Employee development is a high priority for many organizations because it helps increase engagement, build loyalty, and achieve organizational goals. The types of training available to companies as part of an employee development strategy are countless, from self-directed online courses to immersive multi-day experiences. Using multiple training approaches helps ensure that you reach all types of learners and allows you to maximize your training budget.
Including experiential learning in your development program offers several important benefits, such as:
Driving conviction to change behaviors
Connecting conceptual ideas to actual situations in the workplace
Delivering a fun and engaging training experience for employees
Producing measurable results and the ability to track progress
Providing a training framework that can be used in multiple areas
Let’s dig deeper into each of these benefits so you can see how experiential learning can support your professional development strategy.
The main objective of any training initiative is to change behaviors in order to achieve a specific outcome. If participants are not aware of that outcome or not invested in accomplishing it, they are less likely to change their behaviors.
Experiential learning starts by building conviction so that participants learn not only how to do something in a new way, but also why it matters. They see the positive effects of using their new skills in the training environment and become motivated to test them in the real world because they have both the confidence that it will make a difference and the conviction to make the effort that will lead to change.
Connects Concepts to the Workplace
Many training formats effectively teach new concepts, but do not provide a safe environment to practice applying those concepts. For example, a classroom-based lecture about leadership skills can enhance the knowledge of participants, but that doesn’t mean they will know how to apply new skills in the real world.
Experiential learning is different because participants not only learn new concepts and skills, they also have the opportunity to try them in a scenario that indirectly mimics their reality. Because the scenarios are metaphors, many people don’t realize they are learning new work skills until the debrief at the end of the training. At this point, a facilitator guides a discussion that prompts participants to make strong connections between the lessons they learned in the activity and similar scenarios on the job.
Participants Have Fun
Employee development is serious business, but that doesn’t mean training has to be dry or boring. The importance of engaging participants during training cannot be understated. If they are not paying attention, they simply will not learn what you need them to.
Experiential learning fully immerses participants, making the full length of training fun and engaging. They aren’t interested in checking their phones because they want to solve the next challenge or see if they can improve their team’s results in the next round. Being fully engaged means that participants are more likely to absorb the information being presented to them, and because they are doing something that has immediate consequences, the experience is much more meaningful.
Provides Measurable Results
Training ROI is a high priority for anybody working with an employee development budget. Collecting feedback surveys or testing participants after a seminar is one way to gauge training results, but these methods do not guarantee long-term behavior change.
Experiential learning provides some of the best results of any type of training program because participants retain more information when they learn by doing. The learning decay curve shows that most people forget up to 70 percent of what they learned within the first week of learning it. Experiential learning, especially when combined with a retention strategy, helps overcome learning decay by instilling conviction, connecting the training concepts to actual behaviors in the workplace, and giving participants a common experience to reference.
Can Be Applied across a Wide Variety of Topics
Some training methods are better than others for certain topics or types of learners. For example, learning new software should include hands-on training. Similarly, digital training platforms are not always effective for people who are not comfortable using new technology without assistance.
Experiential learning can be used to teach to a broad spectrum of skills and competencies. Whether you want to teach time management to every employee or leadership skills to rising stars, experiential learning will produce results. Participants of every age and experience level benefit from this type of training. Programs can be customized to your organization, and even specific teams, so that they incorporate the company culture and internal language that will resonate with participants.
Why Incorporate Experiential Learning into Your Development Strategy?
Experiential learning is just one of many training approaches, but it is one of the most effective because it creates conviction, connects the training experience to the real world, and delivers measurable results. Participants love it because it’s fun and engaging, and training managers can use it for a broad range of topics, so it’s not just a one-time effort. As you design your employee development initiatives, incorporate multiple types of learning opportunities, and be sure to include experiential learning.