Employees who stay with a company the longest are the ones who have been invested in the most. So if a company wants to retain such employees—they need to engage them in exciting new projects and processes continually.
Unfortunately, familiarity can sometimes breed complacency. Someone in a company that knows how to get the job done may be reluctant to embrace new processes. This is often true even if new processes are more effective than the old ones.
If you want to engage team members and keep them around for the long haul, you should encourage them to welcome new ideas and ways of doing things.
Put another way, the success of companies is based on a team’s desire to learn more about the industry and their positions within it.
This is where active learning comes into play. Active learning allows teams to engage with one another while embracing new skills and challenging industry conventions. When you encourage teams to learn actively instead of passively, you breathe new life into a workplace.
What is Active Learning?
Active learning was first defined in the 1990s. Before that, it was typical for employers to rely on lectures to train employees. But it became clear that most employees weren’t fully embracing the training that their employers were offering.
As active learning began to take off, workshops started to become more engaging. Speakers didn’t necessarily change their messages, but they did require more responsiveness from the audience. Instead of just listening to someone speak, employees were expected to read about, write about, and discuss the core concepts that they were learning.
The popularity of active learning continued to grow. Active learning inspires greater collaborative learning among members of a team. It also engages creative thinking better than traditional learning does.
When your team has to work to make the most of training, they improve their critical thinking skills. In turn, they can take the lessons they’ve learned back into the workplace, where they can offer more creative solutions to everyday problems.
Different Types of Learning
Active learning is only one type of learning that your team can benefit from in the office setting. Your team can utilize all of these learning styles to their advantage.
The most common methods of learning used in the workplace include:
As we’ve mentioned, active learning requires teams to engage with an ongoing workshop or seminar. This learning style demands peer-to-peer interaction, discussion, and critical assessment of the lessons that an expert shares.
Passive learning means that your team has to educate themselves about new concepts for the most part. While this learning method allows your teams to work at their own pace, it can also leave some members behind if they are slow to learn or less ambitious.
Passive learning does not encourage active engagement with the materials—or with other team members. As a result, trainees won’t bounce ideas off of one another, nor will they generate any social benefits from their experience.
That isn’t to say that passive learning doesn’t have a place in your office. If your team works remotely, passive learning may be one of the best ways to teach your staff about new company procedures.
However, it’s best to intermingle active and passive learning techniques to cultivate a healthy office environment.
Experiential learning takes active learning through a natural progression. Also known as immersive learning, experiential learning throws your team into the deep end of the learning curve.
Employees fully immerse themselves in workplace scenarios in a way that gives them real-world skills without any negative real-world consequences. Teams should come away from this experience understanding how to address complicated industry scenarios with creative solutions.
In short, experiential learning is designed to help your team gain industry knowledge through cultivated failure in a safe environment. However, this method requires a significant setup and can often take full days away from the office.
With that in mind, experiential learning is often best used during team-building excursions or on a limited basis during the year.
Active Learning vs. Passive Learning vs. Experiential Learning
One method of learning is not necessarily better than the other. With that being said, active, passive, and experiential learning methods all have their pros and cons.
Passive learning, for example, suits remote offices well. This method is by far the most traditional style of those presented here, as it requires little setup and allows your staff to learn at their own pace.
However, passive learning can be an isolating experience. Your team can’t always take advantage of social interactions to verify the concepts they’ve learned independently. In addition, the social environment within your office may suffer, even as your team learns new industry tricks and information.
Active learning removes the social barrier from the passive learning process. While active learning workshops and seminars often take longer than passive ones, they encourage a greater sense of community.
Active learning teams must communicate with one another to discuss new ideas and think critically about workplace questions. Again, while these activities can take up a good amount of time, they’ll leave your team with a host of social and educational benefits.
Finally, experiential learning pushes in-office education to its greatest extreme. Fully immersive experiences are fantastic ways to let your team fail with few consequences.
Arranging these experiences, however, can be expensive in both time and money. So while experiential learning seminars may be fantastic additions to a team-building weekend, both active and passive learning strategies are more time-efficient, especially in a busy environment.
Choosing a Learning Style
Is one form of learning better than the other? Not necessarily. Everyone in your office learns differently. As such, they’ll all respond to in-office seminars with varying degrees of success and enthusiasm. It’s up to you to determine which learning method best suits the bulk of your team—and subsequently, your business.
How Does Active Learning Benefit the Workplace?
Active learning requires your speakers and workshop leaders to engage with teams deliberately. This kind of engagement lengthens workshops, requires more materials, and makes more demands of your staff’s time. The benefits of active learning, however, vastly outweigh their costs.
Some of the most relevant benefits that can impact your workplace include the following:
1. Real-World Applications
Active learning isn’t just a skill that your team uses in workshops or seminars. When your team puts their minds to work, the benefits will appear throughout your organization. Team members might be more likely to view interpersonal office issues through the lens of active problem-solving. They may even address client concerns with a mind for communal improvement.
2. Improved Critical Thinking
Critical thinking keeps your team from becoming complacent. Learning how to think critically about problems, however, requires concentrated practice.
If your team doesn’t have the opportunity to flex their mental muscles often, the solutions they pose for your company’s problems aren’t likely to be creative. What’s more, a lagging team may even begin to reverse the progress that your business has made over the years.
A team that can think critically about client needs—while actively improving the office space—will drive a company’s productivity.
As your team members get better at flexing their critical thinking, they’ll start to be able to offer unique, well-researched opinions on both in-office issues and client concerns.
3. Greater Employee Independence
Active learning encourages employee interaction. But it can also improve your employees’ independence. How? By increasing their confidence.
Employees who feel like they can use their expertise to solve problems are less likely to rely on old crutches for help. In turn, they’ll be more willing to take creative risks in the workplace.
This independence will not necessarily separate your team members from the rest of your workplace community. Instead, it can give them the footing they need to stand on their own, solve problems, and raise suggestions with their peers.
4. Out-of-the-Box Thinking
Innovation is the name of the game when it comes to industry developments. If companies want to stand out from the rest, teams need to think outside of the box. This can be challenging, however, when a team prefers to rely on old standards and procedures.
If you’re going to inspire out-of-the-box thinking, you need an engaged workforce. Active learning drives your team to think of new and exciting ways to address typical business problems.
When they have that foundation to build on, your team can apply their improved critical thinking skills to any upcoming problems they may face, both in their personal lives and at the office.