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Immersive Training Solutions for a Hybrid Work World

Remote workforce training has come of age. Forced to get creative during lockdowns, many companies moved beyond their traditional learning and development initiatives, exploring other education options. Those that reported excellent results usually had one thing in common: They embraced immersive technologies.

What does immersive technology look like? Think virtual reality or augmented reality. Both VR and AR training options allow people to feel like they’re in the midst of a situation without physically being in the room. And these educational experiences are not as untested as you might assume.

Though COVID ramped up the reliance on immersive education, immersive VR and AR solutions didn’t start in early 2020. They’ve evolved over the past decade. That’s why Mercedes-Benz began using Microsoft’s HoloLens to scale up widespread corporate training a few years ago, following in the footsteps of competitors like Ford and Volvo.

Advantages to VR and AR Training Solutions

You don’t have to be in the automotive field to get the benefits of immersive technologies to train your personnel, though. VR and AR training can be useful for organizations across a wide range of sectors, from engineering to oil to industrial operations.

For instance, some businesses opt for immersive training to help their employees understand how to approach complex situations. Others use immersive modalities for self-driven “practice,” as workers can run through scenarios countless times to perfect their abilities. But corporations don’t have to limit AR and VR to “hard skills.” Leadership, problem-solving, and other soft skills can come to life in a virtual format, too.

That doesn’t mean that you want to just jump into immersive training without a plan. It’s important to be prepared so you can successfully upskill a cross-section of your team cost-effectively and reliably. With those considerations in mind, you can move forward by paying attention to the following strategies:

1. Budget correctly for your immersive training program.

One of the biggest obstacles leaders face when trying to get executives to champion VR or AR training is the perceived costs. As with most technologies, the direct cost for software, equipment, and setup of VR and AR training has dropped over the years. Even VR headsets have become surprisingly affordable, not to mention much more comfortable than before. Nevertheless, the upfront price might seem too high—at first. However, you have to factor in all the ways that AR and VR can cut down on traditional expenses associated with training.

For instance, immersive training allows you to give the same message to all your people without transporting them anywhere. You don’t have to rent a conference room or pay for travel. Instead, you can put all your dollars toward scaling your training solution in a reliable, consistent way where efficiency nets greater ROI.

2. Take your immersive training on test runs.

During the pandemic, countless companies embraced immersive training out of necessity. Unless you’re under a time constraint, you can likely start smaller. Invest in some AR and VR technology programs, but don’t change everything you do regarding onboarding, upskilling, or reskilling.

What’s the simplest way to begin in a limited way? Find a partner who works in the immersive technology industry. Most providers will be able to help you develop VR and AR simulations that you can test on specific teams or employees. That way, you’ll be able to see how immersive technologies can be used across the rest of your business. You’ll also have an easier time getting higher-level champions to support more comprehensive VR and AR training due to your proof-of-concept information.

3. Collect data from every immersive training.

A huge boon to VR and AR training is the ability to collect scores of data. You can use the information you gather to better measure and even monetize your training sessions. An example might be to collect information on how many times your newest employees need to run through a certain simulation. If you notice that one simulation seems more challenging and takes longer to learn than others, you might want to consider ways to break it down into bite-size parts.

The more data you bring into the fold, the better you can make your VR and AR modules. This will help improve the learning across your workforce no matter where your employees plug in. And when you test different modules, you can see how they’re affecting other ones by examining the data.

Immersive training is set to become a norm at many firms and organizations, particularly with the uptick in telecommuting. Even if you’ve never considered adding VR or AR technology to your learning and development initiatives, take a second look at the possibilities. Classic in-person and e-learning models work, but they have limitations. Immersive training solutions can optimize education for all employees and corporate goals, making them excellent companions to your current lineup of training.

Image by Arturs Budkevics

Workforce Development: Using AR and VR to Strengthen Your Company

The 21st Century has seen enterprises across all industries scramble for the latest technologies and team-building strategies to enhance workforce development. For a good reason: It’s no secret that efficiency begins with an efficient workforce.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) have become popular powerhouses for employee training, recruitment, and several other HR processes. These new technology waves have made it easier to evaluate employees’ performance, test their knowledge, improve training and strengthen their teams.

What are AR and VR Technologies?

Simply, augmented reality is a highly interactive experience of a real-world environment. It enhances objects in the real world by computer-generated perceptual information. Think Snapchat filters, Pokemon Go, and even Waze.

Virtual reality, a similarly interactive experience, is a simulation of a completely different environment from the real world. The computer-generated simulation of a 3-D image or environment can be interacted with in a seemingly real way. For a truly immersive sensory experience, users must wear appropriate electronic equipment, such as a headset and gloves fitted with sensors.

Using AR and VR in Recruitment: A Two Way Street

Companies are deploying AR/VR technologies in their recruitment processes to maintain a competitive edge in the market. They need the best talent the labor market has to offer, and these technologies can help filter candidates by the most relevant skills. However, it works both ways; the best talent will look for the best and most inspiring work opportunities. And VR, in particular, helps candidates experience work environments remotely.

Recently, Lloyds Bank implemented VR into its assessment process for the Graduate Leadership Program. During the screening process, Lloyd’s asks candidates to solve puzzles in a simulated environment. Based on their results — which clearly demonstrated their strengths and weaknesses — the company more easily made recruitment decisions.

By providing a simulated view of the company, AR and VR can play another vital role in the recruiting process. After all, prospective employees can spend considerable time commuting to and from, as well as being in, a company’s workplace during the interview process. Virtual reality-based simulated environments can reduce that time and expense by providing candidates with a virtual yet holistic understanding of the working environment and team they could join. With AR and VR, a candidate can now be sitting in Shanghai as they gain a genuine feel for a company’s culture in Manhattan.

Gamification for Job Applicants

In today’s ultra-competitive job market, it’s never been more important to use innovative ways to engage with the best talent in a limited pool of qualified workers.

The use of gamification has proven to stand firm against the traditional application process since it offers something new, exciting, innovative, and — perhaps most importantly — efficient. Gamification significantly increases the interactivity of the recruitment process. Consider this, rather than gather essential candidate information through manual forms and resumes — such as qualifications, experience, and skills — a gamified approach can interactively reveal this information.

Innovative augmented reality platforms have grown to serve this growing application in recruitment screening. ActiView, for example, uses AR technology to help recruiters detect various behavioral habits and attributes required for the job.

AR and VR for General Training

Once employees are on board, training them can be costly, time-consuming, and ineffective. Virtual reality (VR) can help orient employees with all the technical skills related to their roles. By providing an immersive environment for new employee induction and training, new team members can familiarize themselves with new processes without wasting resources. Additionally, companies naturally expect employees to become more efficient in their roles with time. VR can help speed up these processes, and workforce development in general, as they get new employees more engaged and efficient faster.

For example, the hands-on training experiences opened up by VR allow employees to enter an immersive environment and gain experience using and navigating complex machinery and technical parts within a training room. By eliminating the boundaries between the real and virtual environments, employers take advantage of both realities in one setting — generating efficiencies and enabling faster learning.

 

corporate trading trade-off

 

As the graph above shows, the trade-off associated with traditional corporate training is offset by VR technology and immersive training. As illustrated, one-on-one expert mentor training is indeed an effective method. However, it’s time-consuming and expensive, which hinders a company’s ability to scale. On the other hand, reading a quick manual and watching a 2D video might be cost-effective. But precedent shows us this is the least effective training method.

AR and VR for Safety Training

Many industries, more than we initially imagine, operate to some degree in unsafe environments. This is particularly true within plants and facilities with heavy-duty machinery, chemicals, and life-threatening procedures. Virtual reality can play an essential role in facilities where safety is key.

For example, in the firefighting industry, VR-based training on new challenges has been massively beneficial. Specifically, it curbs training accidents and helps eliminate underperformance while demonstrating real-life scenarios. Trainees can apply the lessons learned anywhere an associated risk is part of the job spec.

Employers and organizations can provide a virtually created life-threatening or risky situation within an immersive environment to trainees. There, they can learn best practices and remedies and be better prepared to take on the challenge in real-life.

AR and VR for Team Building

Business managers, HR specialists, and young entrepreneurs have long since recognized the importance of building and maintaining company culture. Themes have shifted towards connectivity, embracing differences, inclusivity, and team-building strategies. Now, more than ever, they have turned to remote options to sustain a culture in a forced work-from-home environment.

When planning an in-person team-building event, of course, there are many options — from bars to restaurants to bowling alleys and pub quizzes. In these relaxed environments, team building can take many forms with different goals. Of course, these venues also come with their own sets of challenges — especially during a pandemic.

On the other hand, virtual reality is a notable and powerful team-building tool where anything is practically possible. Hang out with the team in virtual gathering rooms where everyone can join in playing games, get competitive and collaborate — from anywhere. The Rec Room is an excellent example of a multipurpose VR-based gaming resource. The platform provides companies with access to thousands of user-generated and custom gaming events that enable team building.

Workforce Development in a Nutshell

Ultimately, AR and VR eliminate the workforce development challenges faced — from recruiting to team-building — in a pre-technological world.

To strengthen your company, start leveraging the immense capabilities of AR and VR today.

 

Photo: Patrick Schneider

Five Industries Poised to Thrive Post-Pandemic

The spread of Coronavirus has sent shockwaves across the global economy. With such a devastating human cost to the pandemic, the imposition of lockdowns has successfully limited the spread of the virus, albeit at the cost of production.

In the coming weeks and months, the world will return to varying degrees of ‘normality.’ But is the same true for various industries? It’s certain that different sectors will recover at different rates. No doubt, some will need more time to regroup and return to normal operations.

For other industries, the opposite could be true. Certain technological fields have been experiencing unprecedented growth even in this time of isolation, and both history and current trends indicate that other industries may be set to boom in the months after COVID-19 as well.

While many of us will remember the crash of 2008, the circumstances behind the current market crash will be unprecedented for the vast majority. So let’s take a look at what industry recoveries may look like after the pandemic, and explore which sectors might thrive following the return to ‘normality’.

Collaboration Technology

Since the arrival of Coronavirus, shares in Zoom, a video conferencing app, have leaped over 120 percent. Elsewhere, Slack’s collaborative platform has experienced a seismic rise of 25 percent in share price.

As global lockdown measures have forced the world to work from home (WFH), remote collaboration tools have experienced a profound rise in popularity. Given the circumstances, some may assume that the collaborative technology industry is experiencing a bubble that will inevitably burst once governments allow workers to return to their offices. However, for many companies, the pandemic has acted as a large-scale road test for WFH readiness — which, for many decision-makers, will have proved that a transition towards more remote work is possible.

The benefits of WFH are far-reaching: companies can save money on in-house supplies, servers and utilities, while workers can eliminate their commute and work in a more comfortable environment.

With future developments in the fields of augmented reality and virtual reality promising to make remote collaboration even more immersive, it’s reasonable to expect more businesses to embrace technology to enable WFH initiatives after the virus. Collaboration technology is undoubtedly set to flourish over the coming years.

Healthcare

The pandemic has also prompted widespread investment in global healthcare. $120 billion pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly recently joined forces with a biotech startup in a bid to fight the threat of Coronavirus. “We’ve never moved at this pace before,” explained Eli Lilly’s Chief Scientific Officer, Dan Skrovonsky.

The COVID-19 outbreak has reaffirmed the need for investment in both healthcare equipment and pharmaceuticals. While the industry is understandably volatile as world health services struggle to keep up with demand, it’s a safe bet that many governments will look to secure their future against future pandemics faster.

Expect to see plenty of investment in life-saving protective equipment and vaccinations in the months and years following Coronavirus.

Online Gaming

With millions of people unable to work due to the outbreak, it’s not surprising to see that online gaming has surged in terms of usage. With very few alternative ways to kill time while in isolation, more money is being spent on buying and accessing video games.

In China, the first nation to experience widespread isolation measures, players spent over two billion yuan (around $280 million) on one of the nation’s leading mobile games, Glory of the King, in a single day, marking a 50 percent increase year over year.

Coronavirus has caused the world to slow down somewhat, allowing time for people across the world to discover, or recapture, an enthusiasm for online gaming. With reports of Nintendo Switch sales more than doubling in March compared to the same time last year, along with increases in Playstation and Xbox sales, it’s fair to expect the burgeoning user base to continue to find time for video gaming long after the end of international lockdowns.

Remote Learning

Online learning is another industry that’s flourishing during Coronavirus-enforced isolation. In March, over 27.5 million hours was spent on Cornerstone Learning  — indicating that users are choosing to invest their newfound free time wisely.

Thanks to a widespread transition among businesses offering more WFH options for employees, many of us will leverage online education platforms well after the Coronavirus pandemic. It’s also fair to expect more usage from employees who have found themselves between jobs due to the crisis, and are looking to pick up new skills as they re-enter the job market.

Automakers

Counterintuitively, car manufacturers could perform exceptionally well following coronavirus as well. It’s reasonable to expect sales to fall following such a disruptive event, but Seeking Alpha notes that following the 2002 SARS outbreak, it was actually the automotive industry that recovered fastest.

The logic behind the rise in car sales is relatively straightforward. When the public believes that commuting on public transport isn’t safe, the demand for automobiles will rise.

The months following Coronavirus could see a rise in road traffic as people return to work reluctant to put themselves at risk of infection. It may also be some time before people fully regain their comfort with taking public transportation — and sharing their space with other commuters — following a prolonged period of isolation.

Hyper-Training And The Future Augmented Reality Workplace

If you’re like me, you may be exhilarated by the possibilities inherent in augmented reality (AR) workplace training. Not only does AR open the doors for limitless creativity and innovation, it also enables enterprises to speed up the training process and make it more beneficial to employees. As someone who spends his life learning about what drives people to adopt new technologies, I see much potential in workplace AR, and predict that it will play a key role in offering companies a competitive advantage.

Discover The Most Recent Developments In Workplace AR 

As I mentioned a couple of months ago, when businesses combine AR with the internet of things (IoT), something incredible happens. It sparks a business revolution unlike anything we’ve seen before—surpassing even the cell phone in how drastically it alters how industries operate. Think about it: AR is a virtual reality world in which anything is possible. You can take on-the-job training to a whole new level, putting the new hire in real-world situations in which they must perform their job duties. This kind of hyper-training provides hands-on experience without the costs and risks of real hands-on. It’s the best of both worlds.

AR unlocks the potential to put employees in situations that you otherwise could not recreate. For example, a surgeon could use AR to learn how to perform open-heart surgery—without risking the patient’s life. Books and surgical dummies have limitations that AR training does not. AR can also simulate hazardous workplace conditions an employee may face, such as a live wire falling to the ground in the construction industry. It can teach employees the proper protocol in such situations and prepare them for real-world scenarios in time to save lives.

In an ultra-fast business world that’s brimming with change, business agility and adaptability need an ally to help companies move forward with real-time training. When millions of new employees are trained using AR technologies, businesses will be more agile and able to adapt to new technologies. Think about how much easier adopting the cloud would have been if your employees could have experimented with the new equipment in an augmented reality workplace without consequence. Changing your communication model to empower your employees gives your company the power to incorporate new ideas and technologies without issues. AR makes this possible.


Recognize How Augmented Reality Can Help Your Business

Augmented reality blurs the line between the physical and digital realms. It brings computer-generated graphics to life, superimposing images on what the employee actually sees. The potential for AR as a powerful training tool is only as limited as your imagination, especially when you blend it with employee collaboration, field tests, and presentations. AR enables a level of creativity and efficiency in the training process that companies have yet to achieve:

  • Save time and money.Old structures of email and training initiatives in silos take too long to execute and have poor employee engagement. Switching to AR drastically speeds up the training process, saving money and enabling employees to do the job faster (and better).
  • Take on-the-job training and retraining to another level.It’s clear that AR gives business owners limitless potential for placing trainees in real-world scenarios and situations. Many employees learn best by doing rather than seeing. AR is a happy medium between reading about something in a book and doing the real thing.
  • Supercharge your remote workforce.AR can take the remote workforce further than existing tools can. Think about it—you can immerse your remote team in a project your in-house team is working on, bringing employees together from across the globe in a way that feels more real than ever before.
  • Improve productivity. Integrating new technology and giving impressive business intelligence to employees drastically improves productivity, collaboration, and execution. Giving your team the power of AR will boost overall job understanding and how you expect things to operate.
  • Make personal connections.AR can connect the C-suite with employees in a way that’s more personal, thereby transforming and improving the overall employee experience.
  • Gain an edge over the competition.With the power of AR on your side, you can train your team more quickly and efficiently than your competition can. Your workforce will be better at their jobs and more willing to adopt new technologies and practices, giving your company an industry advantage.

Hyper-training with augmented reality facilitates shorter learning curves, better-trained employees, and an all-around more efficient workplace. As soon as AR becomes widely available to enterprises for training purposes (and it will soon), I suggest you make room in your budget for this immensely beneficial new technology.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.com