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How experiential learning can benefit your business

June 2017

Back in our school days, we sat in classrooms regurgitating memorised information for a series of exams.

While rote learning might have helped us to achieve the right grades in the short-term, few people are able to retain what they learnt years down the line.

Despite the importance placed on formal education, research shows that 70% of job knowledge is acquired through experience, while the retention rate for traditional learning is just 5%. (CLO Media, 2017)

According to educational theorist David Kolb, the cycle of experiential learning includes an experience, where the learner engages in a hands-on project, followed by reflection, where they talk about their experience- potentially with a trainer or instructor. Employees are then encouraged to develop new ideas or modify concepts based on their discoveries, before finally testing their knowledge. The exploratory nature of experiential learning means that employees are better able to engage with the content being delivered and are far more likely to retain what they learn.

But how can the application of these theories help you to see real results in your business?

Driving innovation

In a world swamped by competition, businesses need to do more than ever to stand out. Innovation is the buzz word of the moment, but with so many new ideas flying around, it’s more difficult to achieve than ever before. And that’s where experiential learning can come in. The immersive and fun nature of these activities allows employees to see situations and objectives in a completely new way. Phil Geldart, author of ‘Experiential Learning: Changing Behavior to Improve Performance’, argues that it can be an effective tool for introducing a culture of innovation in the workplace. People learn best by doing, and often select being personally engaged and stimulated over being lectured or taught. This encourages staff to think outside the box, express their ideas more freely, collaborate and analyse- all of which leads to a more innovative environment (CLO Media, 2017).

Return on investment

Return on investment is top of the agenda for all businesses, and companies need to be sure that any learning and development techniques introduced are going to benefit the brand strategy in the long-term. Experiential learning is personal and effective in its nature, promoting fun and positive emotions, as well as enhancing knowledge and skills. Information retention levels are higher, meaning staff will be better equipped to perform in all areas of the business. Keeping employees happy can have other benefits for a company- particularly in terms of staff retention. A recent survey has shown that 78% of people are more likely to stay at an organisation if they foster innovative, creativity and development, while 83% said they would remain with a company that allowed them to engage and take on new challenges.

Memory-based learning

While reciting by rote can help learners to deliver in the short-term, it’s not conducive to retention in the long-term. Experiential learning creates memories, which helps to reinforce messages and objectives. By keeping activities fun and engaging, employees remain active throughout the learning process and relive these experiences in future.

Embracing learning styles

Anyone who has ever taught will know that learners absorb information in different ways and at different rates. Experiential techniques allow you to tailor the experience for different groups and needs, using a combination of visual aids, word games and app-based activities. While extroverts may feel comfortable producing a music video to deliver a presentation, others may prefer a competition or debrief. Unlike a traditional lecture or seminar, experiential learning allows you to adapt the process to each learner’s needs and engage them on a personal level.


From app-based games to challenges and competitions, teams work better when they feel fully engaged with their training. For example, retail companies have found success by engaging their staff in app-based learning techniques that allow employees to see things from a different perspective. A recent experiential event invited staff to visit five stores where they completed practical challenges, such as posing as customers and asking questions about products, compiling videos based on their findings and reporting back on their experiences. Staff who learn using these immersive techniques are not only more likely to retain the information, they’re also more likely to stay engaged with the brand- leading to greater employee retention.

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