Experiential Learning is the best way to learn at work
One of the most valued attributes an employee can bring to the workplace is their experience. In a fast changing world where employees are more likely to move from job to job for a number of reasons; sometimes great knowledge and skill are present, but not necessarily experience. The problem is of course experience takes time and often we are short of that commodity!
If you have a great staff but they simply lack experience, or you want to recruit new people and you have a misgiving about an otherwise great CV because experience hasn’t been gained. There are 3 strategies you can employ to accelerate experience and give your employees a valuable edge. These are all based on experiential learning techniques:
Workplace action learning
Workplace action learning can be a vastly successful means of developing people and teams. An experiential learning technique used in the UK since the 1940′s. It has been shown to help improve performance, and be a means of deepening experience in short periods of time. Action learning is conducted in a set or a team of people. Members can come from similar type jobs or roles within an organisation, or be members of a specific team with a variety of roles.
Drawing on members experiences and learning within the workplace: Action learning is an excellent and powerful way to accelerate experiential learning. The motto of learning from others mistakes and successes is paramount here. It has a clear system of enquiry and solution. Members will present or bring their challenges, problems or questions to the set. The rest of the set will challenge and bring observation to the issues raised, broadening and developing ideas. The set will go away and take action on the issue. The outcome of the action taken will be assessed and discussed. Best practice may be agreed. Further action may be taken to integrate the solution into the organisational infrastructure, depending on the issue.
Involving employees in projects is a great way to accelerate experiential learning, in areas of work outside of their day to day job role can help to increase experience in a short space of time. Depending on their usual job specification, the type of project they might be involved in can be specifically chosen to enhance knowledge, skills and interpersonal skills.
Managing or being involved in a project from project initiation to project closure will involve them in all of the steps required to be able to execute any task. After all great project management is about planning, scoping, communication, negotiation and customer/stakeholder involvement to name but a few aspects.
Project membership will bring the employee into contact with people outside of their usual remit, and expose them to problems, issues and challenges the day job simply might not give them access to in a short space of time.
A job swap or shadowing exercise which is undertaken to specifically accelerate experiential learning would involve employees swapping or shadowing more experienced job holders. A swap/shadow could be arranged at peer or higher level. It might be that there are suitable people in the employee’s organisation or it might be that a swap/shadow is organised in a different company.
Being exposed to the workload and work practices of more experienced colleagues/colleagues with greater responsibilities, can help to develop a perception of the challenges these people would face, and how they would respond. A job shadow would allow the employee to observe and a swap would give them the opportunity to experience the different role for themselves. Either way, swapping or shadowing will give a greater number of insights which can help accelerate experience.
Some of the benefits of integrating these 3 strategies are:
Helps employees to:
- Become more self-confident.
- Work better as a team
- Take responsibility for problem-solving
- Be innovative
- Develop networking and communication skills
- Develop theoretical thinking into practical examples
- Work smarter
- Structured support
- Disciplined thinking skills
- A platform for meaningful and relevant work-based learning
- Organisational coherence
- A consistent approach to problem-solving
- greater experience in a short time.
Do you have any strategies to help employees to accelerate their learning, or have you been involved in an activity which has accelerated your learning?