The Benefits of Experiential Learning in the Workplace

The Benefits of Experiential Learning in the Workplace

This Post is Part 5 of a 5-Part Series on Professional Development.


Click the play button below to hear Alishia talk about learning through experiences. If the player does not work, click here to listen on Soundcloud.

How did you enter the HR field, and what helped you learn and grow best?

I received a degree in Business Management with an emphasis in HR, but I didn’t truly learn how to manage HR until I was on the job. Experiential learning was and is huge for me.

In HR you have a lot of sticky issues you have to resolve. When conducting investigations, people tell you a lot of uncomfortable things, and you have to navigate those conversations purposefully and professionally. To this day, there’s rarely a time where I don’t reflect on what I could have done differently after ending such a conversation.


alishia-office-1You’ve progressed so impressively in your career, and are now at the Director level. Do you continue to learn a lot from your daily experiences in your job?

Absolutely. I manage a team now, and after meetings and one-on-ones with people who report to me, I still ask myself, “What could I have done differently?” or “Could I have phrased that in a better way?”

So much of HR and the resolution of workplace issues has to do with emotion, thought, and communication styles. Reflecting on people’s body language and responses to my questions will always be vital to my role. I am constantly practicing self-reflection, because you can’t always catch and effectively respond in the moment.


If a situation didn’t go well, how do you resolve it?

I’m an upfront person, so if I make a mistake or blunder in a situation, I will always go back and talk to that person to clarify what I meant.


How would you encourage people to seek out experiential learning opportunities in their role?

Take ownership of what you do, and the full context of your job. You can fill out paperwork all day long, but when you take ownership of your role and take steps to understand what you’re doing from start to finish and what it means, that’s huge. Understanding the whole picture and the impact of your work will allow you to become a subject matter expert and offer effective advice to someone on what would work best for them.


How does experiential learning stack up against other forms of professional development/continuous learning?

It’s the number one type of learning. In college, everything is textbook based, and the examples given are often for one type of company – usually very large companies.

Oregon is primarily made up of small to midsize employers, so their needs are completely different. And beyond that, in our organization I work with many different organizations, all of whom have unique cultures and needs. What I do for one employer is often entirely different from what I need to do for another employer. I need to be able to be the HR expert for each, and to transition between situations with my clients with ease. That ease comes with experience.

Of course, there is a lot of technical knowledge an HR professional also must know, such as employment law. But in order to make effective use of that knowledge and guarantee that your clients are compliant, you must have experience maneuvering through actual situations. You must have that on-the-job experience.


Any final advice?

Watch and learn. You can gain advice, knowledge, style preference, and more from people around you all the time. We don’t always learn by constantly seeking to be the expert in the room. Take a step back and learning from other people.

Xenium Guest Contributor

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