Digital transformation of employee training and development

Head of the SharePoint Department

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Today, employee training is required to be less time-consuming, preferably delivered on-the-job and in small chunks, remain efficient and relevant to the current job responsibilities of a particular employee. Thus, employees can improve their knowledge and skills without hindering business continuity and decreasing productivity. And digital transformation of employee training and development (T&D) is the answer to these modern demands.

Short summary:


Digital transformation tools for employee training

Ways of implementing digital transformation of T&D

Various tools can be effectively used for digital transformation of employee T&D:

Learning management systems (LMS)

An LMS is the core element of digitalized employee training. LMSs support creating and delivering learning materials to trainees, organizing collaboration and communication between trainers and trainees, assessing training results, tracking progress, and more. They are mostly used in online training but are also suitable for hybrid learning that combines traditional classroom training and e-learning. While earlier LMSs used to focus on course administration, modern systems center on learners and effective distribution of learning content.

SharePoint-based LMSs can be a good example of learner-centered modern LMSs. They enable formal, informal, and social learning due to their collaboration, content and knowledge management capabilities. SharePoint LMSs provide a possibility to create reusable learning content within hours, deliver it on desktops and all types of mobile devices. As a result, employees may undergo training in their workplaces, at home and even on the go.

Mobile applications

Mobile applications serve as an additional element of digitalized training and extend the capabilities of LMSs. M-learning allows for 24/7 access to training materials from mobile devices. Thus, learning becomes available even for employees working at distant locations. Mobile apps can also be used at a post-training phase to brush up employees’ skills. For example, audio simulation apps can help employees practice communication with customers through simulations of real-life dialogues.

Extended reality technologies

There are also more advanced forms of digital transformation of employee training and development that can make learning experience immersive – extended reality (XR) technologies. These technologies are getting more widespread, despite high costs and time budget of creating and deploying 3D e-learning content throughout XR environments. XR includes virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) technologies. All of them offer advanced learning opportunities for employees, especially in such practice-focused industries as manufacturing and healthcare.

  • Virtual reality immerses users in a completely artificial digital environment.
  • Augmented reality projects virtual objects on the real-world environment.
  • Mixed reality is an intermediate technology between VR and AR. Just like AR, MR projects virtual objects on the real-world environment, and it also anchors virtual objects to the real world enabling users to interact with them.

Digital transformation of T&D in practice

Let’s see how digital transformation technologies change various types of employee training. We will analyze LMS-driven digital transformation by the example of a SharePoint LMS supported by other tools (mobile apps, XR).

Employee orientation & onboarding

Before digital transformation, all corporate documents including HR-related ones, such as hiring forms and onboarding training materials were scattered across different departments. Old and new versions, as well as paper and electronic copies of documents were in use at the same time, causing a mess.

With digital transformation, orientation and onboarding become easier, faster and more convenient. It enables creating a centralized storage for all corporate documents. Thus, all the papers a new employee might be looking for, such as information about the company and its policies, job responsibilities, etc. are always easy to find. What’s more, digital transformation makes filling in and signing hiring forms a completely electronic process. Besides, digital tools offer a step-by-step orientation guide with tips, tasks, scheduled meetings and other events right on their desktops.

LMS: LMSs can help new employees to get acquainted with the company. The SharePoint LMS allows creating employee profiles in a corporate intranet. The LMS can also give them access to a start guide on administrative procedures (computer logins, extension, email setups, etc.) and an introductory video with information about the company’s mission, values, corporate culture, policies, benefits, etc. To further facilitate the onboarding process, the LMS can simplify filling in new-hire forms due to using ready-made templates stored in SharePoint libraries.

The LMS can also provide creating and delivering to employees general learning content (health and safety training, human resources topics, etc.) and personalized content (on customer service, procurement, accounting, etc.) related to their jobs. Through tests and quizzes, SharePoint LMS can help to evaluate the new employee, determine their knowledge gaps, and map personal training plans for them, as well as define their aptitudes for different kinds of tasks.

Mobile apps: Just like LMSs, employee apps can store e-learning content and helpful information (interactive manuals, corporate policies, a contact list, etc.). They can help new employees to navigate the company office with interactive maps. Mobile apps often use gamification to increase employees’ engagement and motivation. For example, new hires can get awards for discovering certain locations in a large office. Some apps (for example, EmployeeConnect) support such onboarding features as an employee handbook, job description management, orientation training management, etc.

XR: MR can enhance employee training and onboarding, too. It enables viewing and interacting with 3D content, visualizing and manipulating data in real-time using headsets. For example, Microsoft SharePoint Spaces introduced at SharePoint Conference North America in May 2018 can offer 360-degree virtual welcome and orientation training to employees and help them learn the organizational structure with an interactive organization chart.

Self-learning, continuous learning & microlearning

Digital transformation enables trainees’ continuous access to all available learning materials, not restricting the learning process to a particular book or course. Having books, lessons and assessment tests on their desktops or mobile devices, trainees can learn and refresh their knowledge when needed. Digital transformation has brought to life microlearning – an ability to learn in small chunks using mobile devices.

LMS: LMSs give a new stimulus to self-learning, as they can provide open access to learning content for employees. With the SharePoint LMS, it’s easy to search, download, and track updates of the learning content and continue learning when needed. The SharePoint LMS is good for microlearning, as it allows for easy creating and delivering short lessons that summarize the main points of employee training.

Mobile apps: Mobile applications are good for learning on the go and self-checking of knowledge. They can contain additional e-learning content (videos, pictures, charts, diagrams, etc.) to support more comprehensive training materials, which will help learners to prepare for classroom sessions or workshops better. For example, the Skill Pill app allows providing short training videos covering customer service, management, sales and marketing, and other topics. Mobile apps are perfect for self-learning and microlearning, as they usually have engaging learning content like games, interactive videos, simulations of real-life scenarios, etc. to complement LMSs.

XR: These technologies are impractical for self-learning due to their high cost and limited availability for individual learners. However, they can add value to microlearning in the workplace due to providing immersive and interactive content.

Instructor-led trainings

Digital transformation makes instructor-led trainings available anywhere, at any time and for any number of trainees as compared to traditional classroom trainings due to applying various digital communication and collaboration tools. Besides, such advanced technologies as XR allow for employee training through simulations, which is as effective as hands-on learning but bears no risks, which is especially relevant for medical training.

LMS: LMSs can help to schedule in-house and external instructor-led trainings, deliver diverse learning content to trainees, arrange knowledge assessment, etc. The SharePoint LMS allows for automatic enrollment of employees in trainings through workflows and scheduling trainings, workshops, exams, etc. It supports creating and delivering various training content (documents, images, audio and video content), including incorporating multimedia (for example, recorded webinars) from other sites.  

The SharePoint LMS also allows trainees to complete assignments online and submit them for assessment. The SharePoint LMS co-authoring capability permits trainees to work on group projects not only in a classroom but also remotely. The SharePoint LMS allows employees to take tests and exams on the material learned. Also, the system can notify trainers and trainees about important events (exams, tests, meetings, etc.), can track trainees’ progress and make reports on training results. The SharePoint LMS enables employees to give post-training feedback on training programs and content and rate them. 

Mobile apps: Mobile apps can complement instructor-led trainings. Trainees can read e-books, as well as do quizzes on their mobile devices after studying a new topic. M-learning can also allow trainees to quickly connect with other trainees or an instructor when they have questions about the course, assignments, exams, etc. Mobile apps often offer gamification capabilities, such as scoreboards, certificates, and badges to award trainees for completing a topic, a course or passing a test, etc.  For example, the Habitica productivity app can award employees for completing training tasks with such in-game features as battle armor, magic skills or even quests. The Knowledge Arcade app allows assessing the course content through Tinder-like swiping.

XR: VR can help employees learn from simulations. For example, Walmart used VR simulations in instructor-led trainings. Employees with VR headsets on were tested in real-world scenarios, such as Black Friday sale. Thus, they were trained to interact with customers, address issues, etc. in a timely and professional manner. AR can improve employee practical training. For example, after attending a lecture on aircraft engine maintenance and repair, an employee has a practical lesson on repairing an aircraft engine under an instructor’s supervision. The trainee uses a tablet with installed AR software to scan a real aircraft engine that needs fixing. Then the tablet overlays digital images of the engine parts and repairing tips on the real engine. MR technology can be used in this case to create 3D holograms of the engine allowing the instructor to explain the engine’s structure in detail through the visualization of each component.

Mentoring

The traditional mentoring model lacks efficiency for a mentee and motivation for a mentor, as it’s usually an unrewarded but a very time-consuming task. Digital transformation saves a mentor’s time without decreasing the efficiency of the program. With rich reporting and analytics features of digital tools, a mentor can learn everything about a mentee in a matter of seconds: progress, the number of completed tasks, etc. Besides, digital communication tools enable mentees to contact mentors any time they need their help or advice. And using immersive technologies in mentoring makes mentees’ learning experiences more memorable and meaningful and, therefore, more effective.

LMS: LMSs can guide mentees and mentors through mentoring programs from enrollment to assessment. Besides automatic enrollment, the SharePoint LMS can offer automatic mentor matching based on a questionnaire about a mentee’s skills, personal features and areas of professional interest. The SharePoint LMS allows a mentor to schedule tasks, meetings, and other activities for a mentee.

The SharePoint LMS also provides a wide range of collaboration capabilities such as blogs, chats, discussion boards, etc. for quick and effective mentor-mentee communication, including informing a mentee about next steps in the program, giving mentoring tips, etc. The system can generate automatic reports about hours spent in the program, the mentee’s performance, focus topics covered, milestones achieved, etc. The SharePoint LMS can also help to get the mentee’s feedback on the program and the mentor through surveys.

Mobile apps: Mobile mentoring apps are mostly used for mentor-mentee communication. However, they can have more extensive functionality. For example, the myKnowledgeMentor app, besides offering 24/7 mentoring connectivity, provides activity dashboards & monitoring, rich engagement analytics, rapid knowledge surveys & audits, etc.

XR: Due to their practical focus, AR and MR technologies are very popular in healthcare mentoring programs. AR software can be used, for example, in training surgeons. Mentees can attend a surgery performed by a mentor where the mentor will show them the right place for an incision due to overlaying CT scans on a patient’s body. Mentors can also use MR software to visualize systems and organs of a human body in the form of holograms for mentees and enable them to manipulate these holograms using gestures. For example, mentees can ‘disassemble’ a holographic skull into constituent bones and study them separately.

It’s time to transform corporate training

It’s impossible to imagine modern employee training and development without leveraging technology. Digital transformation not only enables effective and fast cultivating and updating of employees’ skills and knowledge, it also facilitates employee retention. Besides, digital transformation tools encompass all the main training functionality from onboarding to self-learning and can be used independently (LMSs) or serve as valuable additions to employee training that can make learners’ experience even more engaging (mobile and XR technologies).

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