Editor’s Note: This #WBEWisdom post is part of a series from members of the Host Committee for the 2019 WBENC National Conference & Business Fair, coming up June 25 - 27 in Baltimore, Maryland. Read more about the Host Committee.
By Jennifer D. Collins, CMP, President & CEO of JDC Events
With retiring boomers leaving the workplace, and corporate offices filling up with millennials, we’re witnessing a shift in the workforce unlike anything seen for generations. The challenge with every generation is keeping them engaged, and the days of an individual putting in a day’s work out of a sense of pride and company loyalty are all but gone. Today, it’s all about what you can do for your employees that goes beyond the paycheck.
A key way to engage the workforce is by helping your team learn how to solve problems and work more effectively, and they are more likely to want to use those skills for the good of your company.
Today’s workers want more than just to sit in a room and listen to a speaker talk through a slideshow. To truly embed new information requires more involvement and encouraging your team to participant in the learning.
The way to do this is through experiential learning. Immersing your workers in an experience is a more effective way to expand their creativity, develop their skills, and build stronger teams.
As the leader of an event-design company that developed a unique experiential training program, I know the power of doing when it comes to learning new skills and building stronger teams. When you involve your team in a real-world activity with experts in your industry or in parallel industries, you can give them an edge in inspiration to be more thoughtful in how they deliver results for your company.
Experiential training is about gaining real-world experience that your team members can transfer to their roles. With an immersion experience, your team swaps the office for a chance to deal with real-world trends, see best practices in action, and gain new insights. With immersion training, your team members are participants in their learning; they’re not just being told “how-to.” Designing the right type of program is about finding a way for your employees to think beyond their everyday tasks and to spark their creative imaginations.
Here are some ideas for making that happen.
Define your goals
Begin with a discovery session to define your goals for the training. What problem are you trying to solve? Deciding what you need and want to achieve from the experience can help you define your purpose, and then use that as the framework for all decisions when planning the event. If better customer service to improve sales is the goal, then define in advance how you hope to move the dial on your bottom line by the number of new or repeat customers you gain within a certain time frame after the event.
What organizations in your area already excel at the training you want to deliver? Maybe you are targeting better change management practices. If that’s the case, locate a few organizations or other companies that excel at change management and approach them about having your company learn from their best with a site visit. That will require advance research on your part. Then, equipped with what you find, reach out to those organizations until you find one to partner with on your idea. Keep in mind, the organization could be a nonprofit, university, museum, retail store or other leader in their field. The ‘world is your oyster’ as there’s so much learning in unique and creative places.
Make the experience memorable
Ideally, the experience should be one that is both fun and fruitful. When the team participates in an activity that speaks to them both professionally and personally, they are more likely to apply the principles learned. It’s far more enlightening to see successful tactics already being employed, for example, by having your team be part of another company’s inspiration session.
Have an ideation session
After the activity, bring your team together to talk about the experience. What did it mean to them? What ideas or inspiration did they gain? How can they apply what they learned to their role—or even another role or process—in your company?
A few months after the activity, assess the team and your company operations to see whether the learning is being applied. Be sure to share with the team any new best practices being used to further strengthen your operations.
Since your business relies on the skills and dedication of your team, keeping them motivated is crucial to your success. Experiential events are an investment in team-building, just like any other professional development you make available to your group. The more thought put into creating an effective program, the better the chance the team will gain positive and useful insights from the experience—and the better your chance of reaping the rewards.
Jennifer Collins is a member of the Host Committee for the 2019 WBENC National Conference & Business Fair, one of WBENC’s signature events featuring innovative educational programming, inspiring keynotes, 1:1 MatchMaker sessions, networking opportunities, and an unrivaled Business Fair.
Jennifer Collins, CMP, is President & CEO of JDC Events, a Washington, D.C.-based event design company that empowers brands to deliver impactful messages through creative and experiential events.
A 20-year veteran of designing events that are a catalyst for change, Jennifer is the recipient of numerous awards and national recognition, including being ranked by the Washington Business Journal as one of the top meeting and event planning companies in the region for eleven consecutive years. Under Jennifer’s leadership, JDC Events has developed a host of impactful customer and stakeholder-driven events for clients such as Mars Inc., BP, ITT, Siemens, Sikorsky and leading associations and nonprofits. She has been featured as an industry expert in such media as CBS, Fox, Successful Meetings, CEO World and Connect Meetings. Jennifer is also an international best-selling author of the newly-released Events Spark Change: A Guide to Designing Powerful and Engaging Events.
At JDC Events, we design experiential events that increase brand visibility, build world class teams and strengthen industry leadership.