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Building Capability

How Do Offsite Experiential Learning Programs Build Organisational Capability?


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 enables employees to translate what can be somewhat abstract strategic ideas into tasks that execute on strategy. Consider the capability of Driving Delivery. Without context, that doesn’t give you much of an idea of what behaviours, tools and knowledge should be used, especially if it’s a capability that is unique to your organisation. If everyone has different ideas of competent performance, you’ll get conflicting and potentially inefficient ways of work between functions and teams.  

Whether in your office or offsite, experiential learning is the safeguard here. At a high level, a change of scenery gives a fresh perspective while the pressure of real-life impacts can make it easier for new concepts to stick.

Delivering on organisational capability building is a team effort. No one individual can carry an organisation. So, this is also an opportunity for team bonding. Many offsite experiential programs focus on collaboration and communication. Don’t underestimate how that benefits your long-term learning culture as much as short-term capability building. Knowledge retention and behavioural change depend largely on culture; the better the relationships between employees, the more likely critical business knowledge will get to where it needs to go outside of capability building programs.  

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

Experiential learning doesn’t come without its challenges, however.

The dreaded groupthink can rear its head in group learning experiences. Sometimes group dynamics can lead to people feeling pressured into following the status quo. That can result in poor decision-making and challenging dynamics. Introverts or those who feel excluded from existing team bonds aren’t suddenly going to feel like they belong if you take training offsite.  

On the other hand, you may unintentionally force a one-size-fits-all approach to learning on employees. Workshops, as an example, will follow an agenda and assume active participation. Again, extroverted voices can dominate what should otherwise be a level training field. Instructors and facilitators should be employed to mediate group learnings.  

While it’s a great method to build team rapport, one-off experiences may also not be enough to improve performance. As with all good training, lack of reinforcement when employees are back on the job will net zero knowledge transfer. That means no ROI. Don’t neglect microlearning, knowledge systems and further on-the-job learning.

Here at Acorn, we’ve pioneered the first performance learning management system (PLMS) to link L&D with business performance. A PLMS doesn’t just focus on traditional L&D programs like formal courses and elearning, instead branching out to capture all learning opportunities (off-site learning included) and evaluate its business impact.

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

They say practice makes perfect for a reason. Without experiential learning, employees miss out on the key step of training that enables behavioural change.  

That means your employees might have trouble understanding the scope or purpose for their training. That is, offsite experiential learning introduces new concepts in an engaging way that can then be applied to everyday work. If you can’t show that capability building programs solve everyday pain points for employees, learning isn’t likely to stick.  

Importantly, offsite experiential learning gets employees out of their comfort zone. Fresh perspective means fresh eyes through which to look at challenges, but the same old training in the same old format may just see learners going through the motions.  

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