The goal of company-provided training is to improve performance and, ultimately, business results. But in order to achieve this, employee training must change behavior. In Experiential Learning (Eagle's Flight, 2016), author Phil Geldart outlines the three distinct components of experiential learning:
Experiential learning is not the only way to deliver training. But when it is included with other forms of standard training such as role-play, case study and guided exercises, it can optimize the potential impact.
Here are eight reasons, according to Geldart, experiential learning leads to behavior change:
1. A powerful experience immerses the participants in the same way that real-world challenges do. The activity loses the sense of being a "training exercise" and rapidly becomes a real situation.
2. The experience is not simply a simulation of the trainees' real world. Rather, the activity is deliberately themed to mask any connection to their day-to-day reality, demanding that participants bring their capabilities to bear on what appears to be a totally different challenge.
3. The training is captivating and fun. People are drawn into the experience by the storyline and the problem it presents to the team.
4. The experience is an exact metaphor for the reality faced by the participants, which makes the debrief powerful, relevant and engaging. Participants see the parallels to their real-world situation and realize how they can improve performance on the job by applying the lessons learned.
5. The outcomes achieved in the experience are the results of behavior demonstrated by the team and the individuals on that team. Those improved results will similarly come whenever the new behaviors are applied on the job.
6. Usually, the results of our behaviors take time to be seen. In an experience, time is compressed to a couple of hours at the most and there is an intense focus on a single desired outcome.
7. While the experience itself is heavily themed, the debrief allows room for flexibility. Typically, the experience will bring principles to life that are relevant to the content being trained. In the debrief, the facilitator can choose which principles to concentrate on and can determine how much time to allot to each one to reinforce on-the-job relevance.
8. One of the toughest hurdles for any training is building conviction in the participants that they need to change and that they actually can change. Upon completion of an experience, participants have done something concrete and have clearly seen the results.
"Experiential learning can be the difference between actually changing behavior, and only providing more information, with limited real behavior change," Geldart writes.
Desda Moss is managing editor of HR Magazine.