8 Strategies To Integrate Experiential Learning Into Workplace Training Programs

Experiential learning (EL) develops skills to expedite on-the-job performance improvement. As it is not well-understood, L&D teams don’t widely practice it. In this article, I share strategies to integrate experiential learning into corporate training.

What Is Experiential Learning?

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In today’s work from home (WFH) environment, the old training models aren’t too effective. You can’t call up a colleague at odd hours to come over to show you how to… Many remote workers are sometimes left to their own devices in figuring out what needs to be done—and these experiences help cement lasting behavioral change. One of the centerpieces for the successful implementation of experiential learning strategies is the understanding of how experiential learning occurs. Its roots lie in the 70:20:10 rule, developed in the 1980s by researchers at the Center for Creative Leadership. The rule holds that a learner absorbs (learns) 70% of their knowledge from on-the-job experiences—that’s what experiential learning in the workplace is all about! Of the remaining 30%, a full 20% learning happens as a result of interactions with third parties, while only 10% is attributed to formal learning.

What Is Experiential Learning?

At its most basic level, experiential learning defines how on-the-job encounters, reflections, and experiences offer the best learning opportunities. In other words, informal experiential training is a product of trial and error. It happens when we do things in the workplace and, if we don’t succeed at first, we learn from our failures.

What Are The Benefits Of Experiential Learning In The Workplace?

Experiential learning strategies offer a range of opportunities for workers to embrace behavioral changes and enhance performance improvements by learning through doing. Some benefits of experiential learning in the workplace, especially in a remote work environment, include the following:

  • Persuasion of behavioral change
    Unlike instructing remote workers on specific policies and procedures and having them perform them without question, experiential learning—the act of learning by trial and error and from one’s failures—persuades workers to change their behavior and not just learn a new skill that addresses a work challenge.
  • Matches concepts to workplace practices
    A significant difference between experiential training and, say, VILT is that the latter offers plenty of theory, while the former offers opportunities for remote employees to put those theories into practice in a real-world setting.
  • Engagement breeds bonding
    Unlike other forms of remote learning, the use of experiential learning strategies helps bring engagement within the workforce to a new level. It’s about remote workers failing, at first, and then reaching out to other like-minded colleagues (whom they might never have engaged with during virtual training) and bonding over their joint learning experiences.
  • Immersive learning can be fun
    It’s a fact that people don’t learn when learning isn’t fun! Experiential training not only delivers an immersive and engaging learning experience but it also helps learners absorb knowledge being taught because they are “doing” instead of just listening, watching, or taking notes. Participating in real-world activities can also be a fun way of teaching.
  • Fighting the Forgetting Curve
    Experiential learning is a training method based on behavioral change that happens as a result of doing and learning. Therefore, as opposed to watching videos or reading a transcript, active experiential learning strategies help remote workers assimilate knowledge quicker and retain it longer than traditional passive training methods.

How Does EL Lead To Behavioral Change?

Typically, even with remote work, help is always a shout-out away. A colleague, or someone more experienced, might take charge of the situation and resolve an issue for someone struggling with a challenge. However, today’s WFH environment has pushed experiential learning in the workplace to the forefront by facilitating changes to workplace behavior [1]. Because all remote workers are tasked with doing more with less—less time, less resources, less direct supervision—they’re forced to experiment and try out alternate solutions.

Ultimately, these experiences become indelible habits. Rather than simply learning a new way of doing things, or memorizing the steps to perform a work task, experiential learning, like “learning from failure,” affects long-lasting behavioral change. Strategies such as role-playing, group training, and cross-functional training are all part of the experiential training toolkit that fosters long-term behavioral change. Lest we misunderstand what experiential learning is, experiential training isn’t just about trying, failing, and then eventually succeeding at something. Implementing experiential learning strategies in the work environment involves encouraging workers to experiment, experience, and then reflect on what they’ve experienced. It is that reflection that finally ingrains new behavior.

What Strategies Can You Adopt To Integrate Experiential Learning Into Workplace Training?

Here are 8 strategies to help L&D teams integrate experiential learning into their corporate training programs:

  1. Enhancing VILT with experiential learning
     With so many remote workers already embracing VILT, this might be a great time to integrate aspects of experiential training into the standard VILT curriculum.
  2. Game-based learning
    Creating games based on actual workplace environments helps virtual workers practice, learn, and fail in a safe environment, while also honing their skills and enhancing performance in key workplace skills.
  3. Immersive technologies
    Use technologies to recreate real-world workplace environments, such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and 360 video, to connect with learners to deliver real-world experiences that most ILT/VILT approaches can’t provide.
  4. Branching simulations
    Active decision-making is another pillar through which successful workplace experiential learning strategies are built. Branching simulations give learners real-life exposure to making difficult choices in true-to-life workplace situations.
  5. Scenario-based learning for case studies, role-play
    Like simulations, these learning tools encourage learners to make decisions, take risks, fail, and learn from their failures.
  6. On-the-job training
    Offer remote workers access to just-in-time learning resources [2] and learning-in-the-workflow tools as part of the experiential learning experience.
  7. Blended learning
    Further your experiential learning strategy by coaching and mentoring remote workers using virtual internship and apprenticeship interactions.
  8. Social learning
    A central plank of experiential learning is observing others and learning from those observations. Social learning [3], through messaging, chats, video sharing, and moderated learning networks, offers a great opportunity to leverage experiential learning in the workplace.

Parting Thoughts

Experiential learning is a great approach to help virtual workforces learn the skills they need for the job and improve workplace performance. By employing creative experiential learning strategies, L&D teams won’t just make remote learning fun and engaging, they’ll also facilitate long-term behavioral change.

I hope this article provides the required insights on how to integrate experiential learning strategies into your corporate training. Meanwhile, if you have any specific queries, do contact me or leave a comment below.

References:

[1] Change Employee Behavior in the Workplace with These 5 High-impact Corporate Training Strategies

[2] How to Drive Just-in-time Learning with Performance Support Tools

[3] Creating Powerful Employee Training With Social Learning – Featuring Microlearning Videos

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