Can technology help redefine skills development?

20th September by Lee Robertson

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Technology was already being integrated into our ways of working before the pandemic struck, but what about our ways of learning and developing? In the digital age, how can tech help change the nature of how we learn for the better?

Learning and development trends during the pandemic

The CIPD’s Learning and Skills at Work Survey 2021 in partnership with Accenture, provides a comprehensive snapshot of what has been happening to the provision of learning and development during the Covid-19 crisis.

Highlighting a significant reduction in the traditional L&D organisational metrics related to resourcing and investment, around a third of organisations reported a decrease in budgets, L&D headcount and use of external consultants. It also found that three quarters of organisations have had to change their learning and development strategy and that only 18 per cent of businesses believe that investment and resourcing will return to pre-pandemic levels.

Importantly, the survey reveals that although 51 per cent of organisations are using webinars and virtual classrooms, take up of emerging technologies such as chatbots, VR and AR animations or games is largely unchanged. This data implies that many organisations have still not thought through how to digitalise learning in a blended way to get the best from different delivery methods.

Embracing digital opportunities – tech helps boost engagement and psychological safety

Many employers face a quandary when it comes to how best to reskill or upskill their talent and to do so in a way which is not only cost effective, but scalable too. How can employers ensure that they are filling the critical skills gaps they face and upgrading their employees’ capabilities to meet the organisation’s future skills needs?

In recent analysis, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) set out to find how virtual reality (VR) would measure up as training tool for new managers in developing soft skills. Comparing classroom training, e-learning and VR, PwC discovered that those who took a VR course about inclusive leadership learned more, spent less time in training and were more confident in applying their learning. Emotional connection to the course topics was also higher with three-quarters of learners surveyed saying that during the VR course on diversity and inclusion, they had a wake-up-call moment and realised that they were not as inclusive as they thought they were.

PwC also concluded that virtual reality may be the best place to practice difficult conversations at work. The group of new managers were able to try out the new skills in an immersive, low stress environment and grew their confidence in being able to deal with tricky situations such as giving negative feedback because they felt psychologically safe.  The learners who trained with VR were up to 275% more confident to act on what they learned after training - a 40% improvement over classroom and 35% improvement over e-learning.

Like its virtual reality bedfellow, gamification is beginning to make its presence felt in the field of corporate training. Simulation gamification combines training with gamification and mixes people analytics with behavioural science. This form of training is also shown to have a lasting impact on a person’s ability to learn and retain information and it also makes training fun.

Gamification training can increase engagement because it is better at holding the user’s attention for longer and can be 40% more effective in increasing employees’ ability to learn new skills. When the learner is focused, they are more likely to absorb and retain the information they are presented with.

Gamified training is also designed to put the learner visually and mentally in a situation where they are encouraged to problem solve or try out new ways of communicating with colleagues. It also removes the risk and stigma of getting things wrong as learners find effective solutions through practice and trial and error and receive feedback on where skills gaps lie or the areas that might need a little improvement.

As Moira Halliday, director of programmes at the AoEC says: “Technologies like AI, gamification and machine learning are hugely transformative for the training industry. Our confidence is extremely high in the benefits this technology can bring to learners and we will soon be launching a new programme which uses gamified simulation training to make coaching skills even more accessible to employees at all levels. When incorporated into a blended learning strategy, these technologies have the huge and immediate potential to add real context, depth, relevance and rich personalisation to the learning experience for employees.”