Role playing is an active learning technique in which employees act out situations under the guidance of a trainer. In each scenario, employees take on a role and act out the scene as though it were real. For example, two people might simulate a meeting between an employee and an angry customer. The trainer and the other participants can then give feedback to the role players. This training technique can be useful, but it also has some drawbacks.
Advantage: It's Social and Communal
Role playing is a social activity. Players interact within the scenarios they’re given, which encourages individuals to come together to find solutions and to get to know how their colleagues think. Because role play training sessions have this communal atmosphere, it’s not only the trainer who can give feedback. Employees can study how their colleagues perform and provide tips or take notes.
Advantage: Prepares for Real Life
In some cases, role playing can prepare groups for scenarios that occur in real life. Not only does this exercise offer staff a glimpse of the situations they may encounter, but participants also receive feedback on how they’ve performed. The group can discuss ways to potentially resolve the situation and participants leave with as much information as possible, resulting in more efficient handling of similar real-life scenarios.
Advantage: Indicates Current Skill Level
When an individual participates in a role-playing scenario, she is demonstrating the way that she would actually handle a similar situation in real life. Role playing allows much of the hypothetical nature of training to be removed, so that the leader of the session can see how staff react and can make notes on each employee’s level of competence. Trainers can work with individuals on their particular weaknesses.
Disadvantage: Makes Some Uncomfortable
Not everyone is comfortable with role-playing scenarios, and this can affect performance. Some staff will feel intimidated by the idea of what they see as theatrics and may be anxious about the training session if they know it contains a role-play exercise. This can impede an individual’s confidence and contributions to such a session.
Disadvantage: May Not Be Taken Seriously
While some employees will be comfortable role playing, they’re less adept at getting into the required mood needed to actually replicate a situation. Individuals may find the whole experience funny or else be unable to pretend to be angry for example when speaking to a co-worker they like. For others, the theatrics of role playing become overwhelming, and the chance to learn is forgotten in favor of turning the session into pure entertainment.
Simon Fuller has been a freelance writer since 2008. His work has appeared in "Record Collector," "OPEN" and the online publication, brand-e. Fuller has a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Reading and a postgraduate diploma from the London School of Journalism.