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7 Easy Ways to Slip Active Learning into Your Corporate Strategy

How to bring engagement and entertainment to your L&D


68% of employees say training and development is the company’s most important policy (Clear Company) and 94% say they’d stay longer at a company if it invested in their L&D. (LinkedIn Learning Report, 2020)

But without active learning, they forget 50-70% of what they learn in 24 hours.

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Don't waste time and money on non-sticky learning

I’m yet to meet a boss who likes wasting time or money, so to get your team really learning, make it ‘active learning.’ Active learning is the ‘stickiest’ method for learning at work. Active learners ‘construct their own understanding’ of high quality content by discussing and applying what they learn. 

Simple strategies can turn waste-of-time passive learning methods with only a 5% retention rate into engaging active learning methods with learning retention of 50% or more. So let me explain why active learning is so effective, and 7 easy ways to slip active learning into your own corporate strategy.

What is Active Learning? 

Put simply, active learning immerses the learner in what they learn. Active learning is involving. It’s engaging. It about doing and discussing. Collaboration is great for active learning so slipping active learning opportunities into how you lead remote teams is good for your culture.

In their landmark study “Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom” researchers Bonwell and Eison in 1991 defined active learning as a method where “students are actively or experientially involved in the learning process.”

As well as ‘creating excitement’ this type of learning was found to be better for:

·       stimulating discussion

·       increasing interest and motivation

·       improving critical thinking, problem-solving, and social skills

·       learning retention

One university study found that on average, students in traditional lecture courses were 1.5 times more likely to fail than students in courses with active learning. (Freeman et al, 2014)

For the workplace, motivated learners are innovative, agile, and invaluable. As a result, every leader should look for active learning opportunities for their teams.

Active vs Passive Learning

Most employees have been subject to passive learning. A boss lectures the team on values, a training manual is given out on new software, or a sales team is shown script notes on a whiteboard. The learner plays little to no role in their learning.

Passive learning assumes:

·       I’ve taught you, therefore you have learned.

·       People will absorb the information no matter how it’s presented.

·       The learner will go off and study the content.

·       Those who want to learn will soak up the information.

·       They’ll retain everything they’ve been taught.      

By contrast, active learning is hands-on, involves peers, or uses interactivity, such as games, videos, polls, chat rooms, Q&A, exercises, and worksheets. It activates divergent (different) thinking which generates creative ideas. Active learners draw more connections between what they are learning and solving their own problems and challenges.

Active learning assumes:

·       I’ve got to hold your attention and involve you, for you to learn.

·       The learner is motivated by WIFM (‘What’s in it for me?’)

·       The learner understands the relevance of what they’re learning.

·       The learner wants to be treated as an adult.

·       The learner likes to make connections between what they learn and the problems they have.

·       The learner themselves have something to offer others.

·       Social interactions will bring the learning alive.

·       The learner needs to apply what they’ve learned for it to stick.

With only 32% of workers feeling ‘engaged’ (Gallup, 2022) and 17% ‘actively disengaged’ it’s urgent that employers activate active learning in the workplace. It's vital if you are to retain and attract younger workers. A recent LinkedIn Learning report found 76% of Gen Z learners believed learning was the key to a successful career.

Why is Active Learning so effective?

To understand why active learning is so effective, we’ll look at ‘learning loops.’

In Great at Work, Morten Hanson teaches us about ‘learning loops’ by sharing the story of Brittany, a leader struggling to foster problem-solving skills on her team. At meetings Brittany tried different questions to solicit ideas. After each meeting her business coach would give her feedback, and she would try a new approach at the next meeting.

Key point: Brittany was in a ‘learning loop’ – where she did a task, measured the outcome, got feedback, and then re-did it – over and over. This is active learning; being immersed in the learning, learning from failure, getting feedback, and applying the learning.

Brittany’s active learning led to 104 ideas, all opportunities for improvements, and they implemented 84.

“It takes about 15 minutes of work time every day to improve a skill using the learning loop…it’s that constant but brief effort that counts,” writes Morten Hansen. 

7 Easy Ways to Slip Active Learning into Your Corporate Strategy

It’s how as much as what you and your team learn that will upskill you faster and help you perform better so you thrive in your careers. We’ve come up with 7 ways to help you bring active learning into your organisation. 

1.     Provide your employees with it then get excited about it

It sounds obvious, but many hurdles to active learning go away once a boss provides a regular and quality learning opportunity and has the successful leadership quality of a growth mindset. Just prior to the pandemic PwC global chairman Bob Moritz committed $3 billion to upskill all 260,000 of his people. For your company post-pandemic, reinvest any savings from remote/hybrid work (travel, office costs, entertainment) into quality, interactive, eLearning opportunities for yourself and your team.

Easy way example: You provide each team member with a Leadership Pass, and we do all the curation of their weekly learning journey. Each member is given unlimited access to over 40 live and interactive virtual events over 12 months, plus a leadership library of resources. Click on the tile below for information and pricing plans.  

2.     Chunk it into micro-behaviours

For learning broad skills like ‘becoming more innovative’ Morten Hanson suggests breaking down the desired skill into small, concrete, daily micro-behaviours. Brittany’s required skill of ‘getting the team to generate ideas’ was chunked into active learning micro-behaviours like ‘ask a question that gets people to propose an idea’ and ‘secure follow-up commitment from team members.’

3.     Turn passive learning to active learning

What’s currently passive that could convert into active learning? Sections of your onboarding manual could be made into short videos by peers. Learners retain 95% of a message when they watch it on video, compared to 10% when reading it in a text. (Forbes, 2017)

4.     Time-block deliberate learning into your team’s work week

Time-blocking is a great way to ensure there’s a regular cadence of active learning in your organisation. As well as encouraging little moments of learning within the daily workflow, block out a couple of hours a week for the team to participate in an interactive learning session.

Easy way example: Many of Australia’s most successful companies block out 1.5 hours before lunchtime each Wednesday for their teams to attend Growth Faculty masterclasses. It’s seen as the perk with a positive ROI. 

5.     Trust them as responsible adults – let them choose

Trust and Inspire author Stephen M.R. Covey recently led a Growth Faculty masterclass where he told leaders ‘People have greatness inside them’ so their job as a leader was ‘to unleash the potential, not control them.’ Trust that your people know their skills deficits and deserve empowerment when it comes to their professional development.

Easy way example: Get the group rate by investing in a Leadership Pass for each team member, but then leave it up to them to select which of the 40 events they’ll attend over the following 12 months.

6.      Remove employee stress in your active learning choices

Show emotional intelligence when considering L&D for your employees. The personal circumstances of each team member will differ so find events that suit introverts and extroverts with options to either engage enthusiastically or remain quiet and anonymous. Select providers offering both live and in-demand classes and events, and that reward book/text learners, visual learners, and auditory learners.

Easy way example: A Premium Leadership Pass appeals to all types of learners by including live masterclasses and Global Headliner events but also a curated selection of the world’s top business books, access to a live and interactive interview with each author, a transcript, a summary of the interview, 4-5 post-event “conversation starter” questions, and a recording of the interview.

7.     Mash up active learning with entertainment

Ever heard of the Forgetting Curve? First described by psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus it suggests average learners forget around 70% of what they learned within 24 hours and up to 90% of what they learned in a week. Well, there goes all your L&D budget down the drain! Unless, of course, you make your active learning programme entertaining:

·       Make it movie length. Instead of a whole day’s training a few times a year, try regular movie-length or series episode-length learning sessions every week.    

·       Tap into the power of social learning. Your peers can help you retain up to 50% of the learning, if you discuss key points during and post-event.

·       Make it live-to-air. There’s a crackle of electricity in the air when an event is live and not pre-recorded.

·       Insist on the highest quality presenters in the world. The Fortune 100 companies don’t allow just anyone in to train their people, neither should you.

·       Ensure you can ask questions. Having the trainer, presenter, speaker, or author directly answer your question is exciting and engaging.    

Easy way example: A Growth Faculty member once described us as Netflix for leadership development. We’re the place to access brilliant ideas for inspired leadership, with weekly, live, interactive, virtual masterclasses and four Global Headliner events a year.

How to Invest in Our Leadership Pass 

Australian workers are ready to learn. PwC’s global CEO survey shows 69% of adults are prepared to learn new skills or completely retrain to improve their future employability. It’s nearly 80% amongst 18 to 34-year-olds.

You know the importance of investing in your teams. You see the critical need for ongoing upskilling to ensure your organisation thrives during change. Now you need a partner who understands active learning and can help you effectively build and create a strong team and organisation. 

Growth Faculty launched its Leadership Pass in 2020 to give members 12 months access to 40+ live virtual events, an on-demand leadership library, networking opportunities and more.

Our speakers and authors have included Jim Collins, Julia Gillard, Liz Wiseman, Michael Dell, Tim Ferriss, Stephen M.R. Covey, Prof. Brené Brown, Michael Bungay Stanier, Prof. Amy Edmondson, Patrick Lencioni, Sir Richard Branson, and Whitney Johnson.    

Blending the virtual world, live interaction and social learning, Growth Faculty provides high engagement remote learning – anywhere, any time.

To master the qualities of successful leaders, make learning a lifelong habit.

“You’d be surprised how small improvements can turn into major gains,” James Clear, author of Atomic Habits told us.

Effective, successful leadership skills can be developed with consistent and regular high-level training.

At Growth Faculty, we are passionate about helping you become a better leader. With a Leadership Pass you get access to the world’s most successful leaders and their tools, frameworks, and personal stories to help you grow. Our leadership pass means you have unlimited access to our inspiring global events, masterclasses, book club events and leadership library - so you can learn the qualities of successful leaders.  

Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash


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