Lectures. Workshops. Video tutorials. Online courses. Nearly everyone, at some point in their careers, has experienced these common training methods.
But here’s the thing: those methods don’t always work well. In fact, some studies show that just 10 percent of corporate training is actually effective. And in an era in which the average person has five separate careers in their lifetime, employers can’t afford to lose people because of inadequate training and development opportunities.
“We are living longer, jobs are changing faster than ever, and automation is impinging on our work lives more every day. If we can't look things up, learn quickly, and find a way to develop new skills at work, most of us would prefer to change jobs, rather than stay in a company that doesn't let us reinvent ourselves over time.” - Josh Bersin, founder of Bersin by Deloitte.
Today, the best employers are those who invest in effective, experiential learning and development programmes that actually engage people and help them pick up new skills.
Why learning, training and development matters
Let’s take a step back and a look at some workforce trends in Australia:
- People, on average, spend three years and four months in a job;
- The average person has 17 different employers in their lifetime, and 5 separate careers;
- Because of the near-constant need to change jobs and careers, people are upskilling and retraining more regularly.
What does this mean for employers? It means retention is difficult. If you want to retain good employees, you need to invest and play an active role in their development. You need to create an environment of continuous learning, and deliver training in a way that’s actually effective.
This is where experiential learning comes in.
What is experiential learning?
Experiential learning is the process of learning through first-hand experience. When you learn experientially, you pick up skills and expertise by applying concepts and techniques - not by hearing or reading about them.
Experiential learning is a great method for teaching new skills or concepts, as it allows for experimentation and the creation of knowledge through experience, observation and reflection.
Why is experiential learning so powerful?
Imagine you’re learning to ride a bike for the first time. Would you read a book about how to ride a bike, or would you put on some training wheels and just give it a go?
Experiential learning is powerful because it allows you to learn and practice skills in the real world. It is:
- Faster than rote or ‘repetitive’ learning. Because experiential learning involves critical thinking, problem solving and decision making, you pick up new skills and concepts faster than you would if you’d just read about them over and over.
- The bridge between theory and application. Experiential learning is immersive by nature, and gets people to apply the concepts they’re learning in real time.
- More personal, and more emotive. Experiential learning allows for a more personalised and engaging approach to learning. You can ask questions, have fun and make mistakes in a safe, controlled environment.
- An opportunity for collaboration and creativity. Different people have different learning styles, so the flexibility of experiential learning gives them the space to learn in a way that suits them best. It gives them more opportunities to collaborate, be creative and think outside the box.
How to design an effective experiential learning programme
There are a few best practices to observe when designing an experiential learning programme, and they’re quite similar to those we follow when we design brand experiences.
- Assess the problem(s). You need to define what knowledge currently exists in your company, and what you want people to learn. It’s helpful to think about current mindsets and behaviours, and how you’d like them to change by the end of the training.
- Design the experience. Be creative and use design methodology to come up with an experience that moves people from their existing knowledge to the desired state. Think about how you’ll engage and stimulate people visually and emotionally.
- Run the session. Have a plan for how the session will run so that you can keep people moving along at the same pace.
- Feedback and reflect. Observation and reflection play a key role in experiential learning. Make sure you create time and space for people to reflect upon what they’ve learned.
- Leave tools, content and support. Give your employees access to content and resources that can help them after the session ends. This encourages ongoing learning, and will help them feel supported when they eventually apply their new knowledge and skills.
When you’re designing an experiential learning programme, consider ways to use technology. Computer-based simulations, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies, for example, are a great way to:
- Create learning environments that would be physically impossible or too expensive to achieve otherwise. Imagine a training session on the moon!
- Share the same training experience with different groups across locations and time zones
- Totally immerse people in a learning experience and engage all parts of the brain through visual and sonic stimulation
- Create a safe, controlled environment in which to learn and experiment
- Gamify learning processes and collect data on participants’ progress
The future of learning and development
Few people actually enjoy watching video tutorials, sitting in workshops or listening to lectures. And those that do have access to a wealth of knowledge available online via YouTube, courses and more.
In this day and age, employers must deliver training programmes that allow their employees to develop, pick up new skills and keep up with industry changes. And the best way to do that is through experiential learning.