Whether it’s riding a bike or playing the piano, we learn how to do things through experience and practice – in some cases, lots of practice.
In the workplace, experiential learning – aka ‘learning by doing’ – can be used to teach employees specific skills and behaviours aligned with the company’s goals. It’s a hands-on approach to training that has a wealth of benefits, such as:
We’ve all been in a situation where, ten minutes into a presentation or meeting, we start to switch off and daydream about what’s for dinner. The mind can easily wander when we don’t feel part of what’s going on.
Experiential learning, however, seeks to engage employees through involvement. By completing activities together as a group, employees are more likely to stay focused, absorb information, and enjoy the experience of learning new skills and concepts.
It Mimics Real Life
You can’t become a competent driver simply by reading The Highway Code. In a similar way, reading textbooks can only teach us so much. Experiential learning is needed to demonstrate to employees how to apply new skills to real-life scenarios. Practicing these skills will not only give employees the confidence to use them in the workplace, but will help to ensure they retain all that they learn during the session.
It Provides a Safe Learning Environment
Experiential learning often involves tasks that require teams to problem-solve and think of creative ways to overcome challenges. Employees are given a safe learning environment outside of the workplace to trial ideas and methods, make mistakes and learn from them - without any repercussions. This gives them the opportunity to fine-tune the skills they learn, before applying them to real-life situations.
It Offers a Chance to Reflect
As well as learning from mistakes, experiential learning can help both teams and individuals identify their strengths. When a team completes a task, they are encouraged to reflect on their efforts and pinpoint exactly what factors contributed to their success. This ultimately helps teams better grasp how learned outcomes can be applied to a range of other scenarios.
It Boosts Morale
Employees don’t work in isolation, so why should they learn in isolation? Experiential learning is very much a collaborative learning experience. Whether teams are solving a mystery, taking part in their own sports day or completing a construction task, activities encourage them to work as a cohesive unit, which in turn improves team skills and raises morale.
The concept of experiential learning is nothing new. In fact, it was Aristotle who, in around 350 BC, said: ‘For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.’ Time and time again, experiential learning has proven itself an effective way to engage and motivate employees, and generate measurable results.