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Should Workplace Learning Be Fun?

By Dave Root on March 15, 2017

Should Workplace Learning Be Fun.jpegYou know that your workplace learning needs to be effective, memorable, aligned with organizational goals, and within budget. But does it need to be fun?

The short answer? A big, resounding “YES!”

The longer answer? If your workplace learning isn’t fun, you’ll have a much harder time engaging employees, and your training retention rates may be in big trouble. Here’s why making learning fun is the smart path to training that truly changes workplace behaviors, and here’s what you need to do to make workplace learning both fun and effective.

Fun Learning Increases Engagement

Savvy training managers know that fun is strategic. When you make learning fun, the learning process feels practically effortless—which means your trainees won’t be watching the clock like a hawk or clocking out from the training altogether. Leveling up the fun increases participants’ interest levels and engagement. This accelerates the learning process because people tend to give their all to learning that interests and engages them. Think back to your favorite class in high school or college. Chances are, you were likelier to turn in your homework on time and study up for the test because learning about that subject was fun and exciting. The same thing applies to workplace learning!

Fun Learning Supports Learning Retention

Certain kinds of workplace learning activities are simply funner than others. For example, unless you booked a stand-up comedian to deliver it, a PowerPoint presentation or lecture just isn’t all that fun for trainees. The kind of workplace learning that gets participants excited and engaged is training that requires their full participation. This is when participants are encouraged to get up, move around, and interact with one another as they develop and practice new skills. Participatory learning activities banish boredom, leading to all of the benefits described previously.

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Believe it or not, there’s more good news: “Fun” participatory training and effective, long-lasting training can also be one and the same. That’s because we remember what we do more than we remember what we hear. The learning decay curve is a big problem in corporate training; generally speaking, participants forget 70 percent of the new information they’ve just learned within one week. When participants “learn by doing,” retention rates dramatically improve—when you learn by doing, you’re likely to retain 75 percent of what you learned! For learning that lasts beyond the training session, you need to invest in fun, memorable experiences that immerse participants in the training at hand.

The Key to Making Learning Fun and Effective: Experiential Learning

Of course, not all participatory activities are inherently fun or effective. A poorly designed training exercise can leave participants scratching their heads instead of grinning. To ensure your workplace learning is both, consider adopting the practices of experiential learning. In experiential learning exercises, participants learn about and practice new skills that improve job performance. What makes experiential learning unique, however, is that the learning is masked by a theme, which serves as a metaphor for a participant’s job reality. For example, participants may be asked to work as teams to hunt down treasure in the jungle. During the debrief, the “metaphor” is revealed, and participants learn that the strategies that helped them win the themed game can help them win at work too.  

Theming training experiences with experiential learning accomplishes two big training goals:

  1. It creates a safe space for participants to take risks and fail within the game so that they can learn from their failures. People will be less likely to take a risk in a training scenario if that scenario too closely resembles their job reality.
  2. It makes the participatory nature of the experience even funner! Not only do participants get to engage with each other, but they get to do so while embarking on an exciting quest that—at first glance—has nothing to do with work at all.

With experiential learning, you can design learning experiences that are fully immersive and full of excitement—and, by extension, increase the retention of the critical skills and behaviors you’re teaching trainees. So yes, fun can have a major effect on your organization’s bottom line!

How have you tried to make workplace learning and training funner for participants? What were the results?

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Dave joined Eagle’s Flight in 1991 after having spent a number of years with a Toronto-based accounting firm. Since that time, he has held a number of posts within the company, primarily in the areas of Operations, Finance, Legal, and IT. In his current role as both Chief Financial Officer and President, Global Business, Dave is focused on ensuring the company’s ongoing financial health as well as growing its global market share. In pursuing the latter, Dave’s wealth of experience and extensive business knowledge has made him a valued partner and trusted advisor to both our global licensees and multinational clientele.

About Eagle's Flight

Founded in 1988, Eagle's Flight has earned its reputation as a global leader in the development and delivery of business-relevant, experiential learning programs that achieve specific training objectives and lasting behavior changes.

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