Going Global? Time to Leverage New Technologies in Learning & Development
Businesses grow when employees do. It’s no surprise then that Learning and Development (L&D) programs have become a critical component of staying competitive. As of the writing of this article, there are over 57,000 job openings for Global L&D leaders in the United States.
Why? Because according to the Pew Research Center, the number of American workers employed by foreign-owned companies is on the rise and with “more than 95 percent of the world’s population and 80 percent of the world’s purchasing power outside the United States, future economic growth and jobs for the United States increasingly depend on expanding U.S. trade and investment opportunities in the global marketplace.” – Business Roundtable
It wasn’t too long ago that global corporations relied on emerging markets primarily for labor arbitrage, customer service and other off-shoring business processes. But today, the nature of the globalized workforce has expanded significantly due to the growing economy and demand for a highly diverse pool of talent located in multiple time zones. This rise in demand for a global workforce has also led to a growing need for specialized workers abroad with the need for soft skills like language and cultural training as well as key technical skills. Emerging markets are now the new centers of growing business activity. As a result, the value of training local workers is essential to staying competitive. These workers require additional geographic, geopolitical and technology considerations for their Learning and Development (L&D) needs.
Global Leaders in L&D Innovation
DHL’s learning program is a shining example of how to implement an L&D strategy that supports hundreds of thousands of employees across the globe. Known as one of the world’s largest logistics companies, DHL is built on the principles of efficiency, speed and standardization. It prides itself on ensuring all its employees possess the same level of training. But the challenge of reaching out to over 510,000 people across 220 territories around the world is a daunting one. To solve this problem, the company initiated a Certified International Specialists (CIS) Foundation program that offers the company’s global workforce the same L&D experience across geographies while also being customized, regionalized and verticalized based on local needs. The company uses interactive training modules, e-learning tools and educational mobile devices to reach out to its employees in over 47 languages.
Similarly, the Xerox Corporation has been incrementally making strategic changes to its L&D program for many years. The company routinely relies on e-learning programs for much of its European division, realizing significant savings on travel expenses and time spent away from the workplace. In their debut year, this approach saved the company over £5 million as they delivered over 300 classroom sessions to over 3,500 delegates and achieved a measurable bump in employee engagement ratings from 3.2 to 4.1 out of 5.
Another great example of innovation in globally focused L&D is the initiative taken by Villeroy & Boch. The global designer bathrooms and premium tableware company has over 8,000 employees spread across various retail outlets around the globe. In 2018, the company deployed their “Brand Ambassador” learning program in two of its largest locations – London and Shanghai in order to improve the sales staff’s soft skills. The standardized training program leveraged a blended approach with a learning platform and LRS (Learning Record Store) for online social learning to improve real-life sales experiences. Not only did the company make a $2.92 million return on training investment but it also won a Bronze award for “Excellence in E-Learning” from Chief Learning Officer Media.
Using New Learning Technology to Go Global
Technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are a great way to enhance L&D effectiveness in traditional and non-traditional work environments. For example, the restaurant chain Honeygrow uses virtual reality headsets to onboard their employees across 17 locations and train them in hospitality and company protocols, while retail giant Walmart recently announced the purchase of 17,000 Oculus Go Virtual Reality (VR) headsets for the VR training of its 1 million North American employees.
This initiative by Walmart is intended to broaden the training opportunities available to their associates as it allows access to content far in excess of subjects like compliance, technology, customer service and soft skills. Under the upcoming initiative, Walmart associates will be able to access the same trainings as Managers and Departmental Managers. In an early pilot across 10 stores, Walmart discovered that VR training is particularly helpful for training associates on new technologies and leads to quicker learning cycles with better retention.
It’s worth noting, that Walmart’s experience with VR is particularly critical as it offers a safe environment for retail sales training. Workers gain the ability to learn at their own pace and can afford to make mistakes that won’t impact customers. This alone is a major advantage over traditional training methods. As companies like Walmart expand globally, the need for a cost-effective and rapid global training is essential.
High-speed Connectivity is Key for Remote Access to L&D
Real-time training in remotely accessible areas is only due to recent advancements in high bandwidth internet services. New satellite fleets providing connectivity are now offering great opportunities to those places where fiber networks haven’t reached. Consider the case of Fernando de Noronha – a volcanic archipelago about 220 miles off Brazil's northeast coast. The island is renowned for its undeveloped beaches, scuba diving and snorkeling. Until recently, this region suffered from poor internet connectivity that had proven to be a prohibitive roadblock to its growth. In 2016, a communications service provider teamed up with a leading technology provider to bring high-performance broadband to Fernando de Noronha using satellite connectivity.
The region now has access to services such as cloud-based airline administration services, internet payment processing and online reservation systems. This kind of high-quality internet solution could also provide a solid foundation for technical, cultural and language training for hospitality or construction workers on the island of Fernando de Noronha. Local chefs, tour guides, service and maintenance workers can gain access to video tutorials, virtual sessions, online assessments and mobile learning for both soft skills and technical training.
Shift from Passive to Active Learning Through Web-based Tech
Tools and techniques such as AR, VR and artificial intelligence, have proven to not only help reduce costs but also improve learning outcomes. Research from the National Training Laboratories shows that active learning, or “learning by doing” has an 80% retention rate to only 30% from passive learning, where students simply internalize information without getting real-time experience or feedback. With the combination of AR/VR technologies and a globally connected communications network, companies can train employees in remote locations using effective distance learning programs. Training a newly-recruited global workforce can be geographically and geopolitically challenging. However, as new L&D tools and internet connectivity becomes more and more sophisticated, they can serve as conduits for the best practices in L&D, helping companies become more agile and efficient in their growth.
- Webinar: The Future of Employee Engagement Starts with AR
- Article: How to Propel Productivity with Augmented Reality
- In the News: Three Steps to Get Started with AR Learning & Development