Experiential learning training at work

As learning leaders, you and I face the challenge of engaging our audiences in learning and development throughout their career, not just relegating learning to a classroom or specific event. We all know the 70/20/10 rule.

For the non-HR reader: this method that states that 70% of learning development should consist of on-the-job training, 20% of coaching or mentoring, and 10% of classroom training. It’s a very simple concept, but it’s truly a challenge to achieve.

The 10% in a classroom is the easiest to deliver. Book the right vendor for a training class or learning journey and you’ve got your leaders going through rigorous and specific training that prepares them for their current or future role. It can be even more enjoyable if you have the resources to develop and deliver the training yourself: You’re enjoying the fruits of that labor as you see your people growing under your direct instruction.

Experiential learning can help leave an impact

The 20% goal of mentorship is somewhat more complex but still attainable

It’s still only 20% of their learning time, right? Not easy, but simple in concept at least. In one version of this 20%, you select mentors, pair with young leaders, set up mentor/mentee sessions, and follow up. Done. But you have to get buy-in from other key leaders who need to put their time into developing people in an earlier career stage than themselves.

These mentors might also be in similar mentor/mentee relationships as the mentee or taking classroom training as well as their regular day job. Where does this new role fit in? This is where you really begin to see the impact of culture on the capability of leaders to say “yes” to the request to mentor a younger leader.

But that 70%? What do you do to meet the on-the-job, experiential learning that leaders require to truly flourish? Some organizations find great success with job rotation programs. Others utilize job shadowing or stretch assignments (placing employees in situations above their current skill level to help them grow). Others go the unconventional route and emphasize unique “outside-the-box” type of experiences like our Leadership Experiences.

However, putting all the formal pursuits aside, we could be potentially missing huge opportunities for experiential learning every day. How? Through developing our people’s experiential learning muscle that they can exercise on their own, independent of any formal structure, within the daily tasks, interactions, and projects. But again, how?

How do we empower our people to achieve this type of daily attentiveness to learning? Here are three steps to get there:

  1. Educate: Yes, I know, that sounds very formal. However, leaders in your organization might not be prepared or familiar with how to learn informally. With classroom structures being the “way we learn” for most of our education, it’s difficult to self-structure. So, educate your people in an experiential learning model such as David Kolb’s, a true classic model of experiential learning. The four stages of his cycle (experience, reflection, conceptualize, and test) flex between all mediums of learning
  2. Resource: Provide resources to support different learning styles.
  3. Communicate: In an already communication-saturated environment, you might think adding “constant communication” about one more thing will burst the dam of complaints. But by weaving the message intentionally throughout communications you’re already sending, you can continue to reinforce the message of learning in the moment.

Any way we can get our people to be open to growing and developing their talents is a step in the right direction. Fostering a culture of learning in everyday experiences can help the individuals themselves—and the whole organization.

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