing it. Because of this, we believe that training where the employee can experience what they are being taught is most effective. Using group classroom style training is good, one-on-one training is better, but using teams and group projects where they are able to experience and touch more of the training in hands-on learning is best!

As useful as these statistics are, it's also helpful to remember that when it comes to adult learners, it is key that you as a trainer make an effort to know your audience.

Everyone has a different personality, a different style of learning, and a different preference for communication. You won’t train any two people the same way because of this. You have the responsibility to connect with the trainees and to be understood; it’s not the trainee’s responsibility to figure out what you are trying to say or teach them.

Training is a lot of work, and a big responsibility! If you need help, give us a call and we can help you put together your training plan, or visit to help you train in person.


The RCS Hospitality Group, creators of RCS Food & Beverage Boot Camp™, specialize in operations consulting, strategic planning, food and beverage management, and training programs for private clubs, fine dining restaurants, and high-end hotels and resorts around the world. For more information, phone (623) 322-0773; or visit the RCSHG website at

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Whitney Reid Pennell
 Founder & President

Whitney Reid Pennell is the founder and president of the award-winning RCS Hospitality Group (formerly Reid Consulting Services). She is a published author and widely praised seminar leader, with over 20 years of club operations management and consulting experience. 

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