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Building Capability

How Do Offsite Experiential Learning Programs Build Organisational Capability?

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Experiential learning is providing learning to teams by doing, hence the “experiential” aspect. It involves experiences and reflections on those experiences, providing team-building as well as valuable learning opportunities for organisational capability. Offsite experiential learning is the same, except it moves the location of training out of the workplace. 

What are the benefits of offsite experiential learning programs to organisational capability? 

Experiential learning is a valuable tool in building your organisational capability and taking that training offsite has added benefits. A change of scene gives a whole new perspective and from a learning standpoint it can make it easier for new concepts to stick. This is especially key given the critical nature of capabilities on business performance. 

Applying learning to workplace practices 

It’s important that your employees understand the theory, but theory doesn’t always translate to organisational capability building. Capability is supported by actions, thought processes and behaviours which can only be reinforced through practice. Experiential learning provides that practice, allowing you to apply learned concepts to a workplace setting. 

Behavioural change 

Theory alone can give you the information you need to perform a task, but that doesn’t mean you can actually do it when the time comes. Experiential learning is a trial-and-error process, allowing you to learn from your mistakes and arming you with the knowledge on what actions to take next time. In this way, you’ll know what to do instinctively, rather than what to do hypothetically. 

Team-building 

Delivering on organisational capability building is a team effort. No one individual can carry an organisation. Rarely do your employees exist in a vacuum. Experiential learning allows your employees the opportunity to work together and bond as a team. Bonding over shared experiences will keep your employees engaged and give a boost to productivity and learning outcomes. 

Knowledge retention 

The immersive nature of experiential learning means employees are more likely to absorb new information. Being able to “do” increases the likelihood of knowledge retention, as employees will have practical experience rather than only being introduced to concepts via theory, which is easy to forget. Make sure you solidify the information you want learned with a debrief at the end. 

What are the challenges of offsite experiential learning when building organisational capability? 

Experiential learning doesn’t come without its challenges, however. While it’s a great method for build team rapport, it also raises some ethical questions that you should at least be aware of. 

Lack of debriefing 

The experience itself, while useful and often more helpful than simple theory reading, may not be enough. Couple this with no debriefing afterwards and you’ve set up your employees to jump to wrong—and hasty—conclusions. You need to ensure you provide adequate debriefing to allow the reflective aspect of experiential learning to nudge your employees towards the lessons they should take away from their training. 

Groupthink 

Not all collaboration is good collaboration. Sometimes, group dynamics can lead to people feeling pressured into agreeing or not voicing their differing opinions. This is groupthink: Poor quality decisions made as a group. You’ll want your employees to feel safe to challenge ideas to combat this, fostering healthy discussion and greater awareness of others. There’s a fine balance here, though. Many people see collaboration as dangerous, partly because challenges can lead to arguments among the group. 

“Othering” 

Again, this is about safety. People who already feel like they’re “other” in your workplace aren’t going to change their feelings once the learning experience is taken offsite. Experiential learning activities generally favour neurotypical and extroverted minds—leaving your employees who don’t fit into those moulds feeling psychologically unsafe

Some threats to employee’s psychological safety are: 

What are the impacts of not doing offsite experiential learning to build organisational capability? 

The beauty of experiential learning is learning by doing, which allows learners to better retain information. Not using experiential learning means your employees will be at a disadvantage with only theory to work from. This means they miss out on the practice that leads to long-term behavioural change—an aspect that allows organisational capability to be built—and are more likely to revert to previous behaviours. 

It also means your employees might have trouble understanding the scope or need behind their training. The purpose of offsite experiential learning is to introduce new concepts in an engaging way that can then be applied to the workforce. Delivering the same concepts in the workplace becomes tedious and unengaging, making organisational capability less likely to stick. 

Importantly, offsite experiential learning places your learners in a new setting. allowing employees to look at issues with fresh eyes, as well as provide opportunities to bond with team members outside of a strictly-working environment. Without it, your employees miss out of the benefits.

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