Maintaining the human touch in an age of digital upskilling

Technological advancement is propelling the upskilling landscape forward as new innovations including automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), and Virtual Reality (VR) offer life-like simulations that make learning more immersive and engaging to users.

If the learning and development (L&D) sector progresses steadily at this pace, eventually, computer programmes will reach the necessary intelligence to train employees – teaching, guiding, assessing, and providing them with productive feedback – independently without any human intervention.

With society accustomed to having answers just an Internet search away, it is no coincidence that digital platforms will become a widely accepted medium by businesses for their L&D initiatives.

In this pursuit for efficiency, our increasing reliance on gadgets and machines in developing the workforce could also have an adverse consequence on the effectiveness to businesses.

As much as technology is capable of replicating realism by providing customisation of probable scenarios for learners, by no means can it fully simulate the dynamic nature of human behaviour.

This remains one of the most sophisticated aspect of the business equation: getting humans to work together while using technology to enable efficiency.

Much more than just numbers and figures, there are a wide-range of human traits that influence every action and reaction in different commercial situations and circumstances. Traits such as emotion, gut instinct, and personal motivation.

When we take away the human touch in the learning process, we risk limiting learners’ exposure to unpredictable factors which then hinders their capacity to build highly performing teams who thrive in high-pressure social environments.

The modern-day employer demands people who can hit the ground running and act like the front-liners of their organisation.

They expect employees to be able to think on their feet, exhibit a high degree of adaptability and be capable of executing tasks independently – or as a team.

To empower employees with the right skills and competencies, HR practitioners must rise up to the challenge and embrace experience-based skills development as another inventory in their upskilling toolbox.

This becomes more pertinent as experiential learning techniques have been acknowledged to be among the best methods to develop skills such as complex reasoning, teamwork, critical thinking, creativity and socio-emotional intelligence.

Humans are social in nature and we learn better in a group setting.

Being able to interact with team members in the same physical environment has many advantages as human reactions are immediate and visual.

Combined with elements of gamification, learners are presented with vast opportunities to learn collaboratively and hands-on.

When conducted with the right mix of components, experiential learning can be engaging and executed effectively even in forms as simple as board games.

Business simulation programmes, such as Kaplan Business Challenge, deliver the key elements that build up learners for success – such as the development of commercial skills and behaviours necessary for corporate life.

Given this context, physical role-playing is just as significant as digital learning, and serves as an important part in organisations’ arsenal of L&D tool.

These simulations create a conducive environment where employees can safely learn by assuming critical roles and exercise significant decisions.

They capture the complexity of reality with its overlapping decisions, deadlines and financial constraints, allowing for more varied multitasking on the part of learners and offers them a richer and more robust view of the workplace environment than of the traditional seminar or classroom setting

These techniques can contribute greatly to employees’ professional development in the long run.

Employees are afforded with the chance to reflect and take in feedback from challenges they have encountered – a much needed opportunity that could have been missed otherwise in the hectic setting of on-the-job training.

Placing more emphasis on human aspect of L&D does not mean that we should buck the trend and shun technological progress as part of learning.

It is simply a call to vary our approach and an important reminder to account human interactions as part of the training mix.

At the end of the day, we must bear in mind that in developing human capital, we are dealing with humans first and foremost.


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