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5 strategies to upskill your workforce in 2022

As society, culture, and technology evolve, working professionals need to adapt, reskill, and upskill to remain relevant and keep up with current workplace trends. A 2021 report from Gartner found that 58% of the workforce will need new skills to do their current jobs successfully. This isn’t a surprise. As far back as 2016, the World Economic Forum estimated that 65% of children entering primary school will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.

Driven by technological advances, business model changes from the pandemic, and new attitudes towards work, many organizations now need to identify and train for skill gaps within their current workforces. To address this need, companies are pursuing ambitious talent agendas that involve reskilling and upskilling existing talent to support the future organization. 

In addition, a lack of opportunities for advancement was one of the top reasons Americans quit their jobs last year, and 65% of workers refer to employer-provided upskilling when evaluating a potential new job. With an increase in employees seeking development opportunities, effective learning programs have become a key differentiator in a competitive talent market. 

What is upskilling?

Upskilling employees means bringing the skills and expertise of your current employees up to date with emerging trends and requirements. 

Benefits of upskilling employees

  • Employee retention: Upskilling your employees can make them feel empowered and encouraged, which can help to discourage turnover.
  • Employee engagement: When employees learn more skills, they’re likely to be motivated to put them into practice and engage with their work.  
  • Employee satisfaction: The opportunity to upskill can lead to higher employee fulfillment and improved performance.
  • Fill skill gaps from within: It’s more cost-effective to invest in your current employees’ skills than to recruit new employees.
  • Attract new talent: Become an attractive employer by offering ongoing opportunities for employee development. 
  • Build a competitive advantage: Strengthen your company’s position in the market by upskilling employees with relevant skills. 

With these benefits in mind, here are 5 strategies to upskill your workforce in 2022:

1. Emphasize skills training in onboarding programs 

New workers may come into the organization with skill gaps, so it’s important to focus on a formal onboarding program that becomes a competitive advantage. Blueline delivered an award-winning, simulation-based onboarding experience at the legendary consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. The Booz Allen employee onboarding program took the form of a branded, phased, 12-month series of events designed to help new hires learn new skills, engage with the organization, feel comfortable joining their teams, and internalize the firm’s culture and core values.

Watch this video to learn more about the Booz Allen approach to comprehensive employee onboarding. 

2. Identify upskilling needs

Most employees can benefit from some form of upskilling, but to see the highest return on your investment, you’ll need to identify priority areas and skills based on your company’s goals and vision, as well as your employees’ personal growth objectives. Blueline’s Voice of the Business process mines insights from inside the business, allowing you to gain a clear picture of where employees feel under-skilled and how you can best support them. 

3. Train for people leadership skills 

Remember that upskilling doesn’t only involve learning new technical or process-based skills. In the new hybrid workplace, specialized interpersonal skills are in high demand. The pandemic also brought employees’ mental wellbeing to the forefront, which means that training for empathy has taken on a new level of meaning and priority. People skills like empathy, communication, teamwork, and problem-solving apply to almost any job, so it’s important to equip leaders and individual contributors with the people skills they need to succeed in the workforce. 

4. Make learning enjoyable 

There’s a proven link between employee engagement and knowledge retention, which is why any upskilling program should be an enjoyable experience for the learner. This is where good learning design comes into play. Instead of subjecting learners to passively observing PowerPoint-based presentations, learning experiences should be immersive and engaging. Blueline’s ExperienceBUILDERTM digital design and delivery platform provides an interactive environment for teams of learners to collaborate and engage in discovery-learning experiences that enhance skill acquisition and application. 

5. Prioritize hybrid learning for the hybrid workforce

Today’s workforce has become increasingly geographically dispersed, with plenty of organizations announcing a switch to a permanent hybrid or remote model. When it comes to delivering upskilling training, organizations need to cater fairly to those who are unable or prefer not to be on-site. To avoid proximity bias and promote inclusivity, it’s essential to use online and hybrid learning platforms that transcend delivery mode for your upskilling training. 

An example of an upskilling strategy in action 

One of our clients was faced with the challenge of having very few people who could access, manipulate, and analyze all of the data owned by the organization. We partnered with the company to elevate its organizational performance and distinguish itself from the competition by democratizing the use of data at all levels. This involved upskilling all employees by advancing their data skills so that they would be empowered to use data to their advantage. 

To upskill the workforce with data analytics skills, we created several simulations that modeled the data sets and questions employees should be able to access and answer independently. Designed and delivered through Blueline’s ExperienceBUILDERTM digital platform, each simulation was made up of progressively more challenging scenarios carefully crafted to develop employees’ skills and confidence to use data and analytics to respond to business questions. 

Change is the only constant 

To remain competitive in this fast-paced marketplace, your organization needs to be equipped to adapt to rapid change. Upskilling is essential amid the modern business world’s ever-changing processes, technologies, and organizational goals. The pressure to constantly learn new skills can be overwhelming for both employer and employee, which is why organizations choose to partner with Blueline. Contact us to learn more about how we can create and implement an upskilling program to create a competitive advantage for your business.  

Redefining career development in 2022

In the new world of work, many professionals feel conflicted or confused when it comes to growth, their futures, and what career development really means. Many motivated professionals have taken career development into their own hands by hopping from job to job in order to gain skills and experience, and many have been compensated handsomely for their efforts. There’s a distinct disconnect between the traditional picture of career success (defined by position and promotions) and today’s morphing, expanding definition of careers and career development. 

We’ve seen this uncertainty play out through the Great Resignation and the Great Reshuffle, leaving employers wondering how to deal with employee dissatisfaction and hold on to their workforces. What we know now is that promotions and positions aren’t the entirety of career development. Instead, it’s time for a mindset shift in how we evaluate career development and the impact it can have on employee satisfaction.

Why the change? 

Even before the pandemic, organizations were experiencing significant flux in their workforces. Then, COVID came, and employees began to reconsider their relationships with work in parallel with other societal and paradigm shifts. The following is a brief summary of some of the common topics in professional circles over the past couple of years:

  • Employees of younger generations may not identify personally with their work or specific roles.
  • The experience economy, in which experiences drive greater happiness than objects, has been seeping into the workplace.
  • Employees want jobs that do more than just pay the bills.
  • Promotions are not as plentiful with increasingly linear org charts.
  • The ability for employees to work remotely has widened the talent pool.
  • A significant portion of the workforce is comprised of contractors and contingency workers.
  • The gig economy is changing employee expectations and behavior.
  • Employees expect, and even demand, more choice and flexibility.

Given these profound changes, a new definition and approach is needed for career development satisfaction and success. The good news is that many of the firms successfully recruiting talent in today’s workplace offer a wide range of opportunities beyond, between, and beside promotions and role changes. With the right training tools, employees can reskill, upskill, and take on new challenges that contribute to their career development and fulfillment. And it’s not only the employee that stands to gain—World Economic Forum research shows that wide-scale investment in reskilling and upskilling has the potential to boost GDP by $6.5 trillion by 2030. 

L&D can work closely with HR in the career development space

Where the promotions process has typically been managed by HR, the L&D function now has an important role to play in facilitating career development by providing tools for employees to learn on the job and chart their own career paths. Ongoing education can help employees think about their own careers and provide expansive learning opportunities that increase their skills and scope. Technology-based learning experiences can be used to train leaders to provide career coaching and counseling—which is what Blueline did for one well-known global company. 

The company’s goal was to attract, develop, and retain top talent by ensuring they were introducing career planning processes and tools that would maximize the right opportunities for the individual and the business—fairly, consistently, and transparently. The company needed help figuring out how to keep people motivated, fully engaged, and growing as they progressed in their careers through an equitable and empowering assessment and coaching process.

To do this, the company implemented technology that assessed individual employee motivations and likelihood of success as a leader. Everyone in the organization who wanted to be considered for leadership had the opportunity to be evaluated. But what if the assessment determined that an individual didn’t have the aptitude or for other reasons wasn’t eligible? What if people chose not to take the assessment, even if the company wanted them to? Blueline needed to help leaders navigate tricky conversations and ensure the right people were filling the leadership pipeline. 

Our solution was to develop an immersive, scenario-based simulation to help supervisors develop the skills and confidence necessary for effective pre-and post- talent assessment development planning conversations with employees. Equipping supervisors with these skills helped them to reframe career development beyond outdated expectations and better align with today’s dynamic, employee-centric environment. 

Embracing alternative avenues for development 

If organizations continue to equate career development with promotions, they’ll only perpetuate the expectation that growing means going somewhere—which includes going to another company! On the other hand, by reframing career coaching conversations in the context of learning and development, organizations can adopt a more inclusive and fulfilling approach that helps every employee plan for careers that maximize individual engagement and satisfaction. 

Is your organization adopting an integrated, transparent approach to career planning, performance management, compensation, and skill development? We can help.  

Contact the learning experts at Blueline Simulations. 

Is the metaverse the next dimension of L&D?

The new world of work is here, and organizations are exploring how to engage a new workforce and improve employee experiences. As many businesses start implementing social and learning interactions in virtual environments, mentions of the metaverse are entering the conversation. Is the metaverse the next dimension for L&D? Although it could hold great potential, the answer is that we don’t quite know enough yet.

What is the metaverse?

You’ll be forgiven for being unclear on what that metaverse actually is. Because the metaverse is still being built, nailing down a definition right now is comparable to defining the internet in the 1970s—the internet existed, but no one knew what would eventually become of it. To help you understand the vague and complex concept of the metaverse, replace the phrase “the metaverse” in a sentence with “cyberspace”. Most of the time, the meaning won’t change substantially. Like the term cyberspace, the metaverse doesn’t really refer to one specific type of technology, but rather a digital construct.

Many experts see the metaverse as a 3D model of the internet—a hybrid digital paradigm that further blends the physical and digital worlds. In this new world, digital objects are used to represent real people, places, concepts, and situations. It’s basically a place parallel to the physical world where you spend your digital life and interact with others through avatars.

Did you know? 

The term “metaverse” was announced in 1992 in the Science fiction novel “Snow Crash” by the American writer Neal Stephenson. The novel revolves around humans interacting with each other in Avatar form in a three-dimensional virtual world.

Some metaverse pros and cons

In its current iteration, the metaverse has many pros and cons. Here are some that have come up in our conversations with clients and industry partners.

Pros of the metaverse today

  • Connecting the world and negating physical distance
  • Immersive experiences
  • Better online social interactions 
  • Social media upgrades 
  • New business opportunities
  • Potential to disrupt many forms of online learning and education

Cons of the metaverse today

  • Lack of clarity about what it is and how to use it
  • Cybercrime vulnerabilities and privacy issues
  • Losing connection with time and the physical world
  • Virtual bullying
  • Lack of moderation, rules, standards, and laws
  • Connection and hardware issues
  • Hardware requirements to participate widen gaps between the haves and have-nots
  • Ecological impact of high electricity usage

What might the metaverse mean for L&D professionals?

L&D leaders are often champions of the need to explore new ideas, thoughts, and paradigms—which makes applications of the metaverse to L&D very fertile ground. When virtual and augmented realities are more widely available, it will be fascinating to watch as metaverse technology makes it possible for people to push the boundaries of their physical limitations and immerse themselves in new paradigms of learning. We already know that virtual reality (VR) has a significant role to play in L&D. The metaverse has the potential to bring all our current learning practices (physical classrooms, e-learning, and virtual learning) into a single platform, further bridging the gap between virtual and real experiences.

For now, keep an open mind, as only time will tell. The entire concept is still in its infancy.

Learning for the here and now 

The metaverse today is still at an exploratory stage when it comes to large-scale learning deployment. However, large technology companies are already launching tools and products, such as Microsoft Mesh, that use mixed reality applications to enable shared presence and experiences. In the short term, we’re expecting some trial and error, and a “wait and watch” approach for many organizations, as it’s still unclear whether the metaverse will become the way of the world or a flash in the pan.

If you’re looking for a solution that can deliver on much of the promise of the potential metaverse (engagement, full immersion, gamification, fun while learning deeply, team-driven social learning, etc.), we have a solution available now that’s already proven its readiness for prime time. Blueline’s ExperienceBUILDERTM digital design and delivery platform immerses small teams of learners around the world in realistic simulations that allow them to practice their skills as they would use them on the job. It delivers meaningful, real-world experiences, while remaining scalable in terms of accessibility, practicality, and cost. Contact us to learn about collaborative and interactive learning solutions delivered to the hybrid workforce.

The problem with PowerPoint-based training 

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many trainers and training companies to transition their in-person workshops into the virtual space, which meant giving up many of their go-to tools. Bereft of flip charts, colored markers, and the magic of human interaction, they turned to PowerPoint slides and talking-head presentations delivered via pre-recorded video or a live feed. Many are leveraging breakout rooms and virtual whiteboards, but they’re still not engaging learners enough to prevent the dreaded zone-out that happens when audio is muted and cameras are off.

The new world of work necessitates remote learning. But with minimal facilitator training and the limitations of synchronous virtual course design resources and tools, training can feel impersonal and learners isolated. As a result, its effectiveness is greatly diminished. The initial phase of “make it work” is securely in the past. With virtual and hybrid work arrangements showing up as the clear future for many organizations, it’s time for trainers to provide immersive development experiences designed from the ground up for a geographically dispersed audience.

All point, no power? 

Even before the acceleration of synchronous virtual learning, many trainers considered the ubiquitous slide deck a non-negotiable. The slides were there with relevant information, but they generally provided a background visual and served as a tool to help remind the facilitator of key talking points. In an on-site setting, this type of learning has its limitations; take it to the virtual space, and it really falls flat. Slides lose their effectiveness in the online world because they become the star player (taking up the full screen view) instead of playing a supporting role to the trainer.

Think about what happens when a trainer becomes a disembodied voice-over. It typically takes just 10-15 seconds for people to read a PowerPoint slide. What happens next? Their eyes certainly aren’t going to stay glued on an inanimate visual, so they start to wander—to TikTok, the daily Wordle puzzle, their emails—anything that isn’t the PowerPoint.

Talking heads are a pain in the brain 

Then there’s the “talking head” (facilitator) who supplements PowerPoint slides by speaking directly into a webcam or recording a video tightly focused on his or her face. This format means that the vast majority of information delivered in a corporate training video or workshop is auditory, which takes a heavy toll on the learner’s cognitive load.

Cognitive load is an important consideration in instructional design, and it provides significant evidence explaining why traditional talking-head corporate training is both taxing and ineffective. Cognitive load refers to how much of our working memory resource (the part of our memory where we store information for short periods of time while we work with it) is taken up by a task. 

Research has found that our working memories have a very limited capacity. In order to get people to learn more, it’s important to pay attention to instructional design that reduces cognitive load by engaging the learner in novel ways (i.e. not PowerPoints delivered by talking-head trainers). The combination of talking-head video and PowerPoint involves the learner taking in written and/or spoken words; it takes significant mental effort to translate these words into rich visuals and scenes that enable the learner to contextualize the information into the job environment. And with little-to-no opportunity for practice, exploration, or iteration, these learning tactics often fail to make a significant impact on employee performance.

Simply put, L&D teams should not expect traditional employee training solutions to solve the latest problems and work for hybrid teams. Effective learner training that drives enhanced employee performance in the hybrid working world requires new resources and tools that enable disruptive learning designs. 

Effective remote learning design tips

Make it interactive

Watching a lengthy PowerPoint-based virtual delivery can strain attention and inadvertently cause learners to check out. Make the experience more interesting and help learners stay active and engaged by using synchronous activities, question and answer sessions, learning simulations, and live feedback. Present learners with realistic, challenging dilemmas that don’t have a single right answer so they are forced to engage with one another, dig into the content, share experiences, and tease out best practices and common mistakes—all of which drive interaction and engagement. 

Use a team-driven model 

By leveraging the strengths and experiences of all team members, team-driven learning is well-equipped to develop skills more effectively than traditional talking-head formats, PowerPoint presentations, or e-learning experiences. Immersing and engaging hybrid and remote teams of learners in team-based learning experiences transforms the way that businesses build new knowledge and skills, and results in better learning outcomes. 

Incorporate gamification

Integrating game elements into non-game activities has been shown to maximize engagement and motivation. Using gamification tactics (such as point systems, leaderboards, and other game-based elements) challenges learners to apply newly acquired information in both familiar and novel situations, rewarding correct application, and correcting mistakes in real-time.

Put it in context

Creating real-world scenarios enables learners to contextualize information, think deeply about potential issues, and practice applying their new skills. Simulations and practice environments should mimic on-the-job applications as much as possible, using enterprise metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure success. There’s significant value to be achieved in providing learners with a safe place to experiment in various contextual situations, determine the value of what they’ve learned, fail forward, and iterate to modify their approaches.

How to bridge the gap between employee training and desired on-the-job performance

Designing remote learning courses and pathways to development that improve learning experiences and outcomes requires a new approach. This was the inspiration for Blueline’s ExperienceBUILDERTM, the digital design and delivery platform that provides an interactive environment for teams of learners to collaborate to solve real-world problems. The platform’s powerful simulations are created by Blueline’s team of front-end alignment consultants, simulation designers, and digital producers, who know how to leverage synchronous, team-driven, discovery-learning experiences to facilitate business transformation. 

Contact the learning experts at Blueline Simulations to learn more about our hybrid training and engagement solutions.

Can VR develop soft skills in a meaningful way?

In the post-pandemic context, developing soft skills such as teamwork, communication, conflict resolution, and leadership has become more important than ever. But according to Harvard Business Review, 59% of hiring managers and 89% of executives surveyed reported having difficulty recruiting candidates with the requisite soft skills. An added complexity is remote working, which is making it even more difficult for people to develop soft skills. One of the ways businesses are helping their people develop these vital skills is by using virtual reality (VR).

Before we evaluate the effectiveness of VR in developing soft skills, it’s important to define what it is. According to Merriam Webster, virtual reality is: “an artificial environment which is experienced through sensory stimuli (such as sights and sounds) provided by a computer and in which one’s actions partially determine what happens in the environment.” 

Another simple definition from Wikipedia: “VR is a simulated experience that can be similar to or completely different from the real world.”

In a previous blog post, we spoke about the VR continuum, where we explained how VR doesn’t necessarily mean donning a special headset; rather, VR can refer to a range of immersive experiences along a continuum, as the definitions above suggest. We’ll get back to the continuum later in this post; for now, keep in mind that VR ≠ headset.

VR effectiveness in action 

VR learning experienced in 3D, using headsets, has been proven to be highly valuable for training in high-risk jobs, such as training surgeons and workers on offshore oil platforms. However, training for soft skills in 3D using VR headsets hasn’t been as widely adopted. PwC recently conducted an experiment (using headset technology) to test whether VR would be as effective for soft skills training, and whether it has advantages over traditional classroom or e-learning methods 

Selected employees from a group of new managers took the same training in one of the three following settings: classroom, e-learning, or v-learning (VR). Here are some of the insights they gleaned when comparing the results from the different settings.

V-learners: 

  • Saw 40% improvement in confidence compared to classroom learners 
  • Were 35% more likely than e-learners to act on what they learned after training
  • Completed training 4x faster than classroom learners
  • Felt 3.75x more emotionally connected to the content than classroom learners and 2.3x more connected than e-learners
  • Were 4x more focused during training than their e-learning peers, and 1.5x more focused than their classroom colleagues (in large part because the immersive VR experience made it easier for learners to stay focused)

So, where’s the sweet spot for soft skills? 

Soft skills have typically been learned through interactions with clients, colleagues, and other stakeholders. Even before the migration to hybrid or remote working, training employees’ soft skills has always been challenging. Diverse individuals behave differently in similar situations, so a one-size-fits-all approach (such as traditional e-learning) isn’t very effective. 

On the other hand, the opportunity to practice these skills in a virtual environment allows for highly customizable training that results in better outcomes, which can also reflect the uniqueness of an organization’s models and processes. Unlike traditional e-learning solutions, VR learning enables immersive, interactive, and impactful experiences—without the potential risks of real-world consequences. By practicing different business scenarios in a realistic way, learners are more prepared when facing similar situations in the workplace.

But do you need to experience it in 3D, via a fancy headset, to reap the benefits of v-learning? Not necessarily. Let’s go back to the continuum. The basic premise is that as the level of immersion increases, so does the cost of the exercise, making upper-end continuum tech (such as VR headsets that render virtual environments in three dimensions) less accessible and scalable than experiences on the lower end of the continuum, such as branching exercises. We believe that effective, sustainable VR learning is all about finding the sweet spot of immersion and scalability. 

While using a VR headset allows for a highly immersive experience, it limits the scalability and level of customization of the training. Does your organization have the time and resources it takes to develop v-learning software in three dimensions? Can your organization afford enough headsets? How will remote staff access them? How much cost will be added to ship headsets between training sites? Does the software (or video) reflect your organization’s unique context? 

Blueline’s ExperienceBUILDERTM was conceived to design and deliver simulations that hit the sweet spot between immersion and scalability. ExperienceBUILDER simulations offer effective, highly immersive learning experiences without the cost and logistical hurdles associated with both traditional in-person training and headset learning. Most (if not all) of your employees already have access to mobile or desktop devices, which means that already have what they need to experience synchronous, team-driven discovery learning in a hybrid working environment. Workplaces that are adapting to the hybrid world have driven a resurgence in e-learning—but as the PwC study shared above shows, organizations could offer development opportunities that are so much more effective and engaging than traditional classroom and e-learning, even with geographically dispersed teams. 

Regardless of location, device, or language, ExperienceBUILDER immerses small teams of learners around the world in realistic simulations that allow them to practice their skills as they would use them on the job. The key to the success of soft skills training is relevance to an organization’s unique models and processes. ExperienceBUILDERdelivers on this by incorporating immersive and engaging collaborative learning activities custom-designed for your organization’s needs.

Contact the learning experts at Blueline Simulations to discover how we’re enabling the next generation of workers to cultivate the soft skills they’ll need to succeed in your organization.