In 2016, employees received nearly 44 hours of training per year. Because this average is more than an entire work week, it’s important for businesses to offset training costs with techniques that generate long-lasting behavior change. The primary objectives of any type of corporate training are to improve performance and deliver real results. In other words, it’s important for businesses to maximize the return on investment (ROI) of their training efforts.
Despite this, many business leaders still turn to traditional training in their attempt to drive performance. While methods such as videos and lectures are familiar and often affordable, the concept of learning decay reveals that traditional training can only provide limited results, because most of the information is forgotten in a matter of days or weeks. This ultimately results in a poor training ROI; even though the initial investment is low, the results do not provide an optimal use of your training budget.
Experiential learning is a high-impact alternative to traditional training that engages participants on every level. Sure, experiential learning is fun—but at the end of the day, businesses need to know that these efforts are worth their investment. Linking training to business relevance helps businesses do just this. To help illustrate how experiential learning is a relevant, effective training technique, consider these three ways that it maximizes training ROI.
1. It Builds Conviction
Experiential learning is a unique way to convey information and build lasting behavior change. Because participants learn by doing, retention rates are much higher. When training emphasizes doing, it creates more engagement and produces greater results. Experiential learning is immersive and visceral in nature. Compared to traditional training methods, in which participants may tune out or ignore information, participants of an experiential training exercise must become fully engaged to succeed. They must use their own critical thinking and problem-solving skills throughout the entire experience to achieve the best possible results.
These shared immersive experiences create the conviction that is necessary for long-term behavior change. By linking the lessons learned in an experiential learning session with real-life challenges participants face every day, they are more likely to successfully apply this new knowledge on the job, resulting in improved performance. Additionally, this deep level of engagement generates better retention of new concepts.
2. It Changes Behavior
Experiential learning does not happen by accident. It is designed to produce predictable learnings and drive specific goals. This training may include learning new principles like planning, or introducing new skills such as how to effectively hold meetings. Regardless of the intended objectives, experiential learning is developed in advance and incorporated into the experience to ensure real-world relevance. In other words, experiential training is designed to actually change behavior.
Experiential learning produces results in the workplace. If participants don’t know what the expectations are, you can’t assume that they will succeed. Experiential learning exercises are calibrated to harvest results based on behaviors and decisions that participants make. Thanks to predictable learning outcomes, organizations can be confident that every participant will walk away from an experiential learning session with increased or improved skills, and the conviction to support changed behaviors.
3. It Mimics On-the-Job Scenarios
Experiential learning offers the benefits of fun, engaging activities, with the added value that more literal simulations offer. This type of learning combines complex activities with specific scenarios to imitate challenges that participants face in the workplace. However, the key differentiator behind experiential training is to create scenarios that mirror common workplace situations, rather than mimic them. Separating training from the real world enables participants to practice new skills without the fear of making mistakes that will be reflected negatively back on the job.
These exercises serve as a metaphor for common challenges participants face at work. By applying skills that employees use on the job, training bridges the gap between theory and practice. After activities are complete, a facilitator links what was learned in the experience to real-life work situations in a highly engaging debrief, which provides participants with the understanding of how they are to apply these new skills.
Keep in mind that linking experiential learning to business relevance and following up with measurement to track behavior change will allow your company to maximize its training ROI.