L&D leaders are unlocking new corporate value using experiential learning tools
According to Gartner/CEB research, companies spend upwards of $145 billion USD every year on employee training, with less than 50% of these programs paying off in a measurable way and only 10% of organizations ranking themselves as having a productive learning culture.
But getting it right can pay off in big and measurable ways: companies that implement an effective learning culture see 1.4% in higher revenues and 3.2% higher profits.
That’s a lot of incentive for Learning and Development (L&D) leaders to explore the latest tools available to engage, train, and empower employees to perform optimally, grow their careers and stay loyal in a competitive business environment. Like brand leaders, L&D is also competing for mindshare: CEB research shows that 79% of learning is coming from non-L&D sources.
In complement to traditional learning and training modules, a host of scenario-based experiential learning tools have come down in cost and gone up in quality, bringing disruption to the L&D marketplace and representing billions in potential business value in the coming years.
Faced with an opportunity to make that big of an impact on the business, we’re seeing L&D professionals evaluating and implementing augmented reality, virtual reality and similar experiential training content at a rapid pace.
In industries as diverse as energy, software, automotive and construction, these new learning techniques are creating improved learning cultures that touch many aspects of the business, from retail employees to sales, safety and risk management and product development.
Here are some examples of some of the latest techniques:
- Multiplayer VR experiences: group activities involving tablets, multi-touch screens and headsets that ask employees to work together and/or alone to work through scenario-based modules. By consulting one another, answering quizzes and earning points for performance, group VR avoids the siloing effect of solo VR experiences and gets employees working collaboratively while engaging with content
- Augmented Reality visualization: tablet, smartphone and headset-based AR digital overlays on the world around the employee, creating interactive digital stories that enable education whenever/wherever an employee happens to be, while also allowing trainers to present from a stage or podium in powerful new visual ways
- Measurement & ROI: behind the training experience is a host of new measurement tools, from simple dashboards that show L&D leaders some basic metrics on overall use and impact of a new experiential learning program to individual user-level data to track an employee’s educational path with real metrics.
What to Do About It
Virtual reality and similar tools have been around in the L&D market for a few years now, but it’s only recently that the technology has become simple, portable, smart and cost-effective enough to make a sound business case in addition to the obvious use case.
For instance, Walmart’s recent announcement that it would make VR an essential part of training for retail employees as well as vetting for promotions signalled to L&D experts that the cost-benefit calculation of these new tools is shifting from experimentation to actual investment.
With those kinds of examples in mind, L&D leaders and others are getting started by looking at gaps in their existing systems and content performance to see if experiential learning is a good fit for their organization and culture.
Once that has been confirmed, training modules aimed at specific employee needs should be defined, performance KPIs and other metrics devised and a team from IT, marketing/content/design and other internal stakeholders brought in to validate the strategy.
Working with internal teams and external vendors with the right creative storytelling and software/hardware expertise, most projects take a few months to design, produce and roll out to select early audiences before widespread distribution.
Related activities include syncing these platform’s measurement data to any existing L&D management software in place and discovering other use cases, ranging from sales kick offs and trade shows to innovation centers and briefing programs.
Certainly research and experimentation to date indicates that experiential learning has the potential to unlock tremendous business value in the form of better performing and committed employees. As our 2020 and even 2021 L&D strategies come into focus, it’s likely that VR, AR and other immersive content will play a large role in transforming business learning.