Technology tools bring training to life

By April 1, 2021 No Comments

Dave Johnson, Phylmar newsletter editor

For years, corporate learning has failed the employee, according to The reasons are many: 

  • training often takes a back seat to anything that directly supports the business; 
  • a lack of interest from workers who fail to see the value or benefits of training courses to their personal success; 
  • limited budgets and resources;
  • employees can’t absorb day(s)-long training workshops; 
  • a lack of follow-up after training to reinforce desired behaviors;
  • selecting the wrong technology tools for training needs.

Jennifer Lastra, CEO of 360immersive sees that many companies have maintained an outdated culture-of-compliance mindset, where employees are trained to meet the basic compliance standards. Most companies set goals with the intention of zero injuries and fatalities in the workplace but are discouraged with the inability to reach those goals. The adage of doing the same thing and expecting different results applies to this thinking. When budgets are as tight as project deadlines, many companies resort back to “checking the box” type of compliance training.  This decision typically creates a disconnect between the desired state of no injuries, and a lack of commitment to invest in total worker health. The result is a safety culture that inadvertently devalues training, and leaves employee desires unmet.

For many companies, traditional instructor-led training and eLearning is often geared toward the same compliance driven objective. It can be tedious for both the trainer and the learner. Most trainers are desperate to find affordable training aids that can be easily deployed to meet the needs of the 4 generations currently in the workplace.  With different learning styles, demands for mobile learning-on-demand, and shrinking budgets, many are doing the best they can with the resources they have. They want training to be engaging, memorable and impactful. Their ability to meet the demands of today’s learners are the key foundation required to build and sustain a strong company culture. Choosing the best training aids can be a daunting task especially when considering new technology. 

“There’s an opportunity to enhance traditional training methods with new tools that allow learners to access training that is personalized for their industry and skill level. Some learners want more than just the basics. They want something to make them pause and think. Others want to feel invested in by their employer, or to learn how to confidently advocate for their own personal safety,” Lastra explained. It is critical for employers to not only understand, but to also take decisive action to beef up their training programs especially in industries that experience labor shortages and high turnover rates. 

So how can companies improve their training programs in a cost effective manner? One approach is to focus on where the gaps or differences are in traditional training versus real life experience on the job.  This can be accomplished by supplementing existing instructor-led or e-learning courses with tools that help learners become visually and emotionally literate.  

For the learner it is first about taking responsibility for their personal wellbeing by paying attention to what is happening in their everyday lives. Do they believe their environment is safe or unsafe? Has something changed recently regarding new equipment, weather conditions, or personnel? Second, it is the ability to ask themselves questions like: “Are my thoughts and attitude positive, or am I distracted, or having anxious feelings? Do my co-workers trust me, or do I believe I have the tools necessary to perform my job safely?” Fully understanding your surroundings (visual literacy) and then being able to understand what is happening in your body and your beliefs (mindfulness) are not traditionally taught.  

This is where the right technology, in this case virtual reality (VR), can fill these training gaps and begin driving serious injuries and fatalities to zero occurrences.

“VR is not what people think it is,” Lastra says. “It’s just another tool, a more memorable and impactful tool, but it’s just another tool.” She acknowledges that there are three major barriers for most companies to overcome before they can begin experimenting with the technology. They are affordability, scalability, and customization. Lastra’s team has addressed these challenges by developing training tools and creating “VR for the Masses”®.

VR combines the benefits of gaming and entertainment with scenario based, microlearning to create the most interactive, emotionally engaging experience capable of capturing the attention of any learner. Imagine interacting with a computer-generated simulation of a dangerous event that could never be recreated in a traditional training environment. Combining creative storytelling with immersive imagery, we can create a mirror image of any work environment, and that alone leaves a lasting impression.

The learner gets a new way to visualize what personal safety feels like. VR offers them a cutting-edge opportunity to consume content and bring training topics to life. It is all about self-exploration. It is individualistic and personalized.  The learner says, “Let me figure it out and interact within the simulated environment.” Any lack of interest quickly disappears. “I wish the training session would go on longer.”  How often do trainers ever hear that?

“VR allows us to recreate any environment, it could be a warehouse, construction site, or a manufacturing facility. The personalization of VR using a headset is an immersive, experiential experience. For example, with the VR headset you feel like you are inside a hazmat suit. You see the hood, you feel it, and the audio allows the learner to hear the heart rate increase. It’s hot. It’s constricting. In this scenario there is a repercussion to the learner’s decision. It’s impactful.” Lastra explains.

Not all VR simulations require a headset. Many can be interacted with via a traditional computer, keyboard, and a mouse.  The experiences can also be deployed on most mobile devices.  This allows flexibility for different learning styles, and different tools for the trainer to utilize whenever and however they fit into their virtual or instructor-led trainings. 

Mark Katchen, managing director of The Phylmar Group, envisions the possibility of dropping “snippets” into Phylmar Academy courses. “Training moves from passive to active. We want active training, it’s engaging and interactive. There are lots of possibilities here,” he says.

Phylmar Academy director Cass Ben-Levi expands on the possibilities:

“Adults learn best from doing, and VR or simulation is the next best thing to hands-on. In fact, in some situations it might be better.”  

“For example, in a hazard identification exercise, you can show a person perched precariously on a ladder when you would not ask a real person to be in such jeopardy.  In other training you can have the trainees respond correctly or incorrectly to emergencies, such as arc flash or earthquakes, or anticipate them before they occur. You can give interactive facility tours. You can show a manager how to observe worker activities on a shop floor.  Is this person using a machine with a broken machine guard? Does this male worker seem to be angrily hovering over a female worker?  You can have them practice using meters, measuring devices, and other equipment.  The possibilities are virtually limitless.”

Note: Watch for news of a webinar coming in May featuring Jen Lastra of 360immserve and 

Access to VR training is beginning to expand from deep-pocket corporations investing in six-figure pilot projects to small companies who can affordably purchase off the shelf training.  The technological divide is becoming less of an obstacle as the distribution of immersive training aids such as VR reaches companies who previously thought the technology was too expensive and difficult to integrate. 

VR increases mindfulness, communication, and personal advocacy. It is a lifesaving training tool. It is a complementary tool that any organization, regardless of budget, should and can have access to.

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