Role-playing exercises provide opportunities for employees to practice new skills in a safe environment. Designing credible and relevant role-playing exercises starts with coming up with good scenarios that accurately reflect the workplace and problems faced by people doing the job. Interview employees or get them to write up a description of common situations.
Present the situation in a short paragraph. When preparing for the role-play exercise takes too long or requires too much research or information, participants tend to lose interest and resist participating fully. Conduct a quick debrief and prepare an action plan, but don’t make it laborious, or employees will mock your efforts.
Divide groups into small groups. Make sure that everyone is actively involved in the acting or the observing process. If you find that conflict arises, be prepared to handle it in a rapid fashion to reduce tension and create a more productive learning environment. Working in groups of three tends to work better than in pairs. Groups tend to be more comfortable. Keep the energy high by limiting the role plays to 15 or 30 minutes before rotating roles.
Role plays can lead to some difficult conversations. As a facilitator, you may need to monitor the groups and experiment with the arrangements to minimize any difficulties with personal dynamics. Encourage people to think about how they can apply these skills back on the job and not get frightened under pressure. Timekeeping becomes the most important role of the facilitator. Be prepared to say something like “The role play has ended, stop acting out your role.”
During the introduction, ask participants to discuss the role-play interaction. In real life, participants don’t have the opportunity to ask a question about what went wrong. Give role players a minute or two to think about what they are going to say. If the scenario doesn’t exactly match the experience of the role players, empower them to change it up a bit to maximize their participation in the role play. The facilitator should watch the action monitor anger, sadness or other emotions that appear real instated of fake. Never allow people to feel threatened or bullied in their role-playing exercises. If participants feel the situation is too emotionally charged, allow them to step away. Encourage people to have an open dialogue and express feelings about what happened. No one should blame or point fingers to create a non-productive learning environment. Encourage participants to share additional scenarios, unusual solutions or innovative ways to handle the situation at hand.