Improve Employee Skilling ROI With Immersive Learning

Fifteen years ago, families were sitting together to watch American Idol in their living rooms and Pirates of the Caribbean in the movie theaters. Then Netflix and Hulu launched streaming services, forever changing the way we watch and consume media.

Training is going through a similar shift from scheduled training events to a continuous learning paradigm. Companies are prioritizing upskilling and reskilling to adjust to this new normal and compete in today’s labor market but are still facing barriers in their efforts to train their employees. Lack of time, low employee interest, poor social connection and unclear ROI are some of the obstacles that can hinder an effective training program.

Effective immersive learning experiences can help bridge these gaps. A virtual reality (VR) game is one example, but 2-D experiences like simulations, scenarios and learning games can be immersive, too. Just like binge-worthy TV shows, they provide relatable stories and context that capture attention and imagination, so employees are less likely to be distracted and more likely to focus on the task at hand. HR leaders can increase interest in training by demonstrating how skills are relevant on the job and illuminating a clear path to advancement. Immersive learning also offers valuable opportunities for peer-to-peer connection and feedback loops that support continuous improvement.

Maximize Learning Time

Instead of listing facts or steps that must be memorized and are likely to be forgotten later, immersive learning delivers a real challenge that requires learners to apply new skills. It provides space to overcome common challenges and misconceptions that would otherwise cause disruptions on the job. The sights employees see and the mistakes they make along the way make the experience more memorable and easier to recall later. All of this results in more effective and relevant use of employees’ time and, ultimately, improved skills transfer and productivity.

Increase Interest In Training

Microlearning e-learning modules (quick learning moments) are an effective way to teach people on the job and in the flow of work, but all too often they are a monotonous “click next” experience that does not result in transferable knowledge and skills.

In contrast, you can create immersive learning experiences that engage learners every step of the way. To successfully advance in a simulation or scenario, employees have to think about what comes next and deal with the impact of their choices. Using new skills to overcome challenges gives them a sense of achievement and control. When employees see clear connections between training and the things they need to do on the job, they are more motivated to participate in training opportunities.

Build Social Connections

Think about a skill, from baking bread to building a bookshelf, that you learned from someone else. What did you gain from that experience? The 2022 Career Optimism Index found that a significant number of employees believe that it is important to talk or connect with people in the field they want to be in or personally know.

Immersive experiences open the door to these types of connections and provide the support that employees need so they do not start looking elsewhere. Virtual spaces create a sense of presence and can be used in tandem with chat or video conferencing tools to support synchronous teamwork and peer-to-peer mentoring. Group tasks or challenges, multiplayer puzzles and head-to-head mini-games are just some of the ways to bring people together in a learning community.

Provide An ROI Feedback Loop

Employees want to learn new skills and develop new expertise to be competitive. But what skills do they really need to be successful? Does your training support those skills, or does it only reflect your perceptions about what they need to know?

To answer these questions, you need to collect quality data and look at it through the right lens. Standard training and multiple-choice questions teach and test factual knowledge, which does not necessarily translate to job effectiveness. However, immersive questions and decision points reflect real-life job tasks and KPIs (key performance indicators). This not only supports more relevant learning and skills transfer but also generates rich analytics that you can use to identify and understand skill gaps.

Immersive learning can be a powerful tool for improving training programs. Simulations, scenarios and games maximize learning time, make training more relevant and collaborative, and can help you reflect on your investment and identify skill gaps. As you look for ways to incorporate immersive learning into your training program, start with a small virtual space or activity. For example, consider starting with a simulation of a common onboarding task, a scenario-based game that reinforces a critical skill or a cooperative puzzle with AR elements.

As you learn more about your employees’ preferences and become more adept at meeting these needs, you can build a more effective and immersive learning culture that attracts and retains a quality workforce.

First Published for Forbes Human Resources Council by The Game Agency’s Head of Creative Strategy & Innovation Stephen Baer as a member of Forbes Human Resources Council Member

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