As the virtualization and hybridization of education continue to evolve, the need for more intentional virtual education is greater than ever before.
The pandemic forced people online, and necessity forced the rapid rollout of digital learning deliveries. In what many will refer to as a digital revolution, learners were quick to reveal that not all hybrid and virtual education programs are created equal.
Because Abilitie has provided virtual and hybrid experiential learning programs since 2015, program delivery was well-positioned for the new pandemic world. With cohort-based, competitive simulations at their core, Abilitie programs seamlessly shifted to fully-virtual formats post-pandemic, proving their effectiveness and adaptability to rapidly changing times.
By design, the challenges participants face in Abilitie programs reflect the obstacles rising and senior leaders are experiencing in the evolving business landscape. But the fundamentals of Abilitie programs haven’t changed. For the last seven years, Abilitie simulations have emphasized decision making and internal reflection, while encouraging engagement at all levels of the organization.
The principle that leadership requires practice will continue to be true, whether learning and development remains hybrid, fully-virtual, or transitions back to in-person formats. Because participants in Abilitie programs practice real skills in immersive and engaging challenges with cohort-based reflection for maximum impact, Abilitie will continue to be the future of learning.
There are five overarching principles that make Abilitie’s experiential learning so effective:
Embracing urgency develops more effective decision-making skills
After a successful career at ExxonMobil in a variety of leadership positions, Abilitie expert facilitator Steve Gartrell has over 12,000 hours of experience developing leaders in highly engaging, dynamic training sessions, including Abilitie simulations. He believes the fast-paced nature of Abilitie programs creates greater outcomes among participants.
“By being immersed in something that allows participants to experience challenging scenarios sooner, the learning curve is both shorter and deeper to allow participants to move up in an organization faster,” Steve said.
Purposefully designed, all Abilitie simulations are time-constrained, because the correlation between urgency and more effective decision-making has been proven at both the manager and executive levels.
According to a Global Survey compiled by McKinsey, “Only 20 percent of respondents say their organizations excel at decision making. Further, a majority say much of the time they devote to decision making is used ineffectively.” But when people “make good decisions fast, (they) execute them quickly, and see higher growth rates and/or overall returns from their decisions.”
Steve often finds that participants describe the program as “too real.”
“That’s a good thing,” he said. “The programs model the business culture of today and create better leaders as a result. The simulations allow learners to experience the hard lessons immediately, so they don’t have the consequences in the business landscape later,” he said.
Abilitie programs model the business culture of today and create better leaders as a result. The simulations allow learners to experience the hard lessons immediately, so they don’t have the consequences in the business landscape later,”Steve Gartrell
Placing rising and senior leaders into a “pressure-cooker” environment strengthens their capacity for quantifying and acting on decisions that happen in the real workplace, benefiting the entire organization.
Real-world scenarios practiced in a safe space create real-life leadership development skills
Given the evolution of the workplace, there’s limited time for leaders to exercise trial and error. But when practicing their skills in an Abilitie program, participants are able to act out real-life scenarios in a safe space. Though their virtual decisions have consequences, the consequences are relegated to the simulation. However, the lessons learned within the simulation can be applied in the real world, improving overall managerial and leadership functions.
Steve said, “We take the fear factor out of having an experience in the workplace where the stakes are higher and cost more. In Abilitie programs, participants can do that in a safe, learning sandbox.”
With a background in finance and business, Rebecca Kaloo has over 20 years of experience in designing and delivering tailored learning solutions globally for multi-national and local businesses. She facilitates many Abilitie simulations, and echoes the impact of Abilitie’s true-to-life scenarios.
She said, “People are driven by the choices they make and how they interact with the world around them. During Abilitie programs, they still see the real-life decisions they’ve made. This might make them rethink their choices. And that reflection gives them more perspective to solve a problem from a different angle back in the workplace.”
“People are driven by the choices they make and how they interact with the world around them. During Abilitie programs, they still see the real-life decisions they’ve made. This might make them rethink their choices. And that reflection gives them more perspective to solve a problem from a different angle back in the workplace.”Rebecca Kaloo
The intentional reflection and perspective of seeing how different decisions play out within the simulations also gives leaders a birds’ eye view of their own organization, and can open the door for company-wide improvements.
“Many times, I will have leaders ask themselves, ‘How is my business positioned and what’s important for my business to be successful? How true am I to the priorities of the organization?’ The answers to those questions are really reflected in the choices they make,” Rebecca said.
Strategic roles and team competition improve engagement, drive value for an organization
The last two years have put virtual learning techniques to the test. Abilitie programs utilize cohort-based competition to increase engagement within the simulation and build trust between team members to bring back into the workplace.
Steve said, “Abilitie programs put the fun back into fundamentals. The competitiveness has value by keeping the entire team engaged with feedback and focus. Participants are able to see a business from beginning to end. It helps them take ownership and find comfort where they couldn’t before.”
Participants are often purposely reorganized into teams of people that don’t work together often in the real world. Additionally, within the simulation, individuals take on new roles. For example, a real-life marketing director may take on the role of CEO for learning purposes, creating increased collaboration and communication cross-functionally when learners return to the office.
“Leveraging everyone else’s perspective within the virtual classroom is critical,” Rebecca said. “They may feel uncomfortable playing a different role. But we do that to make sure they have a richness to their experience. While some participants don’t usually get to make the decisions in their real job, they might be driving decisions in the simulation. It creates a culture of respect for their colleagues.”
Cohort-based structure reiterates the value of people management, long after The Great Resignation
Given the Great Resignation, people management and talent retention is a critical part of effective leadership. Abilitie simulations pull employee engagement to the forefront and reiterate the importance of people in decision-making.
“Within the Enterprise Challenge especially, there’s more thinking about how we make sure our people are okay, and how we create an environment where it’s okay to challenge,” Rebecca said. “Seeing the people management portion play out in the process, participants realize it’s not just about the choices they make, but how they make choices and the impact on people.”
Additionally, companies who put their employees through Abilitie leadership programs receive a return on their investment through the enhanced trust team members feel because of the experience.
Rebecca said, “Trust builds through the team because they are going through it together. The cohort-based nature enables them to have more honest and open conversations about accountability and helps to foster healthy challenging of opinions in the workplace to create better outcomes.”
“Trust builds through the team because they are going through it together. The cohort-based nature enables them to have more honest and open conversations about accountability and helps to foster healthy challenging of opinions in the workplace to create better outcomes.”Rebecca Kaloo
Abilitie programs retain the diverse element of traditional in-person training, which Steve believes is extremely important.
“Companies don’t have to fly all around the world to meet with their people. Instead, they’re able to leverage the global nature of our programs and create a virtual, multicultural experience that did not exist before. Regionalizing leadership training died with the pandemic,” he said.
Every Abilitie experience emphasizes collaboration and communication, leveraging each participant’s individual development to cut through boundaries within the organization.
Real-time facilitator adaptation builds unique learning outcomes, tailored to leadership development goals of organization
Abilitie designed the simulations to stand alone. Expert facilitators’ conversations within the simulations direct learning outcomes based on the individual needs of the company or group.
“Routinely, the front end work helps us determine the key elements that need to come out, according to this cohort and this business,” Steve said. “We don’t have to change the simulation, because we change how it’s used with different debriefs, coaching, and conversations tailored to the participants going through the experience. It’s completely unique to the users through our facilitation.”
“We don’t have to change the simulation, because we change how it’s used with different debriefs, coaching, and conversations tailored to the participants going through the experience. It’s completely unique to the users through our facilitation.”Steve Gartrell
Rebecca believes the discussions during team debriefs and facilitator-led prompts are some of the most valuable learning moments.
“The best learning happens when participants are in their teams, discussing decisions and safely challenging each other to create more meaningful outcomes. They will remember those conversations more than any other program they’ve gone through,” she said.
How will leadership development adapt to post-pandemic changes?
Abilitie learning and development programs will continue to focus on the fundamentals of effective leadership and people management. From decision-making to financial literacy and business acumen, experiential learning continues to increase retention to equip leaders with the skills they need to succeed in business.
Are you interested in learning how you can bring Abilitie’s cohort-based leadership development programs to your team? Learn more here.