Traditionally, business training programs have been facilitated in-person. This has evolved from a good place — the intention of getting people together, presenting them with a fun and engaging challenge, and then discussing the behaviors that emerged during that challenge. This is known as experiential learning and involves moving participants from passive to active learning; and it has worked for decades.
L&D teams and facilitators can apply principles of experiential learning to almost any situation — using a more effective type of learning to introduce specific methodologies or messages.
I recall designing a simulation for new employees at a global energy company. The simulation was to be rolled out for 5,000 new joiners a year, and focus on diversity and inclusion awareness. We designed a card game where participants were given a puzzle to solve; except some participants were given the answers and others were not. This simulated the very real feeling of exclusion in a group and is one that I have never forgotten.
But how do we design experiences in a virtual setting that achieves this level of engagement and participation? How can L&D teams deliver their IP, frameworks, and programs to the same standard in a virtual format?
A Lot at Stake
The employee experience is undergoing rapid changes, and businesses must adapt the tools, processes, and support structures they provide to employees in response. One of the most significant changes over the past several months has been an increase in remote work: putting employees on virtual teams, rather than in-person.
Many surveys have identified positive effects of telecommuting, including productivity and a stronger sense of well-being. However, a recent study by McKinsey shows that whether positive or negative, COVID-19 has significantly affected the daily work lives of 80% of respondents.
A lot is at stake here across the employee experience journey. A study¹ of over 20,000 new hires found that 46% of new hires are gone within 18 months; while another² found that 50% of leadership transitions fail as well. New employees and those new to leadership positions need development and support now more than ever — to sustain them during this unprecedented, changing time.
Virtual Experience Design 101
Creating a virtual experience is about more than just delivering the same content the same way, just over Zoom. This doesn’t work — engagement is poor, participation is low and fatigue sets in, as companies become more reliant on video conferencing to manage all internal communication. In addition, this approach fails to optimize the virtual environment, to take advantage of the traits specific to remote teams.
Related Reading: How to Virtually Build High Performing Teams
Virtual experience design must do more than just change content delivery from in-person to remote. Instead, virtual experience design must achieve a singular goal: to make people care about learning. The focus of the content could be across a wide range, including:
- sharing data across functional silos
- achieving team inclusion in meetings
- virtual communication styles through slack
- achieving alignment at the start of a project
- clarifying roles and responsibilities throughout projects
- or something else
Unless a virtual experience is created with this focus in mind — achieving that awareness and motivation — we will fail to build the capabilities necessary to achieve business results.
So What’s Different? Content to Context
Traditional experience design is focused on content when an instructional designer takes learning objectives and turns them into facilitator-delivered, content-focused programs.
However, this only allows for and encourages passive participation from learners, and has been found to be wildly ineffective.
Developing a new, more effective method of L&D must involve a move away from content; instead focusing on designing challenges that are context-centric. A content-focused L&D program answers one question, “What do we want them to learn?” Context-focused L&D, instead, answers a more important, fundamental question, “What do we want them to be able to do?”
This is why the Chief Learning Officer is so crucial to the organization today. Teams must be able to perform virtually — run meetings virtually, plan virtually, find the right data virtually, think critically virtually. The experiences that are designed to simulate situations, and drive behavioral change, must replicate that. A well-designed virtual experience can make learners feel a sense of isolation, confusion, frustration, information overload on purpose, as a way of driving learning and behavioral change.
Related Reading: How to Support Virtual Teams at the Point of Need
Total Experience Design
Why do we remember certain restaurant dining experiences and not others? It’s hard to break it down to a single factor — because there are a number of different characteristics that make up a total experience. Some restaurants hire a space, lay out tables and chairs, and hire a chef to put avocado on toast — but that hardly describes an experience.
Other restaurants take more factors into account — considering the temperature and air quality of different spaces, the music and energy they want to create, the way that customers are greeted, the font and the weight of the paper of the food menu, the wine selection, paintings on the wall — in other words, they have thought carefully about designing a complete experience.
Challenge People to Change People
To create an effective, valuable learning experience it is critical to challenge people. L&D must look to disrupt thinking around things that may have been overlooked, that seem unimportant, or that constitute a blind spot.
Using the technology available today, L&D innovators can achieve a lot through virtual simulation design. We can train AI technology within the simulation scenario for learners to interact with AI and feel what it’s like to have it as part of their team. We can design avatars, team names and logos, chat functions, strategy submission elements, different time stamps, and lengths of sessions within the simulation, music excitement when results are presented. Trust me, the list is endless. Watch the video below to get a better idea of how see6 helps teams set up customized sims.
Setting Up a Sim in 60 Seconds with the see6 Platform.
So, when we start to design a virtual simulation experience, winning L&D teams will seek to break new ground leveraging design talent, analytics talent, and production elements to create unforgettable learning experiences.
Modern conference technology is a game changer in virtual team training, allowing virtual simulations to be delivered to dispersed teams seamlessly. With this technology, L&D can involve taking teams to breakout discussion, where they can share questions and involve facilitators to move the experience forward.
However, it is critical that L&D programs be designed from the ground up to take full advantage of virtual technology. Done correctly, this active learning approach is more than a substitute for in-person learning programs — it is the opportunity to improve on traditional L&D to create an effective, engaging, valuable experience that positions IP and frameworks on a platform that makes the most of them.
If you are interested in supporting virtual teams at your organization, contact see6 today for a L&D demo of our simulations platform. Our platform is fully customizable to help your organization improve team performance, reach your business goals, and gain a competitive advantage.
Not ready for a demo? Download our Solution Guide for L&D teams instead to get more insights into how see6 can help you drive engagement and expand your delivery footprint.