Employee training programs are crucial for company success. According to the American Society for Training and Development (cited in the Huffington Post), companies with comprehensive training programs experience a 218% higher income per employee than those without them.

But it’s not just about having a comprehensive training program, it’s about having one that actually engages employees. One that instills enjoyment and excitement into the learning process. One where employees actually want to learn.

Many companies are falling short because they’re using traditional, one-size fits all, out of date, and quite frankly boring employee training methods that don’t inspire. From old powerpoint presentations to thick learning manuals to watching videos – these training methods aren’t effective. And they have a direct impact on productivity, growth, and retention efforts.

Companies need new approaches. Approaches unique to their company. Approaches that take preferred learning methods into account. And perhaps – even more importantly – training methods that take the millennial population into account, millennials who now comprise the largest part of the workforce. For example, millennials want to know why the training is relevant. They don’t want an answer like, “This is just part of our training process”.

And this is why many companies are adopting new employee training methods. Sure some are unusual, but they work! These methods ensure both professional and personal development of employees.

If you feel you employee training methods are out of date, here are 6 unusual or unique training methods to provide inspiration. While you don’t have to go as far as some of these companies, these methods prove the point: doing things differently and moving away from the “This is how we’ve always done it”, mindset, can yield positive results.

1. Dialogue in the Dark and Silence

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Allianz established the Dialogue Training Centre to highlight the importance of collaboration. As part of the employee training methods in the center, managers and employees partake in training in the dark or in silence.

Dialogue in the Dark

Blind or visually impaired trainers, with the help of sighted coaches, conduct training in darkness. The thinking behind this? Put sighted participants in a new environment and they’ll develop greater authenticity, empathy, and openness. They will also sharpen their individual senses, improve listening, and communication.

Dialogue in Silence

With Dialogue in Silence, employees work with hearing-impaired trainers in a soundproof room. Participants use mime and gesture to communicate. Through the process people learn more about themselves, their own behavior, and the behavior of others.

Both these practices promote cooperation and rapid learning to reach project goals and to date, the training programs have proved a massive success.

According to Angelika Hanz-Hieber, Head of the dialogue center, “Employers who have used the Dialogue Training Center for HR development are always surprised how fast these special training environments lead to success. They expect such programs to generate success in a short time – and darkness, in particular, accomplishes this.”

The reasons for this is: people are more alert and trustworthy. They’re also forced into an environment where they’re constantly challenged to devise immediate solutions.

The lesson here: put people in uncomfortable situations to improve personal and professional growth.

2. Pilgrimage Training

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Fancy having your mobile phone confiscated, followed by a drop-off deep in the mountains, with only a map?

Over 100 companies in Japan are using this technique. Known as pilgrimage training, the idea is to have new hires focus on one thing i.e. get out of the mountain, and in so doing they’ll achieve better clarity of thinking. This technique is part of a growing trend in business to focus on real world, practical experience, rather than theory.

The lesson here: nothing beats real-world, hands-on experience. There is only so much a textbook can teach you. Incorporate real-world experience into your training programs.

3. Ritz Carlton: Spend $2000 on a Guest

Ritz Carlton is also part of a growing trend of companies offering rather unusual training methods for their employees. But they must be doing something right as they were cited in Forbes as the best company for employee training.

Ritz focuses on three pillars: their locations, outstanding products, and their people. People are crucial. They’re the ones in the front-line serving guests. And Ritz trains them to always deliver the best service possible.

As part of the process Ritz allows each person the opportunity to spend $2000 on any guest, per incident. All this, without management consent. They place immense trust in their employees to make the right decision and judgment calls for the betterment of the company. No micromanaging there.

The lesson here: trust your employees to make the right decisions and put them in a position to do exactly that.

4. Adventure Games Team Building: Spy Games

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Probably one of the most unusual approaches to employee training – but one capturing the attention of Fortune 500 companies – is provided by Chad Michael and his Adventure Game Team Building team.

Chad Michael and the team provide unique team building programs for the tech-savvy millennial generation. According to Michael, cited in HR.com, “ The current generation needs to be challenged and fully engaged in order to teach basic principles of problem-solving and teamwork.”

One employee team building exercise they are offering is Spy Games. In the Spy Game, FBI agents interrupt a meeting or conference and show a video. The video is a kidnapping of their boss. Everyone forms different teams and carrying cellphones and cameras, participants engage in a game of espionage as they try and recover the “lost asset”. Participants will improve their strategizing, team-building and quick thinking skills during the process.

The Spy Game has been played by companies like Google, Facebook, Walmart, Dell, Coca-Cola and Home Depot.

The lesson here: employee training can be fun and engaging. Consider using team building exercises.

5: Training Through Company Collaboration

Employee training is often geared towards improving collaboration and team dynamics among employees. After all, no one lives in a vacuum. The same applies with regard to collaboration between companies.

Two companies took a unique approach by partnering to offer a training program to college graduates. CapTech, an IT management consultant firm partnered with one of their clients RetailData to offer a training program for college hires.

The program affords three groups of college hires from top universities the opportunity to get real-world experience. They are to deliver data and analytics solutions to support RetailData’s strategic roadmap. The idea is to promote and encourage out-of-the-box thinking to improve current strategies.

CapTech’s college boot camp provides hands-on learning for college hires and feedback from leadership. There’s evidence that it works with 88% of graduates still employed after three years.

The lesson here: Think how you can collaborate with other companies for the benefit of all. You don’t exist in a vacuum.

6. Moving to Digital

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While nothing beats a boot camp or face-to-face learning, companies are also recognizing the power of e-learning tools. One such company is Discover Financial. Training Magazine recognized them as one of the companies offering the most innovative training programs.

To move away from outdated training methods and textbooks, the company changed 70% of it’s training to e-learning, videos, and self-study. This is a smart move if you consider the steady emergence of Linkedin’s e-learning platform. And the results of making the switch? Well, they tell an interesting story. Companies saw 6% higher employee satisfaction and a significant reduction of 42% in employee attrition.

The lesson here: Don’t be afraid to experiment with new training techniques. They have the potential to be a success.

Final Thoughts

Employee training is essential for the success of your company. It helps hires grow personally and professionally. And of course, you benefit through increased productivity, growth, better retention, and success.

Currently, there are many companies using outdated training techniques which leads to low engagement. As a result, there’s a move toward more modern techniques. Modern techniques that target individuals, such as the millennials.

All the methods we shared above are different. They’re unique. Despite the differences, they work: they drive engagement, they’re forward thinking, and they break away from outdated techniques. All this is necessary for your company to compete in today’s landscape. Definitely, some food for thought if you’re currently looking to invest in a training program or revamp yours.

Why don’t you share your thoughts on what employee training techniques you use?