For any business to grow and become more efficient, it needs its employees to grow with it, learning new skills and refining the way that they work and use the provided tools.
For many companies, the route to achieving this is through an old-fashioned face-to-face training session. As well as being an inefficient use of time, taking a group of employees out of action for half a day or more, these sessions often don’t improve skills that significantly.
The main issue is that every person learns differently and at a different pace. Re-examining the way your business approaches training, and using the latest technology from the cloud to virtual reality (VR), can address these issues and help your business grow.
Cloud-based e-learning systems are a great starting point for most companies. By providing courses online, employees can work through digestible chunks of each course at their own pace, with built-in tests allowing them to confirm what they’ve learnt, and revisit problem subjects.
I believe that virtual reality and augmented reality can revolutionise surgical education and training Shafi Ahmed, surgeon, Royal London Hospital
As a result, the Research Institute of America found that e-learning increased retention rates of the information to between 25pc and 60pc; traditional face-to-face training left employees with 9pc to 10pc retention rates.
Using the cloud is powerful, as it gives managers tools to see how staff training is progressing. For example, a manager can see who has completed each module, the success rate and how long it took each person. From this data, high performers can be identified and given further in-depth training; those struggling can receive additional help and alternative training courses to bring them up to speed.
Switching to e-learning also gives companies an opportunity to customise training for different generations, targeting age groups with techniques that will improve their retention rates. It’s an incredibly important thing to do; according to a 2015 Microsoft study, performed by researchers in Canada, the average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to just eight seconds today.
High mobile use has been cited as a potential reason, as brains have adapted to mobile internet use. From the survey, it was the younger generation that turned to their mobiles the most, with 77pc of 18- to 24-year-olds saying they used their phones when nothing else was occupying their attention.
Targeting training based on information like this is vital. For example, having mobile-friendly training in smaller, bite-sized doses works well for millennials; older generations may prefer a more traditional browser-based training session.
While cloud tools give more flexibility to training regimes, new technology can also dramatically change the way people learn. VR is an excellent example, letting employees wear a pair of goggles and see a first-person view. Last year, Shafi Ahmed, a cancer surgeon at the Royal London Hospital, broadcast live surgery in VR. Viewers could zoom in to get a clearer view, and walk around the operating theatre to see the operation from different angles.
E-learning increases retention rates of the information to between 25pc and 60pc; traditional face-to-face learning has 9pc to 10pc retention rates Research Institute of America
“I believe that virtual reality and augmented reality can revolutionise surgical education and training, particularly for developing countries that don’t have the resources and facilities of NHS hospitals,” Mr Ahmed says.
Bioflight VR is developing medical VR applications using the Oculus system, including a pediatric trauma-room simulation that helps train doctors to save infants in emergencies. Letting trainee doctors repeat tough scenarios until they make the correct diagnosis helps to hone their skills and improve reaction times. This is a valuable change from text book and e-learning, which lack these hands-on elements.
It’s not hard to see how VR can be applied to other sectors, where a first-person, fully immersive view would be far more useful than traditional training aids. For example, UPS is working on VR simulations to train drivers before they take to the road.
Alongside VR sits augmented reality (AR), a technology where digital information overlays the real world. With Microsoft HoloLens and Apple ARKit both on the AR bandwagon, this is going to be a big market.
At its most powerful, AR can work through a pair of glasses, with a heads-up display overlaying important information. For example, maintenance engineers can look at a piece of equipment and have information directly overlaid, giving them the data they need to repair it. The important thing here is that the physical equipment is in front of the trainee, letting them get an enhanced hands-on experience that isn’t possible with VR alone.
Training remains an important part of any business strategy, helping improve staff skills to enable growth. Using the latest technology, training can be more targeted and provide smarter and more realistic simulations that hone skills more quickly.