Although traditional training methods will always have their place in employee learning, some things can’t be taught using simple knowledge transfer techniques. Soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, accountability and problem-solving, do require knowledge, but they are really more about action. The best way to learn which behaviors are most effective in which situations is to try them out and experience the outcomes in a safe environment. If you are considering implementing soft skills training at your organization, here are five reasons to take a hands-on approach.

1. Employees Learn Best by Doing

It’s rare that people can learn to ride a bike or speak a new language by watching someone else do it or having it explained to them. So, why do we do try this way for soft skills training? Using a hands-on approach to training soft skills (or “people skills”), you’re adopting the form of learning that adults typically benefit from the most. It allows people to learn by doing, practicing and engaging with the learning content, and they can receive immediate feedback.

For example, perhaps your employees need communication training to hone their written or verbal skills. It is difficult to learn how to be a better communicator without actually practicing it. A hands-on approach allows your employees to change a behavior or master a skill by practicing what they have learned in training in a low-risk environment, where their confidence can grow and they can receive in-the-moment coaching.

2. Employees Find It More Fun and Engaging

Although most people are motivated by the idea of developing their skills, the process itself is sometimes boring. Experiential learning, a hands-on methodology that is becoming increasingly popular, overcomes boredom by creating a detailed and vivid experience that is fun and engaging. Research shows that fun and enjoyment increase motivation to learn while boosting concentration and learning retention. A positive immersive learning experience allows people to develop their skills together and benefit from the immediate reward of seeing how those skills lead to success. The hands-on approach is especially effective for team building, because it can bring life to the training and encourage learners to engage with teammates to improve their skills and performance – which ultimately translates to better collaboration on the job.

3. A Hands-on Approach Appeals to Almost Every Learning Preference

Learning is not a uniform process; people like to learn in different ways. For example, some learners might be most successful after seeing a demonstration of the concept, while others might want to talk about the concept and its theoretical basis. A hands-on approach works for a variety of learning preferences, because it allows all participants to connect with the content in the ways that are most meaningful to them. For example, innovation or creativity training is more fruitful when learners can engage with the material in the way that works best for them. Whether it’s discussing the content, drawing it or critically thinking it through, the hands-on approach has something for everyone.

4. Employees Leave Feeling Confident and Empowered by What They Learned

Although traditional training methods provide information, it’s rare that learners can take that information back to the workplace and immediately translate it into action. In contrast, a hands-on approach to soft skills training allows people to return to work with new behaviors that immediately impact performance, because they practiced them in training. Hands-on training incorporates complex work challenges but removes the risk of experimenting with new behaviors on the job by using a theme to mask the connection between the task at hand and the actual workplace. This type of soft skills training is more likely to build the conviction needed to actually change. Learners can leave training equipped with the tools, techniques and action plans that enable them to apply their skills immediately and successfully back on the job.

5. Learning Continues Back on the Job

Not only is experiential learning fun, but the shared nature of the activities amplifies their effectiveness and leads to conversation and continued learning long after the training is over. Employees are excited to share their experience and knowledge, which may inspire and engage other employees with. This kind of momentum can make a noticeable and measurable difference in the effectiveness of your soft skills training – exactly what every training and development professional wants to see.

A hands-on approach is a powerful way to approach soft skills training, because it gives people the opportunity to not only learn but to apply and practice new skills in a safe environment. Instead of passively listening to a presentation that they will forget quickly, employees take an active role in their learning. Hands-on soft skills training improves learning retention and creates lasting behavior change, leading to an immediate impact on performance and ongoing improvement.

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