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  • Writer's pictureGinny Telego

Get Out of the Classroom to Improve Employee Engagement

A 2015 study from Gallup reports that 70% of employees are not engaged and a primary reason is ineffective managers (“State of American Managers, Gallup, 2015). Why are managers ineffective? Reasons can vary but most likely it’s because they don’t have strengths and skills that support building and maintaining effective teams.

Too often, employees are promoted to supervisory positions based on criteria that don’t include any indication of their ability to actually manage others or, even more importantly, have an understanding of how to build and manage a team. Everyone is familiar with the example of the great sales person who gets promoted to a sales manager position and fails. It’s not because the person wasn’t really good at sales — it’s because the person was PRIMARILY good at sales but hadn’t developed the skills necessary to manage other sales team members. Promoting employees who are unprepared for what it takes to manage an effective team is unfair to that employee. So why does it happen so often?

For some reason, far too many organizations don’t truly understand the importance of quality training for their employees who are in supervisory positions. Top leaders generally get leadership development training, but front line and mid-level supervisors often are simply given some online training or sent to a one day seminar proclaiming to provide the necessary skills to be a successful manager in a one day class filled with Powerpoint presentations and maybe some role playing.

Fact: People attending lecture style training only retain 15-20% of what is presented. So when an employee attends a one day class seminar (usually 7 hours) that costs $149, the employer is not paying $21.29 per hour of training ($149/7 hours); in actuality the employer is paying $106.43 per hour ($149 x 1.4 (20% of 7 hours) ) as the employee is only going to retain what was presented for 1.4 hours of the class.

Fact: Online training is effective for building specific technical skills, but not for building leadership/management skills or developing teams. Learning to build interpersonal skills — meaning interacting with actual people – needs to be in a format where participants have the opportunity to EXPERIENCE their current skills and PRACTICE what they are learning in real time, with non-judgmental feedback from a third party.

This is where experiential learning is integral for organizations to reduce the gap in management skills for employees at any level. A quality experiential learning program can provide the following advantages in developing effective managers:

  1. Experience: When workshop participants have a unique, concrete experience that provides them with the opportunity to gain self-awareness, they are more likely to retain what is learned. According to David Kolb, the majority of people are concrete experience learners — which means they gather information through actual experiences (Kolb Learning Styles Inventory).

  2. Reflection: In experiential learning, participants debrief their experience in the moment which can provide insight into why the outcome of the experience happened the way it did. Understanding why the outcome happened and reflecting on where else that challenge might be occurring in the work environment creates the opportunity to examine the root causes of team challenges as well as leadership gaps.

  3. Integration: During an experiential learning workshop, participants have the opportunity to take the information gleaned during the experience and reflection and immediately apply it to see if they can get a different outcome. This solidifies the learning that is taken back to the workplace as participants develop their own solutions to challenges that were faced and realize they are capable of changing their behaviors and actions to in order to improve results.

(Experience – Reflect – Integrate is from Pfieffer and Jones)

Equine assisted learning is a key experiential learning modality that can help managers at all levels to be come more effective, which will lead to increased engagement of employees. Increased engagement in turn will improve overall organizational performance that will positively impact the bottom line. So what are you waiting for?

Visit for more information on how equine assisted learning can open the door to creating positive change in your organization.

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