The emergence of immersive learning

Upon hearing ‘immersive simulation’ you might think about unflattering virtual reality helmets, Sim City or any other gamer role play, but immersive learning is becoming a ‘game changer’ in corporate learning.

Immersive simulation is effective in embedding learning as it allows the learner to act in a real life situation with guidance and without all the consequences.

Employees can practice the newly acquired skills as many times as they’d like until they feel comfortable applying it in a real life situation.

We inherently learn by doing rather than sitting in front of  10 minutes of eLearning and being expected to transfer knowledge into skills so this is the closest you can get to the real thing without the risk.

A corporate immersive simulation typically involves different ‘real-life’ situations in which the learner needs to make decisions based on the learning they’ve received. It involves constructive feedback when they get it wrong and positive reinforcement when they get it right.

It’s great that the evidence demonstrates what a powerful tool immersive simulations can be, but you’re probably asking ‘isn’t implementing something like this expensive’? Investing the money upfront will allow you to reap the benefits long term. Not only does immersive simulation provide a safe environment for employees to learn from their mistakes, but those mistakes are not actually occurring in reality therefore not negatively impacting the bottom line.

As previously mentioned, the rate at which learning is embedded is also higher than traditional methods and thus you’re getting more bang for your buck.

Things to consider when setting up an immersive simulation in your organisation:

  • Make it future proof: If your company is investing a large amount of money, you want to make sure it will have a long shelf life in order to allow employees to reap the benefits for as long as possible, or at least until technology vastly evolves yet again (which is inevitable). When we worked with a client to ensure employees were ready to adopt new systems and working practices of a new company taking over, we used a designated learning space with sandboxes of the systems people would be using with experts from different fields trying out common tasks with people. It was also an occasion where leadership had a voice and additional communications reinforced behaviours to further reassure and prepare people. The tools, templates and supporting technology were reusable.
  • Involve your SMEs from the very beginning: The earlier you involve the experts, the less content reviews you will need to endure. This means a quicker and more accurate delivery of the simulation to the business which, 9 times out of 10, is needed as soon as possible.
  • Get people excited about it!: This is an exciting new tool that employees actually get to play with, so use that to your advantage. It can often be difficult to engage learners, especially with corporate material but the fact that this is gamification at its finest means there’s much to leverage here to gain user buy-in.

Immersive simulations are an up and coming tool in corporate learning and pack a huge punch when it comes to embedding learning. When looking to be innovative and cutting edge, using this tool in your organisation is definitely something to consider.

The Social Network: Discovering informal change leaders

When undertaking a change project, whether it be technological or process based, we always look to build a change network to act as champions for the cause throughout the organisation.

The obvious choices for these roles are usually senior leaders, line managers or team leaders, however there is an untapped resource hidden in the formal organisational structure.

Formal business leaders are the natural choice to be change champions but what about the influencers within teams, departments or business units? These types of people tend to be (but not always) the more experienced in the company, typically social within groups and well respected and trusted amongst their peers. Read more

Mindfulness as a must-have in change management

Change is tough on people. So how can change management, with its focus on people, use mindfulness to encourage awareness and involvement?

I was recently given a book as a gift written by ABC journalist Dan Harris titled 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works-A True Story.

My first thought upon receiving it was ‘this is just another one of those fads that will be forgotten about in 2016’. However anything that claims to reduce my stress grabs my attention so I decided to read it. Read more

Is resistance to change really a bad thing?

Research states that the failure of many change programmes can be traced directly to employee resistance to change [1]

It is not uncommon to see the topic of ‘how to minimise resistance’ on the agenda of kick off meetings in an attempt to thwart the beast that is the challenging employee.

But what if I told you that resistance to change can be a healthy and necessary part of the change process?

When a new process or technology is introduced the impact of this change can greatly affect the end user. It’s these employees whose day to day work life will often change the most. It’s important to listen to their feedback even if it’s negative as it often is.

Although negativity can just be a symptom of uncertainty it can also uncover some genuine concerns that perhaps were not considered by management when the change implementation plan was first drafted. Read more

Measuring the right thing in performance management

Ever feel like your performance management is a bit of a box ticking exercise?

You’re not on your own. A Towers Watson survey of 100 UK businesses in December 2013, revealed that 96% believed that Performance Management is important for their organisation, yet only 64% reported having either an effective or very effective approach.

People and their ongoing performance and development are crucial to profit. A growing understanding of this means a tick box approach to people appraisal and management isn’t going to cut it anymore.

What is performance management?

As defined by Michael Armstrong of the CIPD: “Performance management is a process which is defined to improve organisational, team and individual performance and which is owned and driven by line managers”.

Performance Management (PM) practices have been an integral part of most business models for decades and were traditionally a one-dimensional and isolated system managed by Human Resources.

Why is it so important?

CEOs now have a keen eye on how robust our PM systems really are and how closely linked they are to the overall business strategy.

Why is this? In the last 20 years or so, applied psychologists and professionals have been able to prove a direct link between people management and profitability.

Increasingly, many firms are moving toward rewarding development and innovation as there is now a realisation of just how important and influential employees can be to an organisation’s growth and ultimately its bottom line. PM systems are no longer a simple HR activity.

Subsequently millions of pounds have been invested into revamping organisation-wide PM approaches. The idea is if you invest in your people, you will gain a competitive edge, as well as benefit from increased profitability.

Updating your approach

In the past, most companies measured their employee’s performance based on their hard skills such as sales targets, volume of work etc. Generally any type of skill that could be tangibly measured and produced hard data. This was quite easy for line managers to appraise, you either met your targets or you didn’t. But now there is growing appreciation of soft skills and other less quantifiable behaviours and their role in performance.

It’s trickier to assess the more intangible or soft skills such as teamwork, cooperation and generally any trait that can be associated with Emotional Intelligence. How do we ensure that these skills are fairly and objectively appraised?

Although not as exact as the data produced by measuring hard skills, there are ways in which you can provide the most consistent and objective feedback possible as an appraiser:

360 degree feedback

Gaining feedback from the employee’s peers, customers, direct reports and superiors gives a well-rounded view of the individual and may provide valuable information on their competencies and soft skills and how they work.

Goal setting

Creating goals and milestones with the employee not only motivates them throughout the year but it is also a way to obtain data from the development of soft skills. For example, if there is a need to develop teamwork skills, you could create a goal with the employee to get involved with a least two team based projects a year. Linking some of these goals to the overall business strategy ensures that every person is ultimately working towards the same objectives.

Regular meetings throughout the year

Not only does this build a good rapport between you and your appraisee, it also increases their motivation to perform well. It is important to always ask them to send you the topics they would like to discuss in your meeting, as well as sharing yours. Having a combined agenda such as this brings structure and an appropriate level of expectation to the meeting.

Performance Appraisals and Performance Management systems in general are very complex yet desirable subjects to understand, especially by senior executives. As managers and appraisers, it is difficult to master the appraisal process. However, with increased self-awareness and consistency, along with some of the tips mentioned, you’ll not only make the process more efficient for you and your appraisee, but also hopefully more enjoyable!

MOOCs – The future of social learning?

A 2014 Future Workplaces survey found 70 per cent of HR professionals planned to integrate MOOCs into their learning programmes.

We now want information at our fingertips, on the go and catered to our busy schedules; so could MOOCs, a new form of social learning with a low delivery cost and high accessibility, be the answer?

Admittedly business has been slower than education to adopt MOOCs but we’re seeing them grow in popularity.

For example, if you use SAP globally then you may opt for Open Sap which helps learners adopt SAP through gamification and connecting learners with each other and SAP experts. Elsewhere, Google is training huge amounts of digital specialists with its online education courses. And MOOCs lead to real business results: McAfee saw large increases in sales after it put its employees through a MOOC on training for new employees.

What are MOOCs? 

Short for Massive Open Online Course, a MOOC has the capability to enrol large amounts of delegates, thousands even, onto a course and they are open online to anyone. It is essentially a semi-synchronous online classroom where the materials and assignments are posted on a general forum where you can learn at your own pace.

At the end of each week, next weeks’ materials and assignments are made available online. The trainer and fellow learners are available throughout the course to liaise with through forum-like discussions which also acts as a great platform to pose any questions and receive extra help.

What can MOOCs do for the corporate world?

Access and flexibility

MOOCs provide the flexibility needed in a fast paced environment as, let’s face it, many of us find it difficult to carve out a few hours in our work day for professional development.

Setting up a MOOC gives all employees access at any point in the day so they can work to their own schedules.

On a global scale, they provide consistency and accessibility to employees around the world and appeal to the masses. For example, they can be used to instil a particular process or accreditation globally.

Minimising costs and disruption

They involve minimal ongoing teaching expenses and cost the same to run no matter how many employees enrol. External courses may however charge but can still represent a more cost effective solution than classroom training as at the very least you are saving time and money on travel and potential accommodation.

Innovation and continuous improvement

The interactive element of MOOCs which connects people and drives conversation allows employees around the globe to share advice and ideas – it’s the two way communication between colleagues that can build skills and knowledge effectively.

Tracking and measurement

Progress can also be tracked in real time by the employer which is extremely valuable data and can be used for course improvements in identifying the sticking points for people in particular modules.

As with all learning MOOCs must be linked to strategic business objectives, but if well-chosen can have a very positive effect on the skills of a workforce and the market competitiveness of a business.

MOOCs are a step closer to giving the employee control of their own training in regards to where and when they learn. As corporations continue to globalise, social learning needs to follow suit and MOOCs are the easy choice when it comes to providing accessibility, consistency and flexibility for both the employer and the learner.