Introverts are often misunderstood. Many people associate the term with shyness or social awkwardness, but introversion is more about where you get your energy from—and whether you prefer to spend time alone or with others.
Most people are a mix of both introverted and extroverted traits, with some leaning more in one direction than the other. But it’s estimated that approximately 50% of the population is introverts.
At the workplace, introverts may be quieter than their extroverted colleagues, but they have many strengths that can benefit the company. For example, they may have excellent critical thinking skills and be great at finding creative solutions to complex problems. But because they usually prefer to work alone, they can be overlooked when it comes to training opportunities.
The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when you’re developing training for a workforce that includes many introverts. As such, it’s important to ensure that your approach will engage them as much as your extroverted employees.
Introverts vs. Extroverts
The term introvert was coined by psychologist Carl Jung and popularized in the 1960s by famed psychologist Hans Eysenck. Introversion is one of the major personality traits identified in many theories of personality psychology.
While we tend to think of introverts as shy and extroverts as outgoing, both terms refer to how people draw their energy from the world around them.
Extroverts tend to feel energized after spending time with others, while introverts need time alone in order to recharge their batteries (hence why many people think introverts are shy).
While extroverts enjoy the spotlight and “feeding off” the energy of a group, introverts are easily drained by social interactions. A group brainstorming session can be a nightmare for some introverts, who might find it hard to contribute or focus in a noisy room.
These personality differences can lead to misunderstandings between introverted and extroverted employees — and that can be bad news for team collaboration. Introverts might feel they’re not being heard in meetings, while extroverts feel their ideas are being unfairly dismissed.
Training for Introverts: The Do’s and Don’ts
As you familiarize yourself more with the different kinds of employees, it’s important to keep in mind that these categories are not cut-and-dried. For example, some introverts are happy to speak in a large group, while some extroverts will prefer to work alone on a task. But there are some key differences that apply to many people on each end of the spectrum.
Give Them Advance Notice
Give them time before training to consider their approach and prepare. Introverted workers thrive when given the opportunity to come up with a strategy or plan of action before being thrown into the fray.
Consider sending out an agenda or outline of what will be covered during training sessions so that introverts have plenty of time to think about how they will handle each topic as it is introduced during the session itself.
Discuss and Plan with Them
Introverts are at a disadvantage in many situations, and this is especially true in the workplace. The majority of employee training, for instance, is geared toward extroverts. Introverts often feel pressure to be more social, more positive, and more assertive than their natural inclinations allow.
But it’s a mistake to ignore introverts’ needs or force them to learn like extroverts. If some people prefer to learn alone, for example, why not let them?
If you have an introvert in your team, ask them what type of training they want. Don’t force them into a “one size fits all” setting if it doesn’t fit them. They will probably tell you that they’d rather have one-on-one meetings or read course materials than go to a seminar or workshop.
Give Them Time During Training to Process Information
Introverts will process information differently than extroverts do, so they’ll need more time to absorb what’s going on during training sessions. Be patient with them and give them space to reflect on what they’re learning.
Don’t expect immediate action or results from introverted learners; rather, give them time after the training is over to practice what they’ve learned and apply it in their own way. They need more time alone, away from group activities, where they can learn in a less stimulating environment.
Communicate in Writing
Encourage written communication over verbal communication after training sessions end. Introverts may want to ask questions or give feedback but feel uncomfortable speaking up in large groups.
Consider posting a message board or creating a shared document where introverted employees can submit questions or comments privately and anonymously if they like. This will allow them to share their thoughts without feeling pressured or put on the spot, which can be intimidating.
Provide Quiet Training Spaces
Provide a quiet space for them to train. Introverts often prefer small-group or one-on-one training over large group sessions, as these settings allow them to ask questions without being interrupted or feeling overwhelmed.
If possible, allow them the option of completing online courses that include interactive exercises and videos. This allows them to work at their own pace and absorb information in a comfortable environment. If they must attend a group training session, sit with them so you can help them participate in discussions when necessary.
It’s easy for introverts to fade into the background during group learning sessions, but encourage them to speak up by asking them questions directly or giving them opportunities to lead group discussions.
Don’t Overload Them With Group Training
Many introverts prefer to learn independently, so include independent practice sessions whenever possible. If you must use group training, limit it to small groups of four or five people and give them plenty of time and space to work independently once they’re back at their desks.
Don’t Criticize Them Publicly
Feedback is an important part of learning and growing, but it’s best to be constructive instead of destructive. Discuss feedback matters one on one instead of in a group setting.
Don’t Demand Instant Answers
When asked a question, an extrovert will blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. Introverts may take longer to answer because they need time to process the information before they respond.
If you’re training a group of introverts, let them know that it’s alright to ask for time to think before answering a question. It also helps them if you ask open-ended questions rather than yes/no questions.
Introverts prefer to take in information internally, so an e-learning course would be perfect for them. It allows them to avoid the stress of a live classroom and work at their own pace. Plus, they can go back and review information as needed.
Since online training includes a variety of learning methods such as audio, video, text and interactive elements, it can help introverted employees absorb the content in the way that works best for them. For example, some might prefer recording their voice responses instead of typing their thoughts out on a document or discussion forum.
Others might be fine with typing but would rather read someone else’s thoughts rather than have a voice-to-voice conversation with them. Giving them multiple ways to learn allows them to choose what works best for them at any given time or point in the lesson.
KnowledgeCity Courses for High Performers
Whether your goal is to enhance communication, time management, project management or leadership skills, KnowledgeCity has the business training you need.
Our mission is to help individuals and businesses achieve their full potential by offering a complete suite of courses taught by subject matter experts. Our courses are developed by professionals who have years of experience in their fields. You can download our free guide on how to build a successful training program to learn more about what a great employee training program involves, the benefits you can expect from employee training, and mistakes you should avoid when developing a training program.