Using Augmented Reality to Upskill the WorkforceWritten by JC Gonzalez
Using Augmented Reality to upskill your workforce is a relatively inexpensive and accessible strategy to adopt. A 2019 survey of employees across various industries, including HR staff, found that most employers and employees realized work was becoming digital first and that people needed upskilling. And this was before COVID upended every industry.
Most companies may understand the value of upskilling their employees. Unfortunately, many struggle to find engaging ways of doing so without spending more money than they can afford. The beauty of augmented reality (AR) is that most employees in the United States already have access to the technology.
As a result, getting an AR training program can be both easy to launch and easy for employees to understand. AR technology improves employee upskilling experience in several ways. That is why the industry is expected to reach $198 billion by 2025.
We’ll look at the benefits of AR along with some of the challenges your company should know. You will also find examples of companies already using AR training. This will help determine if using AR to upskill your employees is the right solution for your organization.
Why Companies Must Look to New Ways of Upskilling the Workforce
Training Must Evolve
There were times when all people trained on the job, creating hazardous situations in dangerous industries. In service industries, on-the-job training could lead to lost customers. Businesses realized training had to begin before employees were in the field.
We went from on-the-field training to training with manuals and in-person, trainer-led sessions. Later, we moved to digital training on computers and internet-based training. All along, the toughest thing about training has been engagement and tracking.
Employees Have More Options
It’s impossible to ignore the reality of the Great Resignation. Employees today are better equipped with what they want out of their daily place of work. And unlike previous generations, happiness at work does not focus on the pay employees take home.
Employees today care more about the company culture, its values, and how it improves society or the environment. They also look for training experiences that help them grow. In 2021, a record 4.3 million Americans left their job.
If your employees believe they can do better, they will look for options and leave when they find them. Your business is then left in a cycle of rehiring and retraining personnel.
Instead of doing constant onboarding, consider a solid upskilling program using modern technology. It could earn the trust and loyalty of your workforce.
Why AR Could be the Right Solution
Virtual Reality, or VR, gets all the attention when it comes to innovation and its place in the future of our society. Chances are the very concept of VR is one you’ve grown up with while AR can feel like a recent technological development. In actuality, the concept of AR dates back to the 60s.
With the rise of dialogue around the metaverse and the projection of VR’s evolution into the next decade, not everyone is prepared to adopt the technology. While larger companies plunge into VR, smaller businesses may conceive they do not have the budget.
AR Requires Less Hardware Commitment
Many of us have already experienced AR at a consumer level and have the technology in our pockets. You can invest in an app or use an existing training platform and have employees train using their phones. As your training program matures, you can invest in tablets or even head-worn screens.
AR Requires Less Training than VR
Here at Edstutia, we meet with individuals and organizations who have never been in a VR space. If the majority of your workforce falls in that category, starting with AR may be a way of starting that eventual transition.
Most of us have already interfaced with AR technology, perhaps without even realizing it. 56% of shoppers surveyed by NielsenIQ said that AR gives them more confidence about the quality of a product. And 61% said they prefer to shop with retailers that offer AR experiences.
You may have used your phone’s screen to guide you on a walk to a new restaurant or virtually tried on an outfit before buying it. You may even have a few employees who’ve been in a car equipped with an AR dashboard.
The Four ARs
Augmented reality breaks up into four main types depending on how it displays content.
Marker-based AR consists of precise visualizations tailored to one object or location. If you’ve ever pointed your phone to a QR code to see a different image or information appear over it, then you’ve interacted with an AR marker.
Museums have adopted marker-based AR to give visitors a new dimension to the art they experience.
Markerless AR removes the marker in favor of universal visualization with recognition based on the environment. In other words, markerless AR objects are pulled up manually and adapt to the world around them.
IKEA’s ability to place their furniture in your living room through their app is an example of markerless AR.
Location-based AR uses GPS to provide digital content tailored to your specific location. This is most useful to guide users to specific locations. Tourism companies also use it to educate visitors about their surroundings. Businesses can use it to guide warehouse personnel to where specific products are located.
One stellar example of location-based AR is the Star Walk app. Hold your phone or tablet to the night sky and you’ll get information about the stars, constellations, and even planets visible from where you are.
Projection-based AR consists of a highly realistic presentation with no user interface or screen – i.e., a hologram. Luke Skywalker first sees Princess Leia in the original Star Wars using projection-based AR.
In real life, projection-based AR requires more equipment than R2-D2 would have you believe. This form of AR is not as common as the others. Some businesses have taken to using it to present their products, like Nike did in 2017 at its London Niketown store.
Benefits of Using Augmented Reality to Upskill
Employees Appreciate Better Training Methods
By now, we’ve been in more Zoom meetings than we care to count. Asking employees to sit in front of a computer screen to read manuals and take quizzes is unreasonable. That sort of training is draining and employees will feel pulled away from the tasks you expect them to complete.
Offering innovative training methods can boost productivity, company perception, and employee satisfaction. Employees appreciate the extra effort to offer training that is more engaging.
Training Takes Less Time
Reading some material and taking a quiz on it is not the best way for employees to retain what you want them to learn. This is part of the reason old styles of training involve so much repetition of the information. When you implement a “learn by doing” approach to training, participants retain between 70-90% of the material.
Data across multiple industries shows training sessions that used to take months can be cut down to three days using AR technology. Think about how much more productive your workforce can be when you return so many hours back to them.
Reducing Risk of Injury
If a role puts employees at risk, training is safer in a simulated scenario. For example, do employees need to understand a shut-off procedure for malfunctioning machinery? An AR training environment can integrate models of machinery controls simulated in a safety training room with realistic equipment.
What may start by using a single tablet can be scaled up to multiple handheld devices or headsets. The lessons themselves can then be adapted by department or even position.
Current metrics for most industry training experiences are minimal. Analytics may be available for how long an employee stays on a page, what navigation is selected, or what a final test score is. These metrics do not reveal the amount of engagement or retention an employee has experienced like AR training metrics can provide.
With AR training, you have the ability to see what areas keep your people engaged. Visual feedback shows you the areas of the screen employees view most.
If trainees are interacting with a customer in the app, are they making eye contact or is their screen focused on something else while the customer speaks? If working with a 3D model, you’ll know how long each trainee engages with that model.
Challenges of Using Augmented Reality to Upskill
Like any other process, AR training comes with its own set of challenges. Here are a few of them.
Costs of Hardware, Software, and More
We’ve covered that AR can begin with phones or a few tablets but to take full advantage of AR benefits, you’ll need to invest in hardware. In places where AR goes from set training sessions to becoming part of employees’ daily process, each employee needs a device like a Microsoft HoloLens.
You’ll of course have to develop the sessions to run for your employees. And you may need to develop real-world markers to function in conjunction with the software developed for your training sessions. Depending on the marker type, it may require changes to your manufacturing process.
Your IT person or department takes all the necessary steps to protect your network of desktops, laptops, and phones. Adding new technology comes with its own security gaps others are looking to exploit. Your IT personnel must be ready to add new tech to the infrastructure and protect your company.
Minimize security risks by researching your AR training options. If you are adding proprietary hardware, check to see its safety record. Do the same with the company you hire to develop your app or access point. While security risks cannot be eliminated, they can be minimized.
Compared to training on a laptop, AR engagement metrics are phenomenal. When you compare them to VR metrics, however, you can see how they fall short. VR gives you full retinal tracking to pinpoint exactly where employees are looking and how long they remain engaged in the subject of the session.
Use Cases of Augmented Reality to Upskill
Mercedes-Benz is one of the companies implementing AR dashboards but their support of AR goes deeper. The company uses AR to train its technicians as well. Technicians can look at one of their cars and pull up their parts in their headset to see how they function.
Technicians at Boeing use AR to familiarize themselves with the various parts of each of their planes. Boeing reports AR training increased productivity by 40% and reduced wiring production time by 25%.
Hospitals and laboratories all over the world use AR to train employees in complex procedures. Trainees can go through a procedure as their headset is giving them directions they can follow.
BAE Systems uses the Microsoft HoloLens headset to assist assemblers. Assembly tutorials enable them to build the real component by duplicating the steps.
GE partnered with Skylight to develop their AR tools. Employees in multiple areas of the company (GE Reports, GE Healthcare, GE Aviation) now use AR not only for training but for ongoing everyday work processes. This may actually be the single biggest strength of AR in the workplace. What may begin as a training program can evolve into an everyday, always-on tool that enhances employees’ productivity.
Using Augmented Reality to Upskill: Wrap-Up
Thanks to the success of AR in the consumer space, it’s easier than ever for companies to adopt AR as their main training tool to upskill the workforce. Upskilling with augmented reality reduces training time and risk of injury. It’s also scalable as your business training needs grow and provides superior engagement data.
In order for your team to effectively train using AR, trainers must understand what it’s like to work, present, and teach in AR and VR environments. Edstutia offers modules designed to teach trainers to get the most out of AR and VR technology.
For an introduction into AR, download the Edstutia AR app today. Contact us to learn more about upcoming modules offered on the Edstutia Virtual Campus.