Continuously trained workforces are more productive, loyal and effective than those where training takes a back seat. In the current age, where digital developments are rapid and the most successful businesses are able to think on their feet to keep up, the approach to the training and development of people has had a major overhaul. People development is no longer a single training course once a year, but a continuous process. And this is where experiential learning comes in.
Essentially, experiential learning is learning by getting hands on. Employees must be involved in their training, rather than passively learning in a classroom. They must analyse what they have learned, decide on where they can improve their behaviours and think about how they can bring new knowledge to their jobs. Importantly, they must actively practice what they have learned in the workplace.
The best way of developing people can therefore happen at training sessions that incorporate experiential learning through role play and practical exercises. It can also happen every day in the workplace, aided by mentoring and shadowing.
Here are 8 key reasons why experiential learning is absolutely crucial for people development.
1. It Works
Based on the principle that active learning improves the retention of information, experiential learning is genuinely effective. In fact, many studies show that the retention rate of information from traditional methods is around 5%, versus as much as 90% when training occurs via experiential learning (Entrepreneur).
2. It Develops Emotional Intelligence
Experiential learning isn’t just about learning about a particular topic, or how to do a specific task. Practicing how to apply new knowledge by acting it out or doing it on the job means other skills are developed at the same time. Experiential learning and emotional intelligence go hand-in-hand – and practicing how to behave in the workplace to garner the best relationships and results from people develops well-rounded employees.
3. It’s Based on Reality
Classroom learning can sometimes feel theoretical, even if the subject matter is appropriate to a person’s job role. Experiential learning is inherently practical, closing the gap between theory and reality, helping learners apply new knowledge directly to the workplace.
4. It’s Non Hierarchical
Experiential learning is a useful aspect of people development strategies because it’s a learning method that is applicable to anyone, regardless of their seniority or job title. Colleagues can therefore come together at experiential learning sessions to collectively learn about a new topic, and each apply their new knowledge in a way that is suitable to their specific role.
5. It’s Engaging
The interactive nature of experiential learning not only means it works, but that employees are motivated to learn too. As well as learning information that can be applied at work, employees find the learning experience engaging and memorable. In turn, this fosters engagement with the workplace and respect for employers who take good training seriously.
6. It Develops Multiple Skills
Although experiential learning is a method that can be applied to training courses on a range of skills – from sales to technical expertise – learners get much more out of the training session. Experiential learning also helps develop core skills that businesses are increasingly realising the importance of, including communication, problem-solving, empathy, accountability, flexibility, team work and leadership attributes.
7. It Works Alongside Other Training Methods
The flexible nature of experiential learning means that it can be used in conjunction with other training methods to have maximum impact. Training sessions could involve a combination of classroom learning, multimedia and case studies. Experiential learning can be mixed in with these methods to check and reinforce knowledge retention along the way.
8. It Spans Learning Styles
People are individuals with different learning styles and ways of retaining information. As a result, it can be difficult to design training courses that appeal to these varying styles. However, experiential learning tends to appeal to a multitude of learning styles. For example, visual learners appreciate seeing scenarios acted out so they can visualise their new knowledge, while logical learners gain practice in tackling a single situation in different ways.
Make people development your top priority by incorporating experiential learning into your training strategy.