Planning Your Experiential Training Program

May 1, 1996
Before arranging experiential training for your company, it's important to know what outcomes you're looking for. Tim Dixon, director of the Corporate Adventure Training Institute (CATI), emphasizes that a program's effectiveness can be short-lived without a needs assessment targeted at group growth. An action plan should include steps for integrating the new learning into the workplace for the experiential methodology to be effective.

"The days of the single ropes-course event are gone—people just showing up to climb ropes and then going home. It shouldn't be done just because it's fashionable but because it'll facilitate developmental changes as part of an established structure," says Dixon.

Kirk Hallowell, co-chair of Experience Based Training and Development (EBTD), suggests there's a difference between an organization that provides educational programs and one involved in organizational development. "A facility, such as a YMCA or camp, may have a ropes course, but they aren't necessarily able to provide a corporate program," says Hallowell.

To ensure you're partnering with a suitable training program and facility, Ellen Brownfain, program director of Experiential Designs in San Francisco and co-chair of EBTD, recommends you look at several important aspects:

  • Meet with the provider and not just their glossy catalog.
  • Look for flexibility: Is the provider listening to your needs and desires? Will it customize the program?
  • Look for a proven track record in program effectiveness and safety
  • If the training involves a rope course or other physical activities, does the provider have adequate insurance? Does it include medical screening? Is emergency help readily available if it's needed?
  • Make sure a needs assessment is part of the pretraining work. Find out if the vendor provides follow-up if needed. This may be anything from a phone interview to written follow-ups.
  • Overall, do you feel comfortable with the provider? Can you trust its people and put your company in their hands?

Brownfain envisions the experiential component soon becoming an integral part of most training programs. "As we move toward more cross-functional work teams in the global market, experiential training will become essential. Taking workers out of their daily contacts and putting them in a new environment allows them to see they can work together with different people within the same company."

The best resource for finding an experiential provider is the "Experience Based Training & Development Directory of Programs" published by the Association of Experiential Education. The cost is $15 plus $4 shipping and handling which must be prepaid. For more information contact: AEE, 2885 Aurora Avenue, Suite #28, Boulder, Colo. 80303-2252; phone: 303/440-8844; fax: 303/440-9581; or e-mail at AEEMIKAL@NILE.COM.

Personnel Journal, May 1996, Vol. 75, No. 5, p. 60.