Engaging Millennials with Experiential Learning


Despite the differences seen in Millennials, many organizations still attempt to engage this generation with traditional training methods, such as videos, case studies, and lectures. While these methods are easy to implement and often affordable, the concept of learning decay illustrates that these methods will only provide limited results on their own, because most of the information is forgotten shortly after training concludes. Not only is it entirely possible to curb learning decay, but it’s possible to achieve all the things mentioned that are most important to Millennials.


Enter experiential learning

Experiential learning is a crucial aspect of any training and development initiative that targets Millennials. Done correctly it can directly impact employee retention. If organizations provide employees with what they are looking for, they’ll be more inclined to stay. Ultimately, to retain talent, as well as minimize the burden and cost of turnover, you can optimize training and development initiatives with experiential learning.

Not only will your training programs be aligned with what employees are asking for, but they will prove to be a worthwhile investment for the organization today and in the future. Experiential learning is universally engaging, regardless of participants’ learning style, and connects the learnings to the real world in actionable, attainable ways. All of which has been proven to drive results.

In a report on a study from Christy Price of Dalton State College in Georgia, price lists the five aspects that Millennials feel create the ideal learning environment:

"Students know one another" and "work together in groups." This is consistent with Millennials' team orientation, interdependence, and desire for connection. Learning is "relaxed," "enjoyable," and that awful "F" word we dread hearing: "fun."

A multimedia format is utilized, including podcasts, online activities, video, and PowerPoint. "Real examples" that are "relevant" to their culture are used. The number-one characteristic that Millennial respondents desired in an ideal learning environment was that it be "interactive" and "participatory."

So, let’s take a closer look at the distinct components of experiential learning that make all of this possible.


Activities Require Hands-On Participation

During an activity, participants take part in a hands-on situation where they have to work together to solve a problem and succeed. The participatory nature of this training method builds conviction by engaging participants’ hearts, minds, and hands. Not only is experiential learning fun and engaging, but its ability to build conviction maximizes ROI. Compared to traditional training methods, in which participants may tune out or ignore information altogether—the game aspect of experiential learning requires participants to use their critical thinking and problem-solving skills throughout the entire experience, to see the desired results.


Activities Are Themed Metaphors

The key differentiator of experiential training is that it creates scenarios that mimic workplace situations. For example, Four Tribes (Justwork's business simulation game) may have you planning on your daily movement in order to survive in the games; or executing your business plan for cooperating a Food Truck from another simulation game Food Truck Challenge. Admittedly, this is not everyone’s everyday reality. But the skills necessary to succeed on this journey are. Skills required include planning, risk management, innovative thinking and collaboration. By separating training from the real world, it allows participants to practise new skills in a comfortable environment without the fear of failure.

A Results-Oriented Debrief Connects and Concludes the Experience

The connection between the experience and the workplace is realized during the debriefing. Experiential learning activities are designed to produce results based on behaviours and decisions that participants make. By applying applicable skills, training bridges the gap between theory and practice. After activities are complete, a facilitator links the experience to situations on the job, which enables participants to understand how to apply these new skills on the job.


Experiential Learning Drives Real and tangible Results

Digital measurement and reinforcement tools keep training concepts top of mind and promote ongoing engagement after the training concludes. Even the best training experiences are at risk for learning decay if steps are not in place to reinforce and measure the transfer of theory to practice. The success of training programs not only depends on learning new information but also if that new knowledge is actually applied at work. Digital tools, in combination with a retention strategy, help combat learning decay so that individuals retain more information for longer—which shows real results.

Measuring results, and seeing results, inspires participants to stay committed to the changes. When they’re aware of which outcomes are being monitored, employees are more inclined to use what they know and have at their disposal, to produce the expected results. By using digital tracking tools, the progress can help tell teams which areas need additional focus and which behaviours have become completely ingrained. Ultimately, digital training measurement helps encourage permanent behaviour change and drive individual success.


Why Your Organization Will Benefit from This Approach

Overall, Millennials may be a misrepresented cohort of your workforce. Although engaging this generation may require a restructuring of your training and development strategy, taking an experiential approach will be far more effective for all generations.

Proactive, impactful training and development programs that use experiential learning make a difference. Not only do they give your organization a competitive advantage, but they help increase loyalty and build a robust leadership pipeline. Creating a culture of success and enjoyment, one that emphasizes professional development through coaching is key in retaining and developing top talent. By establishing a foundation for employees to contribute to their team, organizations are setting Millennials up for success.


Modern training and development programs must incorporate effective coaching and immersive, experiential learning. Practising in a safe environment the skills that will lend themselves to future leadership roles enables participants to try new behaviours without the risk of failure. Expand the impact experiential learning can have with digital tools and 1 to 1 coaching that supports Millennial preferences for using technology and developing personal connections.


To know more about our experiential learning, please check out here.

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