I am always curious to learn how companies are using technology to engage, inform, and upskill their employees. The tools and technologies that support workforce digitization are evolving at a rapid pace, with a focus on learning and development (L&D) staples, such as:
- Helping employees feel like they’re part of the company
- Guiding them around new physical and virtual spaces
- Immersing them in realistic scenarios (with safety nets)
- Providing feedback and continuous coaching
The applications that most interest me in this space are those that enable guided learning, immersive situations, and employee engagement strategies.
PROVIDING A LAYER OF GUIDANCE
Digital Adoption Platforms (DAP) are essentially guided learning technologies that provide in-application step-by-step guidance. They guide users through the functionality of an application, and provide immediate help if something is done wrong. Imagine having to navigate a new online client engagement system you’ve never seen before. With a DAP or guided learning technology layered on top of that new system, step-by-step directions are provided just-in-time. There is no need to leave the system and watch a tutorial, or try to find directions on page 36 of the user manual. This is all about “learning by doing.”
Iridize was my favorite player in this space. “Was” is the key word here, as it was acquired by Oracle University in 2018. Now a service of Oracle University, Oracle Guided Learning provides step-by-step guides for Oracle Cloud applications. You can access a library of existing guides or have personalized guides created to fit your specific organization.
WalkMe and Applearn are two of the top players in this space, with impressive client lists and product suites. If you have never experienced a guided learning solution, I recommend that you reach out to these folks for a demo.
The greatest benefit of these guided learning technologies is the ability to instantly help employees find their way around the systems they’ll be using every day, and point them in the right direction if they do something wrong.
PRACTICING REAL-LIFE SITUATIONS
The realm of immersive learning is expanding quickly with the advent of 3D, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) technologies. As the cost of developing scenario-based learning in this space drops, we see more simulation-based onboarding and service-centered learning technologies on the playing field. The purpose of these applications is to enable practice—more specifically, to upskill and build self-confidence.
Before diving into the VR side of things, consider the basic elements we would need to create a practice arena for hands-on, scaffolded learning in the performance improvement space. Audio? Video? Interaction? Feedback that can inform our interactions going forward? How about that safety net?
SymTrain takes an interesting approach to performance improvement. The technology enables learners to interact with video or audio characters, and provides instant feedback on learner attitude, connections made, and assistance provided.
In my book, SymTrain gets top marks on the development side based on the customization capabilities that are available. Yes, there is artificial intelligence (AI) driving in the background, but there are so many opportunities for human input to easily shape the design, development, and delivery of these immersive learning activities.
Heading over to the VR side, I am impressed by the way Pitchboy has integrated VR and AI to offer personalized sales and customer service learning. Compatible with every headset and available via Web VR, Pitchboy uses natural language processing to guide interactions between learners and characters within a 360° video scenario.
Your office or retail environment becomes the virtual setting for the learning experience. Learners talk and ask questions, and the AI in the background analyzes the input. Then algorithms determine the response that will come from other individuals programmed into the scenario. If learners go off-track, text and audio inputs guide them back to the focus of the scenario. Feedback can include personalization to help learners take a more pragmatic approach the next time they practice.
In these applications, we see learners gaining a sense of autonomy and realizing the potential of practice. And there is that safety net—the opportunity to fail, go back, and try again without penalty.
KEEPING AN EYE ON ENGAGEMENT
Employee engagement plays a key role in performance improvement. With hundreds or more tools and technologies out there that support digitizing the workforce, two catch my attention.
Beekeeper is a simple app that enables enterprise-wide communication and interaction, with a focus on connecting managers with front-line workers— specifically to bridge the chasm that typically exists between desk and non-desk workers. I like the simplicity and ease of use on the mobile app, and am impressed by the resource library and support team.
If employee engagement is what you’re after, look at 15Five. What caught my eye from the beginning was the simple question, “How are you feeling?” sitting up front on the dashboard.
Focused on providing continuous employee feedback, 15Five takes an appreciative inquiry approach to performance improvement. By communicating collaborative objectives and facilitating regular check-ins, 15Five enables individuals to work together to meet (and even challenge) set objectives. One of my favorite quotes from the 15Five team:
“What’s standing in the way of success is not a savvy competitor, it’s antiquated practices.”
SITES TO EXPLORE
Oracle Guided Learning
Special thanks to Oded Ilan, director of Global Business Development Guided Learning at Oracle; Dan McCann, CEO of SymTrain; and Homéric de Sarthe, CEO of Pitchboy, for sharing their insight and expertise.
Phylise Banner is a learning experience design consultant with more than 25 years of vision, action, and leadership experience in transformational learning and development approaches. A pioneer in online learning, she is an Adobe Education Leader, Certified Learning Environment Architect, STC Fellow, performance storyteller, avid angler, and private pilot.