In talks about effective methods of training employees, one forgotten area that works well for many companies and organizations is bringing newcomers into the fold by giving them experiential learning opportunities.
This means that you are inviting interns, co-ops, part-time jobs, volunteers and researchers into your fold to get hands-on, real life experiences where they learn about how you operate by doing actual tasks.
These experiences can be paid or unpaid. While there is an investment of training time put into people without a guarantee that they will become part of your full-time workforce, there is a high likelihood that several of them will.
They will come bring experience with their education and a familiarity with your corporate culture, putting them miles ahead of other applicants. From the company’s point of view, you have had a time to assess the person and whether or not they are a good fit for your company and to test their ability to work with teams and be innovative and creative in finding solutions.
The participant in experiential learning programs also gains from the exercise, since their resume can include this actual hands-on experience and it often comes with a good reference.
In some cases, it also helps the participant understand whether or not they have selected the right field for their career. It also builds confidence.
To make the most of your experiential learners, human resources professionals should interview them at the beginning of their learning term, gleaning their expectations, and again at the end of the term to see if these expectations were meant. It is one very effective way to take the pulse of your training initiative and see if they are working.
If an experiential learner is offered a position with your firm or organization at the end of the organization, find out their reason for either accepting or rejecting the offer. This is another effective means to gather insight into what outsiders learns about your company and whether it is good or bad.
How can you locate good candidates for experiential learning opportunities?
An internship program is a great beginning. Court partnerships with learning institutions in your area that teach the skills needed in your industry, and offer one or two student a chance to take a summer internship or a mid-year one or two week internship. If you offer at least a stipend to these candidates, you will find the best and brightest applying.
If are looking for volunteers to assist in your organization, meet with your local volunteer center and describe what you are offering and the commitment that would be required. People will work for the chance to learn and gain experience for their resumes, or, especially in the case of organizations dealing with healthcare or the arts, just to fulfill a human urge to do purposeful work.
Determine the experiential learner you are seeking and approach groups from their field through Facebook and LinkedIn groups. Put posters up at universities and community colleges and even high schools, depending on your target group. You can also take a booth at a career fair in your region and network with your local Chamber of Commerce.
Make sure when you are establishing a program for experiential learners that you know what you want to gain from the program as an organization, and what you are prepared to give in return. Make sure that your work environment is suitable for these learners, many of whom are still teenagers or new to the labor force.
An additional benefit of a well-run experiential learning program is that it can create some natural mentor-ships. When the student is hired full-time, they already have a mentor in place with whom they have built a good relationship.
Always remember as well that experiential learning assumes a learning experience. It is not a way to obtain free or nearly-free labor. Make sure that you have a formalized curriculum for your participants and can clearly demonstrate specific skills that will be taught or valuable experiences with real-life situations to which they will be exposed.