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“What I hear, I forget; what I see, I remember; what I do, I understand…” 

Like many, I’ve been using this quote to highlight the importance of hands-on training for a long time. It is often attributed to Confucius, but the origin of the quote is somewhat specious. Regardless, the point holds true and is an excellent piece of advice for anyone responsible for delivering training to anyone in the cleaning profession. 

So often, the urgency for translated materials is emphasized to meet the fluency needs of our multilingual, multicultural workforce. And so often, the training program stops there, leaving learning outcomes to boxes checked off for participation. What is left behind leaves much to be desired in terms of verbal presentation, visual instruction and experiential learning. It’s one of the reasons I love this quote. 

Our brains are designed to pay more attention to visual stimuli. So, when we see something, we are more likely to remember it than if we just hear about it. Additionally, simple visual aids can help break down complex concepts into more digestible parts, making it easier for learners to understand and retain key information.  

Overall, incorporating visual learning into your training programs can help ensure that participants walk away with a deeper understanding of the subject matter. 

Similarly, if cleaning workers do something themselves, they are more likely to understand and remember, versus watching someone else do it. It is called kinesthetic learning — or, more simply, doing.  

Because cleaning work is a physically demanding job, doing the task in a structured training environment can greatly improve learning and understanding. It not only helps with retention, but it can also enhance physical coordination and dexterity, leading to better safety outcomes. It also gives cleaning workers the opportunity to participate actively using all their senses. 

So, when it comes to training, it is important to make use of all three learning modalities: hearing, seeing and doing. Here are some tips on how to do this: 

• Hearing: Make sure that you explain things clearly when you are verbally describing a task or concept in a training session. It also helps to repeat key points several times — repetition leads to retention.  
If working with a multilingual workforce, learn and use simple, concise explanations in languages the staff will understand., Not only will you, the educator, learn a few key words, but it will also give your staff the opportunity to practice some key professional terms. 

• Seeing: Use visuals to supplement your verbal explanations. Use color, images, video and numbers — concepts most learners understand, regardless of language. When possible, display these images in areas where staff will see them as visual reminders in days, weeks and months to come. 

• Doing: For hands-on tasks, provide step-by-step instructions and allow plenty of time for practice. It can also be helpful to have someone demonstrate the task first, before handing the reins over to the trainees. As each individual attempts the task, gently correct mistakes and don’t move on to the next person until everyone, including you as the trainer, is comfortable with their demonstration. 

Trying to meet the diverse training needs of the cleaning profession is not easy, but this is a strong formula for success. Say something concisely, with intention, repeatedly. Show the critical steps using color, video, photos or imagery when demonstrating. Finally, make sure that every learner has time to perform tasks and can demonstrate their understanding. This is a winning combination for an effective training platform in your operation. 

Ben Walker is COO at ManageMen, Inc., a leading cleaning industry consultancy specializing in training, transitions, auditing and educational materials. He can be reached at