Benefits of Inclusive Training in Workplaces
XR technologies can help employees train for their jobs, learn new skills, and perform their daily work. Below are specific examples of how beneficial XR technologies can be for organizations and employees.
Popular training methods include simulations and on-site augmented or mixed reality applications. Training employees with XR provides many benefits, including:
- Employees can practice dangerous or difficult tasks in a safe environment.
- Employees can learn new professional skills.
- Employees can train or upskill in a shorter time frame.
- Employees can train with limited work interruptions.
- Organizations can free up staff who would otherwise be training employees.
Immersive job training programs are often built in part to conduct knowledge capture. Knowledge capture helps ensure that expertise is not lost even if an experienced employee leaves or retires. Through knowledge capture, new employees can easily learn from past employees or employees too busy to conduct trainings. New employees can train using augmented or virtual reality and better understand the skill or process they are learning. For example, recent hires can access recorded equipment repair demonstrations prepared by an expert.
Knowledge capture programs must be accessible. When they are not, employees with disabilities will not be able to access critical information. They also will not be able to share their own knowledge with others. By giving experienced employees an accessible way to author or create the immersive training programs themselves, expertise and experience stay with the company even after they depart.
Employees benefit greatly from immersive training programs. A 2018 University of Maryland study showed that virtual reality training can help people better retain the information they are learning. Additionally, a 2020 PwC study revealed that those using virtual training were four times more focused than their peers and 275 percent more confident in applying what they had learned.
Job Site Familiarity
XR can help employees learn about job sites. Employees who are neurodivergent, for example, may benefit from what are sometimes called “explore world” XR scenarios. These scenarios allow users to familiarize themselves with a workspace before starting a job. Trainees can interact with and explore the environment using XR before going in person. They can also learn the tasks they will be asked to complete and in which order. For example, employees can use XR to virtually explore a construction site or learn how to repair complex machinery with augmented reality.
Enhanced Accessibility and Inclusion
XR and immersive technologies can enable employees with disabilities to participate in the workplace in new ways. When made accessible, these technologies give employees with disabilities key resources that may enhance or surpass accommodations they currently use. They often introduce new ways of working, particularly to employees without disabilities or those with temporary disabilities who have not tried assistive technologies previously, such as an employee with a broken hand.
Immersive technologies offer employees different ways to access platforms, applications, and content. Users can choose different ways to interact, such as using controllers, keyboards, voice, eye gaze, and gestures. XR can also support multiple ways of receiving information, such as through sight, sound, and touch. Giving employees different ways to customize their interactions can increase accessibility and help ensure broad usability.
Remote Assist and Collaboration
Immersive technologies can enable all employees, including those who have disabilities, to collaborate and receive assistance from co-workers. For example, a less experienced technician might connect with an expert employee who has a disability to troubleshoot on-site machinery issues. XR can virtually overlay digital information into physical job settings and help employees trade information without being in the same location. This facilitates intergenerational and expert knowledge sharing.
Immersive Job Training in Practice: Wind Turbine Technicians
The fastest-growing job in the United States is wind turbine technician. The rapid growth of this job is largely due to the expanding wind energy sector. BLS projects this job will grow nearly 61 percent from 2019-2029. Wind turbine technicians may need to “inspect, diagnose, adjust, or repair wind turbines” and “perform maintenance on wind turbine equipment including resolving electrical, mechanical, and hydraulic malfunctions,” according to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).
Wind energy organizations already use immersive technologies to train and upskill their workers. They use immersive technologies to simulate work environments both at control centers and inside the turbines themselves. For example, a worker may use a virtual reality headset to walk through the steps needed to safely shut down a turbine and prepare it for maintenance or repairs. This eliminates the need to perform the task for the first time in a potentially dangerous setting.
These training technologies can also assist people with disabilities to get accustomed to work settings, prepare for a job, and identify additional accommodations they may need.
XR technologies can also provide live, remote assistance to workers on the ground. A worker encountering a problem can use XR technologies to access expertise from more experienced technicians. A technician would not need to leave a malfunctioning turbine or make a phone call to find another employee with more expertise. Instead, the technician could use augmented or mixed reality applications to connect to an expert remotely. The expert could view the same scene as the on-site worker via live video communications with remote assistance.
The Promise of Remote Assist for People with Disabilities
- Employees can communicate and collaborate in areas like troubleshooting on-site machinery issues.
- Each employee can translate between languages (including sign language using video) and modes of interaction (voice, text, gestures).
- Highly skilled employees can collaborate seamlessly without needing to be in the same physical place. For example, a novice technician could connect with an experienced manager who has a disability.