Breakout sessions are normally thought about when it comes to conferences or seminars. But really, they are great tools for employee learning. They breakup large groups of employees and serve the purpose to discuss and express ideas and opinions concerning a topic on a smaller scale. Plus, they allow participants to talk and express different points of views in a more intimate space with a defined objective in place.
So what benefits can breakout sessions have in terms of employee training? Here are a few worth considering.
Benefits of breakout sessions
1. Increased participation
When you have a large group of employees whether you are doing in-person training or elearning, it’s hard to get everyone to participate. And when employees do wish to speak, there may be others who monopolize the conversation. Breakout sessions provide a platform for everyone to talk since it’s a smaller scale discussion. Plus, by participating, it helps understand the new ideas being taught and raises employee engagement in the process.
2. Sharing different viewpoints
You can teach 100 employees the same information, but what one person gets from an information session may be completely different from what someone else gets. So breakout sessions can act as vehicles to share what was learned. And during this sharing process, each employee can give their view of what their takeaways were from the training. This can help with collaboration and a deeper understanding of what was to be learned.
3. Getting clarification
Many times after a training session, there are questions left unanswered or further clarification needed. So breakout sessions are a great way to clear up any confusion. Plus, it’s easier to get peer to peer training advice than to reach out to a facilitator post learning. And many times team members since they just sat in on the same training session can better explain key points to other employees.
4. Generating ideas
Breakout sessions are a great way to take what’s learned and apply it right away. For example, you could give a team a scenario and ask them to solve it using what was just learned. This not only helps employees recall what they took away from the training, but also an opportunity to see the value in the new information. Plus, it acts as a forum to generate new ideas and new ways to solve common on-the-job issues.
5. Increases memory recall
The point of learning is to gain new information, but it’s human nature to soon forget what was taught. So in order to facilitate the learning process, breakout sessions are a great way to increase memory recall. When a small group discusses a topic they received training for, they can discuss what they learned, how to apply what they learned and how it will benefit them once back on the job.
6. Less formal atmosphere
Whether training via a Zoom call or in a classroom, the atmosphere can feel a bit more formal. Usually there is a set schedule and most of the time employees are listening to new ideas and information. Adding in breakout sessions is a more informal way to learn so employees feel a bit freer to voice opinions, raise concerns or formulate new ideas. This can add to the overall learning experience.
How to use breakout sessions
Next let’s discuss how to start incorporating breakout sessions into your training program. Instead of reinventing your training program, look for ways to supplement your learning with breakout sessions. In other words, identify training that would benefit from a breakout format. Then use this process to start adding in these sessions where it will add the most value.
1. Plan for breakout sessions
The first step is to run your training as usual whether this be in a classroom or online. Then when the training module is over, give direction that there will be a breakout session. Ask each group to assign a team leader who will take notes, make sure the process is followed correctly and keeps moving along. You will also want to give a time limit for the breakout session and specific instructions as to what the goal of the session is.
2. Assign topics and questions
Next, you’ll want to assign key topics and questions you wish each breakout session to consider. You can choose to give every group the same set of topics or vary these by department or team. This will help teams take what was learned during the training and apply critical thinking and active problem solving during these breakout sessions.
3. Debrief what was learned
Once everyone provides feedback during these breakout sessions, you’ll want the team leads to take their notes and import these into your learning management system or training program. That way, you can compare and contrast each group's breakout sessions.
4. Share what was learned
Then you’ll want to share what was learned. Have a learning team member compile the notes and create a document of best practices. This will act as a takeaway post training. It’s a great way to see how actual team members took new information that was learned and put it to use immediately given a real-life scenario. This will then provide examples to others in the company how to use this training for their own job roles.
5. Get feedback
After you have used breakout sessions for some time, ask employees how it’s working. You may find employees like certain formats or another. Or employees like elearning breakout sessions versus in-person options. It’s also a time to ask for new breakout session ideas. There may be topics employees request that may make great options you may have not considered. Plus, this helps customize learning and make it more personal for asking for input.