Written by Mohamed Abdelkareem.
With many cities still locked down and many of us working from home, we have found ourselves suddenly having to adjust to new methods of working. Similarly, companies and corporations have had to take steps to address and work with the fast-changing landscape, adopting technologies to foster business… technology which they knew existed, but never exploited to its full and logical conclusion.
People were familiar with online technologies before March and used them sporadically, but the majority were not. They were aware that there were methods, but never really needing to get familiar with them. Well, it does not matter how much we knew, since now we have all been fast-tracked into knowing the technologies intimately and utilizing them on a daily basis.
As is true for the new work environment, so it is true for Learning & Development (L&D). Companies have started taking steps now to transform their L&D from mostly classroom sessions to digital or online learning, to cope with what will likely become the ‘new normal’. There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a big impact on the Training Industry, and the move to adapt has been linked with the Agile philosophy. (you could consider joining Learn Tomorrow's webinar on Agile Learning in Corporate Training on the 1st of September to get valuable insights).
Employees are effectively able to access online learning modules and webinars from anywhere, at any time and without disrupting their routine work schedule. This approach incurs a lower cost for companies and provides increased convenience for instructors and employees at the same time.
Below, I attempt to numerate the different technologies and approaches that are proving crucial to transitioning training into a new era. These methods can broadly be catagorised into Methods and Technologies. It is important to remember that while there may be a number of more approaches which could be expanded upon, these are the most important ones in my personal opinion, that I have found especially beneficial in this time.
This is the process where an employee receives guidance remotely from an experienced professional in an organisation. Virtual Mentoring supports organisations in building a healthy and positive work environment as it supports open communication, personalization and fosters engagement.
The mentors and mentees can communicate through the means of internet-based tools such as emails and social media networks, or a host of online meeting tools like Microsoft Teams and Webex.
In the current crisis of COVID-19, mentorship can make an especially crucial contribution as it provides comfort and serves as an emotional and psychological support to employees for their long-term well-being.
Soft Skills Training
Have you ever hired a manager who lacked leadership skills? How much did that affect your team and organisation? Soft skills can cover everything from leadership skills to communication skills, critical thinking or positive attitude.
Good soft skills enable people to navigate their environment, collaborate with others, and to achieve their goals with complementing hard skills. Conversely, a lack of soft skills can be devastating to any organisation and the teams within. It could contribute to a toxic environment, less engagement and high employee turnover, ultimately leading to less profits.
During these times, they have come into stark focus, where employees might need additional conditioning and care form their peers. New aspects must be addressed, like online meeting etiquettes and conveying empathy when communicating remotely.
Research conducted with Fortune 500 CEOs by the Stanford Research Institute International and the Carnegie Melon Foundation, found that 75% of long-term job success depends on people skills, while only 25% on technical knowledge.
This is an educational approach that offers bite-sized learning modules for better long-term retention of skills and knowledge. According to the Journal of Applied Psychology, learning in such smaller chunks can improve the knowledge transfer by 17%. With the continuous advancement of smart phones and tablets, delivering bite-sized learning chunks has become easier, as it mobilizes learning to reach more people, which in turn makes learning more effective, with positive returns for organisations.
Since the advent of the pandemic, mobile devices have moved even more into the mainstream where professional life is concerned, hence its only logical that companies should treat this as a new opportunity to impart effective training since large scale training and workshops are out of the question for the time being.
Mobile Learning Apps
According to Statista, there are 3.5 billion smartphone users in 2020 and expected to jump to 3.8 billion by 2021. With more and people working remotely, this is set to be the new normal, where work location becomes more and more redundant. A nice way to prepare in this future would be to design corporate learning apps for employees. This app can be advanced to different degrees, depending on company size and use-case but at its zenith, would cater to all manner of departments and learning methods, some of them mentioned here already; microlearning content, virtual mentoring and even VR/AR capabilities. Creating a learning app will give employees instant accessibility to learning, anytime and anywhere.
However, it is important to consider an app design that suits your business and employees’ requirements. An app design with interactive modules can significantly increase engagement and speed up learning.
Geofencing is one of the most convenient emerging trends in learning & development. Geofencing application can be set up on mobile, tablet, and even desktop devices anywhere in the world. It can be configured to target a certain places such as a specific work site, a demographic market area, a brand location, a city or a state.
Companies can design a geofencing mobile application that sends out push notification to employees for new updates, training, new instructions or reminder of past training.
Geofencing can be beneficial in learning as it:
- Provides accessibility to learning anywhere and anytime.
- Enhances the learning experience by being targeted and location-focused.
- Ensures health and safety at work place.
The gamification of learning has been defined as “a careful and considered application of game thinking to solving problems and encouraging learning, using all the elements of games that are appropriate.” - Karl Kapp
Like some of the other methods mentioned here, Gamification is moving more into the mainstream now as a result of L&D being virtual increasingly being the new normal.
Gamification has been incorporated into numerous eLearning platforms and has proved beneficial in learning:
- Makes learning fun and attractive as it plays on the psychology that drives engagement. The gamification of learning can help in creating an exciting and engaging training content.
- Enhances the learning experience as it turns the “Have to” into “Want to” as well as gives learners a challenge and reason to learn.
- Encourages teamwork.
- Helps with employee retention.
Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR)
VR and AR are emerging technologies that, although not directly assisting in a large part in bringing learning to a remote post-COVID professional life, are certainly having greater funding and accelerated development attached to them for their virtual training capabilities. Of course, it comes down to the technology becoming more affordable and sustainable at a consumer level.
VR allows a person to feel immersed in a 3D virtual environment. VR applications immerse the user in a computer-generated environment that simulates reality through interactive devices such as a goggle and headset. A study conducted by the University of Maryland found that people recall information better when it is presented to them in a virtual environment than a desktop computer. The results underline that VR users performed 8.8% better, in a separate eMarketer report, it is estimated that by 2021, 57.1 million people will use VR in USA alone, at least once per month.
In the same report by eMarketer, it is estimated that by 2021, 85 million people will use AR in USA alone. AR is a technology that elevates the interactivity of a real-world location by superimposing computer-generated perceptual information onto it, transforming data, numbers and analytics into images or animations. Conveyed differently, it transforms your current location into an animated, interactive simulation.
Benefits of VR:
- A more engaging training experience: It gives trainees the ability to go beyond the theory experience.
- More practical hands-on approach: It displays exercises in way that is more practical.
- Employee Onboarding: VR helps new employees become familiar within the business environment quicker.
- Technical Training: Employees can train through real-life scenarios without fear of making mistakes. For example, the use of VR in training pilots, surgeons and firefighters.
Benefits of AR:
- Real-world practice: It gives trainees the chance to train in real world scenarios with virtual directions and overlaid tooltips.
- Higher level of engagement: It takes trainees to the next level of immersion, increasing engagement.
- Efficiency: AR helps trainers train more efficiently and trainees learn quickly. This absolutely saves time and money.
In short, with the constant change brought by new technologies, the rise of Generation Z, and advent of new concepts of work environment accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that companies keep on aligning their L&D strategy to keep up with these changes to maintain a long-term success.
Additionally, Learning & Development is no longer seen as an isolated activity; instead, it is shifting to being viewed as a culture that is beneficial to the need of employees and organisations.
Cluster Director, Talent & Culture @ Accor
Mohamed Abdelkareem is a Senior HR Generalist and internationally certified as HR Executive, HR Consultant & HR Professional. He has worked with hospitality chains such as Hilton, Rotana, Millennium and currently works with Accor as Cluster Director of Talent & Culture. In 2020, Mohamed contributed to the opening of Three Accor Hotels in Dubai; The Grand Mercure Hotel, Ibis Styles & The Grand Mercure Residence “712 keys”.
He is interested in changing the way companies recruit, perform culture transformation, and the involvement of artificial intelligence and machine learning in Human Resources.
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