L&D Augmented Reality concept
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Building workforce resilience through personalised learning & development

As many businesses start to adapt to the long-term realities of having a geographically dispersed workforce, they will no doubt be contemplating how best to keep employees engaged with professional development and learning in a remote working world. Add to this the fact that the extended furlough scheme means some employees may have been out of the workplace for up to a year when it ends in March 2021 and learning and development becomes an even more critical factor in building a workforce with the resilience to face the challenges yet to come.

Amongst these challenges is likely to be budget cuts to L&D programmes, changing businesses needs that may require new or updated training modules, along with the obvious challenge of how to deliver consistent training to a workforce that can no longer be together in the same room. In addition to this, global events have shone a critical light on workplace diversity and inclusivity over the past six months that has increased pressure on businesses to accelerate plans for creating a more inclusive and fairer working environment.

Fundamental to businesses’ ability to achieve this will be a learning and development programme that recognises the individual needs and desires of employees in relation to personal development, in order to provide equality of access to the very best training. Content will of course be key, but format and delivery methods of training will also have an important role to play in delivering L&D programmes that work for everyone. So, what should you be considering from an L&D perspective if you’re planning for the future of your business?

Putting the learner first

Too frequently, L&D is viewed purely through the lens of direct business benefits, with leaders often posing questions around how it can improve the stature of the company. • If you use X approach, how will it improve the bottom line? • Will you witness business growth as a direct result of investing in this training? • Can you reduce L&D costs while increasing operational efficiency?

While all of these questions are valid, positive results are only possible when training is placed in the context of the learner journey. If the sole purpose is to help business growth, will that truly engage your employees? Some yes, but certainly not all. The trick is to find what works for the employees themselves, and not assume that everyone will respond to the same form of learning.

For example, providing 20 minutes of engaging digital learning is of no use to the learner if they have too many modules to complete, don’t have capacity to focus on the training within the working day or are forced to go through the same content year after year. The key often lies in offering flexibility and adopting technology that allows employees the opportunity to engage with learning, rather than viewing it as a tick-box exercise. So what are these new technologies you should be considering and are they right for your business and employees?

Augmented reality

Augmented reality (AR) technology has developed rapidly over the last five years, becoming part of daily lives in some areas – most notably gaming, with the success of Pokémon Go which launched in June 2016 and has since racked up over one billion downloads.

It’s this ease of access which will be at the heart of AR’s uptake in the L&D space – modules can be present on the user’s mobile devices which the vast majority of professionals will have on them at all times during the working day, whether at home or in the work place. This can result in micro-learning modules which provide the users with key information in a visually stimulating way that they can interact with when capacity allows.

Take the onboarding process for example. This can be a very time-intensive process, especially in large-scale, complex businesses. Using mobile-based AR, new starters can be provided with a virtual tour of the premises and informed of important information related to particular areas of the shop floor whenever suits them. Imagine a Health and Safety course designed to help people with their home office set up, with the AR data overlaying chair and desk positions.

The downside to AR is the investment required, whether it’s app development, the need to continuously update content as and when it becomes outdated, or the sheer amount of content that could be necessitated by having a disparate workforce which have very different L&D requirements.

Virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR) is another tech buzzword that has worked its way into conversations in the business world after becoming relatively common in gaming. It’s therefore no surprise that you might be wondering how VR can be adopted in the training of your employees.

There’s no doubt VR offers unique experiences that can be hugely engaging, but it’s still a long way from being a viable offering within many workplaces. Hardware is the first limiting factor, as buying VR headsets is a financial burden, while the development of VR environments is both time and cost-intensive, especially when compared to 3D environments that can be just as impactful within a standardised video format.

However, the use of 3D environments, relevant audio and realistic effects can make learning very impactful. This is especially true for training employees who need to be conditioned for hazardous or stressful environments. By recreating scenarios in which there is risk to life, VR can offer realistic training in how to work safely in environments they would only access in extreme conditions.

Social media

It might not be the first platform that springs to mind when you consider L&D, but social media is constantly evolving and there’s huge potential for learning in many platforms. Take TikTok for example. The app first introduced to allow users to upload lip-synching videos of themselves now has a hashtag (#tiktoklearn) which has more than 20m views with topics covering baking, drawing, DIY and even medical content.

While it may not be the platform on which you’d be comfortable sharing micro-learning content, it does highlight the wider trend of attention spans reducing. Hour-long e-learning courses may feel ancient, cumbersome and dreary to the majority of the team, when we are all used to the bite-size content served up on social media. That said, YouTube data shows the average mobile viewing session lasts more than 40 minutes while searches for ‘how to’ content is growing 70% year-on-year. Clearly, there is a real hunger for this style of easy to consume, instantly available content and L&D can take inspiration from such trends.

Future proofing workplace learning By embracing the new opportunities presented by these technologies, and many more, businesses will be able to create a flexible, future proof L&D programme that reflects the diversity of their workforce and customers and drives greater staff engagement with a continuous learning mindset. It is after all the skill, commitment and adaptability of any businesses’ people that will determine how well it weather the storms that arise in the future.

By Matt Gilbert, Strategy Director at Fenturi

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Fenturi .

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