Posted on October 14, 2020
How COVID-19 Has Challenged the Professional Training Industry
The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on businesses has been immense and, as the summer vacations come to a close, it continues to bring uncertainty into the workplace. Employees, EHS managers and heads of departments ponder the implications of going back to work and possible means of minimizing them. At the heart of the issue, training is also resuming, now driven by a dual challenge. Not only does everyone need to be trained in the new steps and habits they have to practice at work, but training itself should not become an additional source of risk. However, professional training and COVID-19 need not be an oxymoron. On the contrary, the situation might invite one to reflect on the effectiveness of EHS training as we know it and to consider ways in which it could be improved.
Professional Training and COVID-19: Raising Awareness to Make Going Back to Work Safer
While many businesses already had strict hygiene requirements in place for their facilities and employees prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the unforeseen event has undeniably changed the situation for most of them. Creating a safe work environment for every staff member now implies respecting a new set of rules (social distancing, wearing a mask, rigorous sanitary measures, etc.). It also means everyone needs to stay informed.
Immersive Factory training experts invite every person involved to consider awareness and accessible information as the first and main step towards securing the workplace. Occupational risk prevention can indeed not fulfill its role without perfect knowledge of existing risks, the measures that can be taken to mitigate them and the behaviors recommended in case of emergency (an employee who exhibits symptoms, for instance). Make sure trustworthy sources of information are readily available should any doubt arise. To that end, training is a compelling possibility. For more pressing issues, however, rules can be displayed in full view of anyone it may concern, inviting them to refer to reliable sources of information. The CDC or the NIH, for instance, provide up-to-date advice on the spread of the epidemic and on how to act appropriately. This will allow you to ensure working conditions within your company are as optimal as the situation permits.
Managers with a Responsible, Reassuring Attitude
When faced with a situation where various elements of uncertainty, or even risk and danger, throw off a professional routine, maintaining a rational attitude and handling over-solicitation calmly and efficiently is as crucial as it is complicated. Managers and heads of departments need to learn how to redefine their role amid an unprecedented context. According to a survey carried out by Immersive Factory, 77% of them see the number of requests they receive go up, sometimes leading to additional difficulties that should ideally be averted.
To avoid such complications, implementing a culture of shared accountability is a good way to prioritize COVID-related issues. Once again, making sure workers have access to reliable information prevents the risk of misinformation which could wreak havoc among them. By providing them with up-to-date knowledge, you can promote a permanent watchfulness which will benefit both the group and the individuals.
In keeping with this cohesive approach, communication should be as transparent and as unbiased as possible. Be clear about how the pandemic has impacted your objectives, present a well-thought-out action plan, and explain how the workload is distributed between the employees. This distribution should take their availability into account, all while guaranteeing official recommendations can be observed. Share your reflections on every aspect of the situation and set definite KPIs which will help your team reach satisfactory results.
A Positive Environment to Promote Trust and Serenity
Making sure measures are enforced does not necessarily mean employees should feel as though they are constantly being monitored as this could give them the impression that management does not trust them. Instead, try to favor communication, openness, and serenity. COVID-19 risk prevention also implies being aware of the psychosocial dangers the unusual situation fosters.
Social distancing, wearing a mask, systematic disinfection and other preventive behaviors can create a response ranging from discomfort all the way to very serious consequences affecting long-term mental health. These invisible hazards rarely get all the attention they deserve. Yet, the health crisis has emotional side effects whose impact on businesses should not be ignored.
According to a study conducted by Canadian cooperative financial group Desjardins, investing in employee well-being contributes to lowering absenteeism rates and increasing turnover. The survey shows that ROI can reach $1.50 to $3 for every dollar invested by a company. (1)
New Work Processes Inspired by EHS Training
For many businesses, the best way to follow recommendations to the letter consists in having their employees work off-site, or at least in operating with reduced staff levels. While the benefits of such practices amid a health crisis are easy to demonstrate, the situation is quite different from anything workers are used to. It is therefore important to adopt an appropriate approach.
Working from home requires a suitable form of support. Managers need to know how to respond to discouragement, indifference, and sometimes even a feeling of isolation employees can develop from a lack of human interaction.
A link between professional training and COVID-19 can be established as a means of countering this difficulty. The interactive tools used to host remote meetings and teleconferences online, for 3D simulation, for gamification and for virtual reality set-ups, for instance, provide a concrete solution to maintain social ties within a team.
However, opting for the right approaches is paramount, or they may not have the effect intended. According to the study conducted by Immersive Factory, 80% of businesses gave remote training a try during the confinement period, of which 57% felt it created additional complications. Still, their opinions on how streamlined the managing experience was for these types of training vary.
To make remote training and using online tools to interact with one’s peers truly sustainable, quality must be at the heart of the strategies to promote engagement and offer a positive experience.
Remote Interactions as a Value-Added Approach to Business Exchanges
Instead of seeing remote methods of communication and interaction as an inevitable, last resort solution only acceptable during lockdown, new technologies invite us to rethink business dynamics. Such novel distance learning approaches as immersive learning, for one, meet this particular need. Through gamification, these methods allow participants to experience training ‘as if they were there in person’ without even getting out of the house.
Though virtual reality (or VR) headsets used to be a seasoned gamer’s prerogative, serious gaming has now become so popular corporate training seems to favor it over more traditional techniques. Even serious escape games appeal to an increasingly diverse market.
And with good reason! From supporting new employees more effectively to streamlining processes involving partners and subcontractors, immersive programs constitute a compelling link between professional training and COVID-19. For instance, immersive EHS training stimulates learners and promotes memorization. Accessible from anywhere and without requiring any compromises on quality, these solutions rely on highly realistic virtual situations through which participants ‘learn by doing’. Particularly useful in risk management or prevention training, these approaches contribute to reducing the number of accidents. Thus, the Capgemini Research Institute has reported that 83% of the businesses that opted for virtual reality state that they exceeded their objectives in terms of efficiency, productivity and profitability. (2)
Whether it be to ensure training can continue without compromising the health and safety of the participants or to teach employees how to observe recommended practices during the pandemic, immersive learning offers excellent results. This explains why more and more businesses wish to find out about its true benefits. Immersive Factory’s study indeed shows that 68% of respondents consider virtual reality a solution well-suited to their sanitary measures.
In the future, occupational health and safety will be at the heart of corporate strategies. Businesses will need to tighten their hygiene standards for the long term and to have any staff member who may be sick wear a mask. They will be forced to consider external actors differently and to raise awareness about the issues that pertain to certain work environments. Employee well-being will be given much more attention than ever before. Finally, EHS training will include more and more elements and occupy an increasingly central place in corporate strategies. 90% of those interviewed over the course of our study confirm this tendency.
Professional training and COVID-19 are now intertwined to the same extent as other aspects of corporate life the lockdown period had a severe impact on. Presently, as everyone is getting back to work, the lessons learned from the crisis are taking the form of new work habits. If implemented properly, these will contribute to shaping the business world of tomorrow.
(1) Visa Desjardins (the largest cooperative financial group in Canada), conducted a three-year program to great results. Their objective was to help employees take charge of their own physical and psychological health and to give them all the tools necessary to achieve this goal. These measures contributed to a 28% decrease in absenteeism and to a 54% drop in turnover rates. For every dollar invested by the employer, return on investment was estimated to be between $1.50 and $3.