It is often said that learning through experience, “experiential learning”, is the answer to honing and advancing key skills within business. Allowing learners to improve critical skills and behaviours through practical experience. However, the perceived mammoth task of finding continuous experiences, for HR and L&D departments has often led to experiential learning being sidelined despite its undeniable benefits to learners and businesses alike, such as:
- Retention of knowledge increased from 29% to 68% when using experiential learning.
- Effective soft skills training can deliver an RoI of 256% as a result of a 12% increase in team productivity and retention.
- An effective experiential learning program can increase employee retention by 30%
Recent statistics have shown that 75% of managers are dissatisfied with their company's L&D programme, alongside 70% of employees saying that they don’t have the right mastery of skills needed to do their job. These statistics are shocking, but they show the thirst for change is high. Although, yes, it’s true, traditionally implementing experiential learning needs a decent level of initial commitment, things are starting to change…
Within this article, we will provide you with a 6-point plan to implement experiential learning into your strategy. Allowing you to harness the countless benefits for both your business and employees alike.
1. The initial Audit
Before you implement the solution, you must first identify the problem. A soft skills audit helps you fully understand the interpersonal traits of your employees; whilst providing a holistic view of the strengths and weaknesses that your different teams present.
Many companies choose to lay it out in a competency framework with columns identifying an employee's personality type, function, and seniority level. Allowing them to analyse their corresponding soft skills rank and provide a clear path of implementation and progression.
2. Select the staff/cohort that will benefit.
The next stage is to utilise your soft skills audit, using it to identify the pain points within your business. This could be firstly, company-wide weaknesses, such as organisational silos, or secondly, departmental/individual weaknesses, such as poor collaboration within a particular department. This allows for a truly focused developmental strategy, as opposed to a generic haphazard training plan. It means resources are fully utilised allowing for greater learning at a reduced cost.
Over the years, Ethical Angel has found that our experiential learning projects fit into three broad programmes: graduate, onboarding, and high potential - with companies from startups to multinational corporations incorporating us into their programmes to provide that ‘experiential’ element. Allowing them to practice the all-important skills and behaviours they need to succeed before entering into their new roles.
3. Tailoring the project to employees' needs and goals
Employees value a personalised learning and development programme. A recent LinkedIn report stated that over 75% of staff value receiving personalised learning that is aligned with their career goals and skills gaps. Subsequently, when implementing experiential learning into your business, it is imperative to tailor the experience directly to your employees, as opposed to a ‘one size fits all training day’. Furthermore, if your employees have had an input in their training they are more likely to be engaged and interested and this can take the effectiveness one step further.
When tailoring the projects for employees, here at Ethical Angel, we have a two-step process.
Aspirations: projects are matched based on a learner's seniority and career aspirations. This allows projects to be fully tailored to their needs, leading to effective learning and the subsequent closing of skills gaps.
Interests: Employees choose the UN Sustainable Development Goals that interest them the most, such as gender equality or climate action. This adds passion and a deep interest in the project, once again, leading to more effective learning and the subsequent closing of skills gaps.
4. Setting up the project (Discovery)
The next step is creating the project. We find that this can be a crucial part of the learning process. The employees have to communicate with often new contacts and new industries, meaning that they are forced to quickly hone their communication and empathy skills, outside their normal workplace. This step is a great example of the clear benefit of experiential learning compared to its theoretical counterpart.
At Ethical Angel, this is stage 1 and the first interaction between a learner and their beneficiary cause. We make this step as easy as possible with an integrated chat box to aid with the development of communication skills.
5. The process of doing the project (Design and Deliver)
Arguably the most important aspect of implementing Experiential Learning into your business is the execution of the project. This is where employees will acquire their key skills, gaining the key benefits of development alongside other benefits such as increased knowledge retention.
An example of the process in practice comes from one of our own “Project planning” experiences. Your employees will have to communicate well with all stakeholders of a cause, from C-suite to intern, ensuring that information is clearly and succinctly communicated. They will be exposed to a different organisational culture, and subsequently will have to adapt to accommodate this. Learning in this way will be a steep learning curve, but with rich results in terms of development. To put it briefly, It's an opportunity for the learner to collaborate, reflect, and practice safely in the real world.
6. 360-degree feedback (Final Review)
One of the most important steps in implementing experiential learning into your business is to have a thorough feedback strategy in place. John Dewey, one of the most influential American scholars of the twentieth century, said:
“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience”
At Ethical Angel, we use 360-degree feedback, which is a tool that allows learners to gain feedback from a multitude of sources, such as colleagues and beneficiary causes. This feedback, when combined with a self-report, provides incredible holistic feedback of an employee. Allowing for a clear and effective measurement of development in the workplace, which in turn will drive greater development in future projects.
The clear benefits of experiential learning makes it a difficult strategy to ignore. A recent statistic stated that only 12% of employees applied new skills, learnt from ‘training days’, into practice. In a $350 billion dollar industry, this means that hundreds of billions is being wasted every year on ineffective training.
The solution is experiential learning.
To find out more, alongside information on how we can help in implementing experiential learning into your learning strategy, set up a quick chat with our team today.