Building Experience Into Learning

In our study of training and development, there are multiple theories about adult learning.

We know that adults learn differently from children. This does not mean, however, that adult learning cannot be fun. Fun comes in many different formats.

What is (usually) not fun is a training session that is boring, disengaging, and ends up being a waste of valuable time.

This is where experiential learning can come into play. In order to counter the negative experiences of one way, lecture-based training sessions, experiential learning provides for participation and engagement on the part of the learners. Adult learning happens best when participants in training sessions are able to put into action real-life scenarios that are linked directly to their work life experiences.

The advantages and disadvantages of experiential training sessions are explored in a recent post found on

Click here to read the post.

As noted, good training programs allow the participants to ‘feel, taste, and experience’ that which they are there to learn. Experiential learning can go beyond the simple exercise of a role play when it builds on the actual internal individual reactions and responses to a given situation. That which adult learners experience, adult learners are able to remember, recall, and put into practice when the situation happens ‘for real’ in the future.

Experiential learning as discussed in our textbook and in the aforementioned post through David Kolb’s theories about learning styles, is not a singular approach. Kolb’s theories rely on a variety of individual approaches to learning and reinforce the need for including different experiential techniques or components into adult training modules.

Click here to access the article on Kolb’s learning styles.

Given that individuals learn differently, we need to ensure that different approaches are used when training programs are designed. Based on Kolb’s theories, not everyone will learn from a single group work activity during a training session, nor will everyone learn from a single training simulation, like a role play. Rather than designing a training program based on only one technique, it seems appropriate to use a variety of techniques in order to build the capacity for experiential learning for everyone.

It also builds the capacity for adult learners to have some fun.

Discussion Questions:

  1. As the HR leader for corporate training and development, how will you build Kolb’s experiential learning cycle into a customer service training module for tellers in a bank?
  2. Thinking about your own learning experiences; identify a course or a program that used experiential learning as the primary mode of training for the participants. How did it impact your own learning?
  3. How does experiential learning increase the development of ‘soft skills’ as noted in the article?


Informal Learning Matters


When developing workplace training and development programs, we have learned that good training design in based on the principles of adult learning. Adult learning, otherwise known as andragogy, differs from child-centered learning, known as pedagogy. Child-centered learning is perceived as traditional education which is structured and relies on external sources for motivation. Andragogy, relies on the principle of self-motivation and the application of past experience in the learning process for adults.

As we move though childhood into adulthood one of the major markers is the transition from school to work. For many Canadians, formal education begins with pre-school, at age 3 or 4 and extends well into young adulthood and post-secondary education. Following a school based education system provides most of us with at least twenty years of structured, formal learning. As we leave childhood, pedagogy and formal education may move behind us, but the need for learning does not stop. Learning happens differently once we move into adulthood. What was once filled by structured education shifts to the application of increased informal learning methodologies for adult learners.

According to recent research, the need for informal learning for working adults is on the rise. Brian Kessel explores the relationship between formal and informal learning in the workplace based on the statistics provided by the Conference Board of Canada.

Click here to read the article.

As noted in the article, as adults we may not have abandoned the concepts of formal learning completely.  Perhaps our need for formal learning is based on the fact that, for many of us, education was provided in a structured way for so many years and the imprint of those long-term processes are ingrained into our adult brains.

The good news is that that those brains continue to adapt and look for ways to keep learning alive both formally and informally as we progress throughout our adulthoods.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How much time per week do you spend on informal learning in the workplace?
  2. As an adult, which learning environment is more comfortable for you – formal or informal? Explain your rationale
  3. Why should workplaces differentiate or categorize learning as formal or informal?


Smart tips for HR professionals

Developing employees is a critical skill set for all HR professionals. But how do you know which system is the best to develop your employees?

There are many different performance management systems. Like any other complex organizational issue, there is never one right answer to an HR problem. Most of the time the right solution is dependent on many organizational factors. The best an HR professional can do is to learn and analyze many systems, and then make a judgement call on what is the best intervention for their organization at that moment in time.

You may want to start looking at what is happening in performance management trends. It seems that many HR professionals and organizations are rethinking their annual performance review systems.

Jason Averbrook in his new book called, the Ultimate Guide to a Digital Workforce Experience – Leap for a Purpose, shares this thought with us: “Employees don’t want feedback, they want attention.”

The once-a-year performance review does not give the employee enough attention. Averbrook goes on to say that 60 percent of companies are beginning to reshape their performance review systems.

Click here to read more about Jason Averbrook’s ideas. 

For decades, organizations have been using the traditional annual reviews that rate and rank employees. These annual rating and ranking systems seem to be of less value as time moves on and as organizational needs and employees’ values change.  Traditional performance review systems focus on the employee’s past behavior, and not their current behaviour. Today’s organizational deliverables are changing rapidly; looking back over the last year of an employee’s behaviour adds minimal productive value to the HR equation and therefore adds little to the employees’ or organization’s performance.

If the annual employee performance review systems are no longer viable, HR departments must begin to implement new modern day performance measurement systems that meet the needs of the employees and the needs of the rapidly changing business world.  Here is a list of the some of the recent trends in performance management:

  • Frequent real-time feedback instead of one-shot annual reviews
  • Decoupling performance reviews from administrative practices such as annual merit pay or bonuses
  • Dropping the ranking systems: think of what an employee can do, not what they have done

Employees want more frequent and focused attention to help them develop and perform. HR needs to investigate these new trends in performance management, and then begin to implement new methods to keep improving performance results.

Discussion Questions

Research and identify three large organizations that are moving away from the annual performance review system, then discuss what they are using to replace it.

Employee microchip causing controversy

There’s new microchip technology, and many employees will not be feeling chipper about it.

Some UK companies in the financial securities business are in talks with Biohax, a Swedish technology company, about offering microchip implants for employees.

The technology enables business to monitor employees for security purposes. Biohax defends its own technology, saying it is a way to secure documents and limit access to certain areas of the workplace. You can even buy food from a vending machine, and it tracks the cost of each purchase.

Click here to read an article about this electronic branding of humans.

Companies and employees that use this microchip technology – which is inserted between the thumb and forefinger – say it has the benefit of convenience, it is like a key fob you never lose, and you can buy smoothies with a swipe of your hand.

Click here to read about an America company that has embraced the microchipping of employees.

In today’s world of data breaches and the concerns of individual privacy, is micro-chipping employees really a trend HR departments want to implement? One notable breach last year, was where US Special Operation soldiers overseas could be tracked by the general public using their Fitbits.

Let’s face it: With all the problems we have with social media data breaches and some businesses acting unethical, do employees really want to give over that much power and control to their company just for convenience? Only time will tell.

Discussion Questions:

Research and investigate if in Canada:

  1. Is there any employment legislation that would prevent employers from forcing their employees to be microchipped?
  2. Is there any privacy legislation that would prevent employers from forcing their employees to be microchipped?

Outline your opinion if you think microchipping employees will become an accepted HR practice or not. Defend your position with a formal argument and provide supportive evidence.

Performance Management: Motivation by the Experts

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Through our training and development studies, we have learned that motivation is a critical component for on-going employee learning. If there is nothing that provides motivation for employees to learn, then professional development, productivity, and growth will not happen. Motivation can be both positive (reward driven) or negative (error driven), but in either case it provides the prompt for an employee to alter their job-related performance.

HRM Online provides a Human Resources perspective on effective motivation in the context of performance management processes.

Click here to watch a video of Human Resources panelists discussing effective motivation-based performance management strategies.

As noted by the experts in the video, part of culture of continuous learning is a culture of continuous conversation. Employees want to know how they are progressing in their jobs and they look for more than just monetary rewards in order to feel valued in the workplace. As such, it is critical to teach leaders how to have discussions regarding on-going employee development.

The simple motivation of a one-time monetary reward wears off quickly and is often forgotten by the next payday. To counter this, each of the professionals in the video provides a perspective on the value of an ‘always on’ communication focus, and a relationship-based approach for effective employee motivation and performance management. Furthermore, the panelists note that while there is a trend to have only goal focused (‘feedforward’) interactions with employees, people still want to know from their direct manager what was successful in the past and what was not. In order to shape the future in a different way, employees learn from what they have or have not done successfully, and they want to hear this from the person they report to.

Talking to employees may be easy; having effective conversations with them may be much more challenging. However, the result is value that stems from both the motivation and the reward of positive relationships.


Discussion Questions:

  1. Which one motivates you the most in a working environment — effective working relationships, or annual monetary rewards? Explain your rationale.
  2. Why are structured performance ratings important in a regulated industry or profession?
  3. As an HR practitioner, identify four motivational elements from the video clip that you would include in an effective performance management program.