What is a learning simulation?

Learning simulations are a valuable tool for organizations looking to develop their teams. Simulations allow learners to advance their skills in a controlled environment with the use of fictitious scenarios. Using simulations increases the engagement of learners, and also promotes critical thinking and problem-solving capabilities. Simulations can be used in various types of industries, across all departments, in order to provide people with the opportunity to learn and practice a wide variety of skills. 

What is a simulation?

Simulations place learners in lifelike scenarios that often lack clear-cut answers and enable the opportunity to experience the outcomes of choices without invoking real-world consequences. Flight simulations are a classic example, in which pilots can react to various weather, takeoff, and landing challenges. They can discover the consequences of a broad range of actions without literally crashing a plane. The simulation is programmed to react to pilots’ mistakes, allowing them to learn the appropriate and safest solutions to challenges that they are faced with in flight. When they’re later flying real planes, they’re better equipped to make split-second decisions and arrive safely at their destinations. Flight simulations give pilots the opportunity to gain confidence, experience, and knowledge without the cost or possible negative consequences of a real flight. 

Simulations are also commonly known for being used in medical practice, as well as armed forces and police departments. However, they can be applied more broadly than these high-profile examples. The same techniques used to simulate a medical emergency or hostage crisis can also be adapted to interpersonal conflict, leadership skills, and just about any other situation that involves critical thinking and decision making. Sometimes referred to as experiential learning, simulations can take many forms, such as role-play, games, and team-based experiences. A simulation can be equally effective in an in-person learning environment or remote. 

When can a simulation be used?

Organizations have been using simulations as a part of their training programs for decades. They can be a great opportunity for team-based learning across every department. Learning organizations find simulations to be very fitting for developing interpersonal and customer-focused skills. They’re often applied to leadership development, management, sales and marketing, and customer service. While a simulation can be used to teach a consistent process, they’re commonly used for situations with a lot of gray area, lacking clear-cut answers. Simulations can also be very powerful when a decision may have both positive and negative consequences, and they can show the ways that one choice with multiple facets has a wide-ranging impact.

For example, in a customer-focused training simulation, learners can see how their body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions affect their outcomes in customer interactions. What happens when you greet a customer with a friendly smile and welcoming tone of voice, as opposed to folded arms and a negative tone of voice? Rather than telling people to smile and be welcoming, the simulation gives them the opportunity to explore the possibilities and come to the desired conclusion without any real-world consequences of alienated customers. While this example seems like a black-and-white decision, the power of the simulation is that the learners must deal with the consequences of their choices. Can they rescue the customer interaction after a rude greeting? Might there be situations where an over-the-top greeting is actually off-putting to the customer? Simulations enable explorations of many possibilities.

Why use a simulation?

Simulations are used for a variety of purposes and have many benefits. They promote the use of critical thinking and problem-solving skills, both independently and as a team. Simulations force learners to think deeper, have thoughtful conversations, and be open to listening to others’ ideas and points of view because there are often no clear answers. In many cases, learners will be faced with issues that directly concern themselves, but also involve those around them and the organization as a whole. Learners need to be able to think for themselves, but also to be open to working through issues that arise with the help of others. 

Simulations have become a popular learning tool for organizations due to the fact that they allow people to learn from experience without the risk of wasted resources or lost customers. Working through complicated scenarios reduces the need to spend time in real-life situations figuring it out on the spot and learning from (costly) mistakes. These learning experiences can be done in a controlled environment, custom-designed specifically for the organization, desired outcomes, and learning department. 

Our ExperienceBUILDER™ simulation learning platform enables an equally effective experience whether teams are co-located, remote, or both. ExperienceBUILDER sims are custom-built or tailored to suit the needs of the organization, and the platform itself meets the needs of a hybrid workforce by facilitating team collaboration from anywhere. Learners work together on teams to impact such metrics as resolving conflict, allocating resources, increasing engagement, and developing their staff. Multiple teams can go head-to-head, seeing their performance against one another on a live leaderboard.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss how simulations could benefit your organization and the way in which your learners develop their skills. Our custom-designed learning programs have been producing notable business results from some of the leading worldwide organizations for over a decade. Contact us today to schedule a meeting. 

Four close connections between training and employee engagement

It’s no secret that training and employee engagement go hand in hand, and most leaders know that engagement is closely linked to retention. The effect appears across all levels of organizations, from the front-line workers all the way up to management and executive levels. Studies have shown that opportunities for development are a particularly strong driver of engagement for the Millennial generation, and employees who have access to development opportunities are anywhere from 15-20% more engaged than those without. 

Providing them the tools needed to advance their skills and create a more confident, skilled team is a crucial piece of the overall puzzle. Employees need to see how their work contributes to the overall vision of the company, and also have the skills needed to make an impact on progress toward organizational goals. Companies that have a practice of investing in learning and development for their employees see the impact of training on employee engagement that goes far beyond day-to-day involvement. In our work with the world’s leading organizations, we consistently see four ways that training and employee engagement are linked.

1. Training needs to nurture talent

People want to be employed by companies that create an environment for development, which can result in new skills that enable individuals to grow personally, professionally, and even financially as new capabilities lead to new opportunities. When employers take the time to invest and nurture the talent of their employees, they are increasing engagement, opportunity, and satisfaction. Sure, people need training for the specific tasks associated with their job roles. But to really have an impact on engagement over time, L&D needs to take a long-term view of talent development. Offer opportunities that encourage people to stretch and grow. Give individual contributors the chance to stand up and lead. People want to work for companies that are investing in the talent they already have on board.

Nurturing the talent of your team will also help to boost confidence, which can have a positive ripple effect for the whole organization. This is especially true with sales teams. The more confident the sales team is, the greater the chances are for closing deals—a win-win for both the employee and company.

2. Increase motivation with the right learning opportunities

Engaged employees are motivated to go beyond what’s required on the job, particularly when they can see a direct line between their roles and the overall mission of the organization. When companies invest in employees by providing development opportunities that are well-crafted and designed to meet real needs, it demonstrates that you value them as individuals. Knowing that they are valued and have opportunities will naturally give them the motivation to advance, both personally and as a team. 

Training that motivates people back on the job must address the very real needs and problems employees are facing. These can be interpersonal issues, struggles to collaborate in a remote environment, and even the distractions of life outside of work that are magnified in the home office. While training can’t necessarily address all of those challenges, it’s important to be able to empathize with what people are going through and consider those issues in learning design. Empathetic learning design is a technique that can help to overcome many motivational barriers.

3. Help to improve retention

People truly value the opportunity to advance their professional skills. In today’s job market, employee satisfaction and engagement are vital. In 2020, wages and participation in the shift to contract work grew by more than 33%, and that trend has continued since. People feel more empowered than they may have in the past, and they want to feel satisfied at work while also having the flexibility to accomplish other needs in their lives. In 2021, almost 60% of workers embarked on their own training programs to further their professional skills. What if you could identify the gap that existed in their workplaces and led them to seek professional development outside of work? Learning opportunities that enable employees to advance their careers help people to engage in their work and find opportunities for internal growth, reducing the need to look elsewhere.

4. Build team culture

Culture and engagement have a deep connection, and many leaders are newly focused on ways to build culture in a hybrid workforce. Employee engagement can be a strong indicator of a positive company culture. Company culture is reflected in how people work together, why and how people are motivated, and what opportunities they have. A culture that promotes engagement can lead to better performance when everyone is included and their contributions are valued. 

Our ExperienceBUILDERTM simulations give teams the opportunity to work through difficult situations together with no clear-cut answer. While everyone is working towards a common goal, differing opinions about how to get there open the opportunity for conversations. These simulations are particularly effective in a company culture that welcomes thoughtful conversations between team members with diverse backgrounds and experiences. 

Ongoing development of employees is key to thriving organizations. By developing employees, and especially leaders, you are offering the tools and opportunities people need to advance, giving them a feeling of value and motivation to do more. When employees are engaged in their work, the organization as a whole succeeds. The link between training and employee engagement offers learning leaders a significant opportunity to make a demonstrable impact on the business. If you’re ready to give your employees the opportunity for growth and increase engagement, contact us to schedule a consultation. We’re full of ideas about how to create training that engages employees. 

Listening from the Inside

What was a novel idea just a few short years ago has become one of the most popular services Blueline Simulations offers. It’s called the Voice of the Business – a five-step needs assessment that secures buy-in and commitment by mining insights from inside your business.

Yes, you read that right: from inside your business. In other words, from the hearts and minds of your most valuable asset: your employees. After all, who better to dish on the rights and the wrongs, the opportunities and the obstacles, the issues and the innuendos than those who experience the inner workings of your organization each and every day. Their viewpoint from the inside looking out is priceless – and free for the asking!

What is your organization’s greatest challenge?
Our client engagements always begin with a clearly identified business need. Do you need to:

Whether one of the needs listed above hits the nail on the head or you have a completely different issue in mind, Blueline’s Voice of the Business needs assessment can unlock and harness insights from inside your business in ways you never thought possible – putting you on the fast track to addressing that need. And although those insights are sometimes surprising and even unsettling at the outset, we’re committed to working with you to make them both empowering and transforming for the long haul.

In next week’s blog, I’ll outline the five-step process we use to ensure our Voice of the Business needs assessment leads to the transformative change your organization is looking for.

In the meantime, I invite you to contact us to learn more about any of our business acumen options, 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.

eSimulations: Are You Up to the Challenge?

In my last blog, I outlined the merits of eSimulations and explored some compelling reasons why recent advances have made them more effective than live role-play. In short, today’s eSimulations:

  • Can now contain hundreds (and in some cases thousands) of video-based nodes, meaning they can accurately reflect small changes in tone and language.
  • Deliver a consistent experience for every user, eliminate the variability inherent in a live human role-player and can be scored in such a way that they eliminate rater (coach) bias.
  • Provide significantly more practice opportunities than classroom-based live-role play.

So yes, it’s a great time to consider (or reconsider) bringing eSimulations into your training and development curriculum. Blueline Simulations would be proud to partner with you to find the perfect fit for your organization.

Look before you leap

What if this all sounds good, but your organization isn’t quite ready to make the leap all the way into “intelligent” eSimulations? That’s where Management Challenge™ comes in.

Management Challenge™ offers many of the same benefits in a hybrid solution that utilizes technology to enhance the live role-player experience. It delivers a role-play with the consistency of experience of a well-designed eSimulation that’s responsive to managers in the age of social media and engagement… yet doesn’t sacrifice the individualized feedback and coaching of a live classroom.mgmt-challenge-questions

Working in table teams, learners are quickly drawn into a computer-based simulation in which they must run a fictional organization for three consecutive quarters. They compete to deliver the highest return on human resources by identifying, motivating, coaching and developing talent.

Along the way, they face realistic challenges such as:

  • How do I allocate my resources most effectively across multiple projects?
  • How do I increase employee engagement?
  • How do I handle conflict among coworkers?
  • How do I develop my people – both through assignments and through coaching?

Management Challenge™ delivers a vivid learning experience that parallels the real experiences faced by every manager you know.

I invite you to contact us to learn 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.

eSimulations: Has Live Role-Play Met Its Match?

It’s a common belief that, for all of their plusses, the big minus with eSimulations is their inability to discern nonverbal communication. And with research showing the significant role tone of voice and body language play in human communication, that’s a very big minus.esims-more-effective

Recent advances, however, have changed that. In fact, for many applications, today’s eSimulations are more effective than live role-play on every level. Here are a couple of reasons why:

  • Level 4 eSimulations (using a rules-based gaming engine) are extremely realistic. Now that developers can create hundreds (and in some cases thousands) of video-based nodes, eSimulations can accurately reflect small changes in tone and body language. Throw in the use of voice recognition, and you have an unparalleled user experience!
  • eSimulations deliver a consistent experience for every user. Notice that I didn’t say the same That wouldn’t be accurate because, in theory, depending on the number of nodes, hundreds could face the same choices and have the same opportunities, but because of the decisions they make, have a completely unique experience. eSimulations eliminate the variability inherent in a live human role-player and can be scored in such a way that they eliminate rater (coach) bias as well.
  • eSimulations can provide significantly more practice opportunities than classroom-based live-role play. For each live role-play, you need to engage two people and optimally three, who often then rotate roles. In the same or less time, all three people could accomplish three rounds of practice each, and probably more, through eSimulation.

That said, eSimulations still aren’t for everyone – primarily because of price. While development costs have dropped dramatically as developers have improved processes and tools, the relative value of this technology is still dictated by the volume of users who can benefit. While some off-the-shelf solutions can serve small numbers of users cost effectively, custom applications typically need an audience of 100 or more users to be cost effective.

I invite you to contact us to learn 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.