A key challenge for skills development is the so-called “training transfer” problem: how can you facilitate workshop participants to apply the skills once they are back in the workplace? This has been widely studied, and issues have been identified such as a supportive environment and management, opportunities to practice, and “cues” that trigger recognition that the new skill is needed. Some of these relate to workplace practices and culture and can be outside of the influence of the trainer delivering a one-off workshop. However, what can be provided is effective skills practice within the workshop, to boost confidence, demonstrate ability, and perhaps most importantly to experiment.
Take management skills for instance, how can you experiment with new techniques and strategies in the workplace without far reaching consequences to the organisation and people should you get it wrong. It’s all about risk of course, but studies on innovative practice have shown that what we should do is not necessarily reduce or eliminate risk, but to effectively manage it. For managers then what we need is to provide them with a safe environment within which to test out new skills, to make mistakes and learn from them, to observe others use different approaches, and to stretch themselves in areas they find challenging.
An increasingly popular method that enables this is drama based learning.
This uses actors in a facilitated session to play the role of a member of staff, client, customer, or other stakeholder. It may start with a scripted scenario or a character designed around characteristics identified as challenging by the group. Managers then interact with the character to understand the situation and resolve the problem, improve performance, enhance customer service, or develop better relationships. A wide variety of applications exist from line management, appraisals and performance conversations, through to customer service, managing conflict or specific skills such as assertiveness.
I’ve just updated the pages about drama based learning, so if you want to find out more, read on…