There is only one constant in the way different employees apply their brain power to learn, and retain information: We all learn differently.

As employers, it’s critical that we recognize this reality. Every employee processes the information that we provide in training or meetings in their own unique way. Ultimately, their goal is to up-skill efficiently and perform tasks successfully. How they do that depends on their learning preferences, personal strengths, and mindset.

The Trainer Called Me Out in Public!

Maximizing Employee Brain PowerI was once in a sales training session where I was called out by the trainer for not paying attention. She stopped the presentation to say how rude it was that I was doing things on my iPad while she was talking.

Here’s what she did not comprehend: I was connecting what she was telling us in her training to real-world information that was needed to complete the paperwork she was referencing.

You see, I am not a strong auditory learner. My auditory processing speed1 is slower than the average human. My auditory memory, when not associated with visual cues or engaged in immediate interaction ,is poor. In this session, the trainer’s PowerPoint was a series of filler images with no real information on them. The crucial information was solely delivered through her verbal presentation.

Her presentation style was not a problem for me because I know how I learn!

As she mentioned websites and certain keywords to help us do the sales paperwork, I plugged them into the browser search window on my iPad. I was thinking, “I’ve got to connect this information to real application. I need to make connections to what she’s saying.” I started finding the websites she was referencing and clicking on them. I could hear what she was saying, and now I was also seeing what she was trying to communicate. I was connecting her message to the actual sales information that I needed.

I was embarrassed and frustrated at being called out on the spot like that. I wasn’t playing around on my iPad. I was on target, finding the websites she was talking about, getting visual confirmation that the information she was giving out was exactly what I needed in order to complete those sales documents. I was working at what I needed to be doing because that was how my brain learns.

One of the things we need to think about when planning training events is how the people who are working for us can maximize their brain power so that they can grasp what we’re saying. How can they focus on the sales projections, complete new budget requirements, or understand new regulations in a way that will allow them to carry forward what you need them to do?

Four Ways to Maximize Your Employees’ Brain Power

Here are four ways to encourage a culture where employees are empowered to utilize the strategies with which they learn best:

  1. Encourage employees to take notes by hand as the speaker talks. Some people listen better and process information better by writing it down.
  2. Have them close their eyes or look away from the speaker during information-intensive parts of the presentation. Japanese businessmen are well known for doing this2 as it enables them to focus more completely on the speaker’s voice.
  3. Stand up and stretch or walk around occasionally. Encourage this by setting up a table opposite the speaker with water and coffee, so they can walk to and fro without walking past the speaker.
  4. Allow employees to use their laptops or tablets to take notes or look up information. Many professional speakers encourage this during parts of their presentations to actively engage participants.

Naturally, there are a myriad of other things that you might do to help your employees maximize their brain power. Start by allowing, teaching, and encouraging these four things in all your training programs and you’ll quickly see engagement, learning, and retention increases exponentially.

1 Janice Rodden,”What Does Auditory Processing Disorder Look Like in Adults?,” ADDitude Magazine,

2 Rochelle Kopp, “Why Do Japanese Fall Asleep in Meetings?”, Japan Intercultural Consulting, October 13, 2011,