Custom Design

Sexy tech isn’t a panacea for training the hybrid workforce

The future of work is here. Buzzwords abound: Web 3.0, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR, if you’re really with it), Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things, machine learning, the metaverse…the list goes on. Along with it comes the need for new approaches to hybrid workforce training.

No matter the words scattered across your LinkedIn news feed, the world of work has changed, and a new world of work necessitates a new approach to skill development. Today’s learning and development (L&D) professionals are required to keep pace as business needs shift, but there’s more to modern skill development than signing up for the sexiest tech solutions. 

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), the jobs of 1 billion people (almost one-third of all jobs worldwide) will be transformed by technology by 2030. To remain relevant and competitive and keep up with current workplace trends, L&D professionals need to make it their mission to help working professionals adapt, reskill, and upskill. Yet many companies are stuck on outdated learning modalities that fail to effect real behavior change in the hybrid working world. So, does the answer to today’s L&D lie in new learning technologies? It depends. Technology in all its forms is a key element in addressing global talent challenges, but it’s not the silver bullet some would believe it to be. There’s no doubt that technology enables L&D professionals to impact learning outcomes at scale and with speed, but it’s not without its potential pitfalls. 

The global education technology market size was valued at $106.46 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 16.5% from 2022 to 2030. Learning technology has become big business, and L&D professionals are presented with slick sells from thousands of vendors, platforms, and options: virtual reality, wearables, robotics, the metaverse, artificial intelligence (AI), mobile learning, and more. 

The critical caveat is that learning technologies can fall short of their promises if they aren’t strategically designed, implemented, and managed. 

Questions to ask when evaluating L&D technology for hybrid workforce training

  • Can it be customized to serve your desired outcomes?
  • What does it help learners do?
  • How will the costs affect your ROLI? 
  • How scalable is the solution?
  • Can it be delivered just as effectively to on-site and off-site learners? 
  • Does it work regardless of location, device, or language?
  • How engaging is the content and delivery? 
  • Is it easy and intuitive to use?

How corporate L&D professionals should look to leverage hybrid workforce training technology

Understand the need 

First of all, stop chasing the latest cool toys. The most effective solutions are the solutions that are effective for YOU. Even when a learning technology has a strong use case, a poor needs analysis can lead to missed expectations and disappointed stakeholders, so start by understanding what you are solving for, as well as the root cause of the problem. Blueline uses our Voice of the Business process to mine insights from inside your business to help you understand your greatest challenges and training needs. Once you know the pain point you need to (and reasonably can) solve, you’ll be better positioned to ensure that the tech matches the need.

In many cases, standard off-the-shelf interventions and implementations that tout a one-size-fits-all approach rarely address your business’ specific learning needs. Because every organization has a unique set of issues and challenges, customized solutions generally beat off-the-shelf and e-learning programs and courses for achieving most strategic business outcomes.

Evaluate potential return on investment 

As with all learning initiatives, return on learning investment (ROLI) is always a key consideration. In previous blog posts, we’ve spoken about how immersive learning technology exists along a continuum, and how it’s important to identify the sweet spot between immersion and scalability—having every learner don a special headset may make a significant dent on the budget, but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee the best possible learning outcomes.

Choose sound learning design over flashy gimmicks 

The key to effective learning experiences isn’t just about the technology; it also requires solid learning design. The successful delivery of future-fit learning programs requires the right technologies that enable highly immersive and engaging synchronous learning experiences to teams of learners. This can take the form of custom learning simulations that deliver relevant and contextual learning content. 

The team-driven simulations powered by Blueline’s ExperienceBUILDERTM digital design and delivery platform are custom-built to suit the needs of the hybrid workforce. Balancing scalability and cost, ExperienceBUILDER delivers highly immersive and engaging synchronous learning experiences. The team-based learning model is designed to keep hybrid and remote teams of learners communicating and collaborating as they build new skills for the modern world of work. Contact us for a demo to see how the ExperienceBUILDER platform is helping some of the world’s leading global companies adapt and thrive in today’s dynamic environment.

Why team-based learning transforms the business better than off-the-shelf or curated resources

Customized, team-based learning beats off-the-shelf for business transformation

So, you’ve curated a library of e-learning courses and off-the-shelf content—now what? Are you noticing behavior changes in your people after they complete these courses? We’ve spoken to many senior HR executives who see the benefit of e-learning and off-the-shelf products in certain circumstances, but they also know the limitations of those tools. To address specific objectives, learning leaders are using customized team-based learning (TBL) experiences to ensure application, foster collaboration, and achieve the best outcomes.

When should I consider e-learning?

E-learning shines when it is used as just-in-time performance support to introduce concepts and teach knowledge. It also works well to train learners on specific, repetitive processes. The majority of e-learning falls short when it comes to applying new skills and changing learner behavior. When we include e-learning in an initiative, it’s used in a supporting role to ensure learners are equipped with common knowledge before embarking on the more transformational components of the training.

When should I consider off-the-shelf learning content?

Off-the-shelf content can save time and money for small groups of learners, particularly if there’s a compressed timeframe for delivery. Many new vendors have entered this space in the past five years, often offering discrete training modules branded as microlearning. These enable companies to have a library of training about specific topics at the ready.

There is a time and place for off-the-shelf learning programs—they can offer significant cost savings when applied to clearly defined topics with straightforward objectives. But you need to think bigger when you have business transformation goals in mind.

Choose team-based learning for a truly immersive and transformative experience 

For many employee training programs and business transformation initiatives, custom, team-based learning (TBL) experiences are the only effective solution. 

To explain how custom TBL beats off-the-shelf and e-learning programs and courses for most strategic business outcomes, we’ll unpack how the TBL approach helped one of the world’s leading insurance companies replicate the success of Google’s highly touted management transformation initiative, which was code-named Project Oxygen.

Custom learning addressed specific challenges in the organization 

Among other HR issues, the large insurance company was dealing with an inconsistent promotion process, leaving employees unhappy in their career paths and unsure of what to do about it. The company was also hiring from outside to fill key roles, which was more expensive and time-consuming than promoting internally.

The company’s goal was to attract, develop, and retain top talent by linking individual skill development, career progressions, performance management, and compensation in a transparent process. 

To accomplish these objectives, the company was rolling out a new set of tools and introducing a new set of leader standards (competencies) that loosely followed the Project Oxygen competency model developed by Google. Our role was to bring these skills and tools to life so that employees could practice applying them in a safe environment. 

Together, we identified the most common challenges that leaders faced, as well as what good and bad looked like in those situations. We also hypothesized how the new performance management and promotions processes would be received, what could go wrong, and how to mitigate those risks. This discovery process enabled us to develop a tailored learning solution to help the company deal with their specific challenges. 

The Outcome: Learning that maximized ROI through higher knowledge retention and application 

We created an immersive learning experience to build the specific skills leaders needed to create high-performing teams in the company’s unique environment. Using real-life scenarios, teams of learners had to make difficult choices that impacted two competing objectives: growing employee engagement and driving business results. A well-designed TBL simulation helps learners stay connected to the right choices and outcomes using a set of custom scoring metrics and a live leaderboard. This specific, predictable feedback enables learners to fail forward and learn from their mistakes. Gamification techniques, including, random events, competition on a live leaderboard, and long-term impact of choices, created a whole new level of learner engagement and knowledge retention. 

The program was rolled out to over 1,000 leaders throughout North America using team-based training. It’s well-established that people learn better in a team environment. Sure, similar learning content could be modeled in e-learning, and a single person with a specific experience set could make their own choices as they work through the content. However, bringing people together through TBL assimilates their diverse perspectives and unique expertise. This allows learners to broaden their perspectives, learn how to engage in a team environment, develop their emotional intelligence, and tease out the best possible solutions as a team. In the process, the bonds between team members grow stronger, helping them to translate their learning back to the job.

Learners at the company loved the experience, and the senior sponsors were thrilled with the passion it inspired among leaders at all levels.

Ready to move off the shelf? 

Blueline’s ExperienceBUILDERTM simulations are custom-built to suit the needs of the organization. The platform also meets the needs of a hybrid workforce by facilitating team collaboration from anywhere. Learners work together in teams to impact key business metrics, and multiple teams can go head-to-head on a live leaderboard. In this experiential, immersive training, learners are active participants who come away with company-specific skills and strategies to apply right away. 

Contact the learning experts at Blueline Simulations. We’ll build a transformative, collaborative, team-based immersive learning experience that delivers on your unique learning objectives. 

What is team-based learning?

Greater workforce efficiency and productivity, higher employee morale, improved employee retention, and increased innovation are just a few of the many benefits of good teamwork in the workplace. This is no secret to business leaders and managers, but what may be new to some is the value of team-based learning in the corporate world. 

Team-based learning (TBL) is a collaborative learning and teaching strategy that was first popularized in the 1970s by Larry Michaelsen, a Professor Emeritus of Management at the University of Oklahoma. Similar to problem-based and case-based learning, TBL presents teams with complex problems rooted in real-world situations.

Team-based learning was initially developed as an educational strategy for academic settings. By engaging students with the kinds of scenarios they will encounter in the working world, TBL is intended to enhance critical thinking and active learning. It has been incorporated into Masters in Business Administration (MBA) curricula for the last decade, and MBA programs using a team-based approach have unlocked enormous potential by allowing diverse students to collaborate and learn about different viewpoints and working styles.

While the team-based learning approach has seen wide adoption in the educational sphere, more and more businesses are realizing the value of TBL for a wide range of corporate learning objectives. As the global pandemic forced employees out of the office and into virtual environments, the need for new forms of collaboration and organization has highlighted the importance of ongoing team-based development opportunities. 

Team-based discovery learning is here to stay (yes, even for the hybrid workforce), and it’s time for the corporate world to catch up. 

Key characteristics of team-based learning

The team-based learning approach in business satisfies three important criteria that promote optimal learning:

  1. Learners are immersed in a practical, ongoing activity
  2. Learning is multi-directional, with feedback from other learners and the instructor
  3. Learning is functional and based on a real problem

It is through this process of reflection and collaboration that learners are able to engage and become active participants in their own learning. 

New skills require a new approach

The World Economic Forum identified the top 15 skills needed for 2025 in its “The Future of Jobs”report:

  1. Analytical thinking and innovation
  2. Active learning and learning strategies
  3. Complex problem-solving
  4. Critical thinking and analysis
  5. Creativity, originality, and initiative
  6. Leadership and social influence
  7. Technology use, monitoring, and control
  8. Technology design and programming
  9. Resilience, stress tolerance, and flexibility
  10. Reasoning, problem-solving, and ideation
  11. Emotional intelligence
  12. Troubleshooting and user experience
  13. Service orientation
  14. Systems analysis and evaluation 
  15. Persuasion and negotiation

By leveraging the strengths and experiences of all team members, team-based learning is well-equipped to develop many of these skills more effectively than traditional instructor driven formats, or individual learning experiences.

Another key advantage of TBL is the benefit of team brainstorming, which increases the number of possible ideas to solve a problem. While an individual may see a problem from a limited number of perspectives, a team is able to increase the quality of deliverables and hone critical skills through divergent thinking. When a learning team is comprised of individuals who work together in a business unit, enhanced team rapport and collaboration capabilities is a natural offshoot of any team-based learning experience.

The challenges of team-based learning

The backbone of the entire team-based learning approach is the creation of effective team exercises. In practice, this can also be its greatest challenge.

Michaelsen et al. (2004) indicate that a well-conceived TBL exercise should:

  • Promote a high level of individual accountability
  • Motivate vigorous discussion
  • Present teams with a set of specific choices that requires the use of course concepts to arrive at a decision
  • Prompt individual thinking, which contributes to intense intra-team discussion
  • Encourage individual accountability
  • Promote closer physical proximity during the team discussion
  • Promote a high level of interaction and discussion within the team

To achieve these objectives, team-based learning activities need to present a careful choice of problems and scenarios to help reveal common misconceptions and promote lively interaction and debate among team members.

The other challenge is one of proximity. A team must be able to interact freely in a safe space where all team members are engaged and attentive. The best way to create such a space has been on many learning leaders’ minds over the past two years, but in truth global teams have been figuring out how to best work together long before the onset of the pandemic. The rise of stable tech platforms that enable remote collaboration is one significant factor. Today’s conversation has less to do with the tech itself and more to do with ways to engage geographically dispersed team members.

Effective team-driven exercises for the hybrid workforce

Effective team-driven discovery learning requires a thorough understanding of the requirements and desired outcomes. Blueline’s ExperienceBUILDERTM platform delivers immersive learning experiences that are custom-designed to address a specific organization’s needs. The end result: a richer and more relevant learning experience in a team environment. 

Our ExperienceBUILDER digital design platform takes the team-based learning methodology to the next level by presenting learners with complex challenges based on real-world dilemmas. Learners work in teams to consider important concepts, determine critical variables, and anticipate potential impact on a combination of business metrics to make a collective decision. These simulations offer multiple paths and no clear-cut right or wrong answers, which means that learners must engage in deep discussions and vigorous debate to move forward. 

By immersing and engaging hybrid and remote teams of learners in team-based learning experiences, ExperienceBUILDER is transforming the way that businesses build new knowledge and skills.

Would you like to learn more about how team-driven discovery learning can support your business objectives for the hybrid workforce? Contact us to schedule a consultation. 

Is an Off-the-Shelf Simulation on Target with Your Needs?

My last blog made the case for simulation being a uniquely effective way to both immerse and engage your learners for maximum adoption and retention. I outlined the types of simulation and discussed how they can be used to:blueline-solutions2

  • apply knowledge, skills and behaviors in context
  • deliver just-in-time, just enough performance support
  • assess needs and pinpoint skill deficiencies

Yet for all of their plusses and performance points, the objections I hear most often are around development time and investment associated with custom simulations. Despite the fact that the time and expense associated with developing these immersive learning designs have shrunk through the use of innovative new technologies, there are still many scenarios where time and cost can be barriers.

Notice I said can be. But contrary to popular belief, they certainly don’t have to be.

Off-the-Shelf Options
Before you dismiss simulation as a viable training solution in your organization, I challenge you to weigh your options with off-the-shelf offerings proven to build enthusiasm and maximize retention across a broad range of competencies.

Blueline Simulations offers a number of off-the-shelf simulation experiences on topics ranging from sales and marketing to leadership development, business acumen to innovation. These time-tested offerings have been the catalyst for learning and development in leading organizations for many years without the costs typically associated with custom development.

We’ve simplified the process of choosing the simulation that aligns with your needs by creating matrices of our offerings across the categories. I invite you to take a look at our sales and marketing, leadership development and business literacy product matrices to help determine whether the magic of these simulations’ discovery and experiential learning methods is what you’re looking for in your organization.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll address three more critical questions to ask yourself to determine whether simulation is right for you. In the meantime, I invite you to contact us to learn more about any of our custom classroom simulations, Blueline Blueprint™ learning visuals or other innovative delivery methods that have been generating notable business results in leading organizations worldwide for more than 14 years.

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A Lesson in Learning from Experience

Few of us have been spared the monotonous training program replete with what seems like a million text-dense PowerPoint slides and a talking head in front of the room “teaching” us. I don’t know about you, but I can’t say I ever learned much – if anything – from that type of training.bl-may2016

As noted training expert Bob Pike so deftly put it: “If telling was teaching, we’d all be geniuses by now.”

The good news is that training departments across the country have taken note and are taking the turn to experiential, immersive training – where learners are active participants in the training and come away with solid skills and strategies they’re eager to take back to the office and apply right away.

In other words, they’re creating and delivering the kind of learning that works.

Content revamped

At Blueline Simulations, we don’t believe you should have to start at square one when going from “instructor led” to “experiential and immersive.” After all, the heart of the issue is seldom the training program content; rather, it’s how the content is delivered.

Through simulation, narrative, game mechanics and more, we transform existing content from our client partners into rich experiential learning events informed by the latest research on adult learning theory – both in the classroom and virtually.

We also have been known to take it up a notch or two for a fully immersive approach where learners step away from the office and into a broader world dense with learning opportunities.

How does a trip to Disney World, Starbucks or an Apple store sound? We’re talking about whole-body, fully kinesthetic learning in which learners are plunged into worlds dissimilar from their own… all for the purpose of unearthing big ideas that can transform their own businesses. The insights clients have gleaned from these experiences have been described as “revolutionary.”

Next week, we’ll take a closer look at these “full immersion” learning events and draw out some principles that will enable you to begin considering your own.

In the meantime, I invite you to contact us to learn more about any of our custom classroom simulations, Blueline Blueprint™ learning visuals or other innovative delivery methods that have been generating notable business results in leading organizations worldwide for more than 13 years.