The Three Types of Learning – Part II – Experiential Learning

We have covered the impact of training on employee retention.

Employee training, or lack of good training, points to a growing issue that employers in every industry are grappling with and that’s the skills gap. The skills gap happens when a workforce’s current skill set doesn’t match up with the actual skills required to do the job. For instance, employees don’t have the computer literacy to navigate a digital workspace. Another example is when the knowledge needed to collect data insights and apply them to their business strategy is absent.

The skills gap doesn’t just apply to things like tech and software. It also includes soft skills, like communication, people management, and presentation skills.  According to a McKinsey report, 87% of companies are either experiencing, or expect to experience, a skills gap within the next few years.

With the skills gap being such a widespread issue, employee training is more important than ever. But not all training is created equal and certainly not all training is effective. Training initiatives that involve nothing more than a handout or a PowerPoint presentation won’t provide the kind of robust, long-lasting learning that employees need or that begin to address the skills gap.

Training programs that let the learner get hands-on experience will make an impact, be retained and get the learner excited about learning.  This is called experiential learning.  Let your learner experience the learning and let them share their learning experience with other learners.  We learn as much from our peers as we do from the trainer during these types of training programs.  Why?  Because we learn how not to do things, how to do them, other options for reaching the same goal, etc.  Since we all have our own learning style, sharing our experiences with others can broaden their understanding and help initiate critical thinking and sharing.

What is experiential learning?

Experiential learning teaches new skills by allowing learners to experience them directly. It’s an action-based method of learning that mirrors reality and gives learners the chance to take action, solve problems, and produce real results.

Examples of experiential learning include:

  • Role-play exercises
  • Job shadowing
  • Simulations and virtual reality
  • Hands-on training

How experiential learning improves learning retention

There’s no question that experiential learning is effective. It’s why we tend to learn more in our first year on the job than we do in multiple years of schooling. It’s also why we have co-op programs, internships, and “Take Our Kids to Work” day. It closes the gap between theory and real life, putting concepts into action and embedding them in our lived experience and muscle memory.

What is surprising, however, is how much more effective experiential learning is than strictly knowledge-based learning. Specifically in terms of learning retention. For traditional forms of learning, like listening to a lecture or reading from a textbook, the average retention rate is as low as 5%. With experiential learning, that number jumps to 90%.

Experiential learning in a virtual environment

Seeing how powerful experiential learning is in closing the skills gap, a growing number of employers are opting for immersive training solutions that engage their staff and produce real organizational change.

But how are companies reconciling experiential learning with the rise of remote work and a workforce that is increasingly scattered across the globe? Using virtual training solutions like Jigsaw Interactive the trainer has more learning tools at their fingertips than if they were in a conference room.  Jigsaw offers an immersive and engaging training platform that is easy to use, customizable and provides learning data back to the trainer. Schedule a demo to see how it works.

In the next article, we’ll look at a third style of learning, application learning, and how it can be combined with knowledge and experiential learning to create a truly engaging and impactful approach to employee training.