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HUMAN RESOURCES- AR Meets HR: How Augmented Reality Can Strengthen Learning & Development- B-AIM

Augmented Reality (AR) has the ability to deliver immersive experiences that have a powerful and practical impact on the minds of those who interact with it. As the technology becomes increasingly normalized within our society, so too have the problem solving, business-driven applications of it, driven by both the innovation of brands and businesses, alongside the development of more powerful and accessible AR toolkits. A major arena for continuing innovation is that of learning, training, and development. Each year, HR departments are investing thousands of dollars in creating effective training programs for both new and existing employees, with AR proving itself to be a new, cutting edge tool for innovative L&D professionals that has lasting positive effects upon workplace learning and retention.

The Power of Immersion

When it comes to AR, it’s certainly more than just a fun experience - transcending one-off novelty applications, with scientific research demonstrating the medium’s impact on the level of learning and retention that occurs when applied to employee training.

Data shows us that learning is significantly enhanced through immersion and active engagement - two of the core tenants of AR. This has come to light from ‘Layered’, a first-of-its-kind report that explores user behavior within AR experiences and the future implications for businesses. The report was compiled by our expert team at Zappar in collaboration with Neuro-Insight and Mindshare UK, with a key finding that AR has the ability to drive nearly double the levels of visual attention in our brains compared to that of traditional visual mediums, such as browsing websites or watching television. This is largely attributed to the inherent “surprise” response that AR generates in audiences, which in turn is extremely effective at triggering our brains to retain knowledge. The headline from this research was that our brains experience a 70% higher rate of encoding information to long-term memory from an AR experience as opposed to a non-AR experience - meaning higher memory retention and fascinating possibilities for L&D applications.

AR’s Real-World Applications in L&D

With this data in mind, it’s exciting to see how widely the applications of AR can vary in a business. Here are just some of the ways we’ve been seeing innovative learning professionals integrate AR into their employee offering:

Onboarding - Onboarding is critical to ensuring new employees are given the most effective introduction to their new working environment. Of course, the quality of onboarding has lasting effects on both retention and the business itself, particularly in terms of making speed to competency as efficient as possible. As such, businesses have gradually been utilizing AR to reinvigorate the often all too familiar onboarding process - turning to immersive experiences to make them more engaging and memorable. In addition to creating a strong first impression, it’s empowered teams to re-purpose their existing printed materials to minimize waste, turning physical assets into portals which new employees can access with the device most important to them - their smartphone.

Simulated Interaction - Sometimes the toughest part about a job that involves direct interaction with customers is being able to prepare confidently for difficult scenarios on the shop floor. AR empowers employees to simulate common customer interactions directly in the context of their work area using their smartphone - particularly with AR’s ability to leverage interactive alpha video content without the potentially awkward baggage of employee-to-employee roleplays. By being able to replay and repeat realistic scenarios at their own pace, it enables employees to develop their confidence for the real thing.

Supporting Specialized Positions - Factory workers and production line employees often have unique jobs that are highly specialized that require significant hands-on experience. AR is enhancing training for these roles by providing a high level of process visualization that can reduce risk and increase confidence in the employee. By adding a digital layer of guidance directly to the equipment they will be using daily, AR experiences mean employees can increase competency in context without the associated risks.

A Slice of AR

Papa Murphy’s Pizza recently illustrated a fantastic and creative implementation of AR in the form of an interactive training program. The company added scannable codes to posters in key training spots around fifteen of their stores. New employees were instructed to scan the codes in-store to advance through the various stages of training, giving them valuable video content to interact with directly in the environment they would be working in. The program was considered a success by the business, demonstrating a positive way to engage an otherwise potentially disinterested workforce. Practical training doesn’t need to be monotonous - and it goes to show that sometimes leveraging an employee’s mobile device can act as an aid to development rather than as a hindrance to employee training.

1Getting Started is Easier Than You Think

The number one reason why companies miss the opportunity to invest in AR often has little to do with cost or complexity - particularly with more comprehensive and intuitive toolkits on the market and a growing selection of creative professionals equipped to deliver immersive experiences. More often, it stems from a misconception of how relatively straightforward setting up an AR campaign can actually be. When in doubt, there are several points that a company should align itself to when considering if AR is right for their L&D program:

  • Seriously consider the context of the use case, who will be interacting with the AR, and what will be used as a display device. Is it practical for employees to use their own devices or will you need to provide them? Is their appropriate mobile data or wi-fi available for the experience you wish to deliver?

  • AR has never been a magic bullet - as with other training mediums, it’s all about creating high quality, engaging content for employees. Spend the appropriate amount of time in establishing an intuitive user experience that is genuinely valuable for employees.

  • Create a framework that can be built upon, scaled up, and efficiently updated from the very beginning. A key positive impact of AR is that codes that trigger experiences can be updated through the air, meaning that with minimal adjustments, your experiences can be updated as your training criteria evolves,

  • Consider having a dedicated project lead to ensure everything is running smoothly. Particularly in businesses less familiar with immersive experiences and their impact on workplace learning, it’s important to have a ‘champion’ within the business who knows the benefits, is enthusiastic about making an impact and knows how to communicate the positives of AR on learning outcomes to budget holders and colleagues alike to achieve broad buy-in.

At the end of the day, these are the key factors that are going to determine the success of your L&D program. It really comes down to putting yourself in the seat of who will be engaging with the program the most. Newer technology does not have to mean getting more complex. Most of the time, a simple, effective solution is the best - one which is rooted deeply in practical application. As with any other method for assisting with workplace learning, ask yourself - is this an experience that I would be engaged by? Does this add value to the training experiences we previously offered? Will a new employee be able to engage with this quickly and intuitively.

Investing the time into understanding what AR is capable of and looking closely at its practical applications can yield exceptional results in the world of L&D. The learning that is inherent to an AR experience makes it among the best mediums to convey information in a business setting, fusing tried and tested methodologies with a valuable layer of fun and interactivity that employees will genuinely learn from. Moreover, AR is here to stay - intrepid companies are already experiencing the benefits of bolstering their workforce’s learning with immersive experiences. And as we move into an era where procuring or creating such experiences are more accessible than ever, HR departments of all sizes finally have the chance to jump in.

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