The Path from Pilot to Program

By September 11, 2018

You know that your organization’s current training protocols are ready for a change and ‘you’ might be, but your organization as a whole may feel lukewarm about it. Time to slowly turn up that temperature with a pilot! Offering a gradual introduction before diving headfirst into a steaming tub of untested waters helps ensure everyone is onboard as you build out this ‘new normal’ in your organization.

Pilot to ProgramMapping the journey
Oftentimes, businesses make the mistake of jumping from having nothing in place for training (technologically speaking) to everything at once, and as a result their results aren’t very impressive and the technology is blamed. But it’s not a technology problem, the fault lies with the approach.

First, you’ll need to have a clear view of what is/isn’t working in your current training program and any learning gaps that exist – and then you’ll want to narrow it all down to one ubiquitous problem you seek to solve.

Yes, only one.

Creating an interactive training program pilot around one common trouble spot will showcase your training’s potential and build buzz around it, which is key to changing the training culture in your organization. People don’t know what they want, nor how effective simulated training can be, till you show it to them. It’s one thing to show an example of it in action elsewhere to share its potential, but another entirely to have it relate to something that affects their day-to-day work, so it’s important to create a relevant, wide-reaching training and get it in their hands as soon as possible. And once they try it, they’ll be amazed by it.

So once you’ve identified the first training to create, how do you get from prototype to deployment, specifically?

Prototype to Deployment Process
Creating a functional prototype isn’t easy. As National Instruments details: “Nearly 50 percent of designs are late or never reach market and nearly 30 percent fail after release.” Planning and having a solid process in place is key. The steps to an instructional design are similar to the prototype deployments NI works with, adding a few modifications – the main one, from a Litmos blog, being “start with the end in mind.”

  • Start with the end in mind. You already have much of this part done, as you’ve identified a persistent issue that affects a significant portion of your organization. Now you need to think through what, precisely, you need employees to know at the end of the training.
  • Know your audience. Have a good sense of what they already know (and if you don’t know, find out!), and identify learner personas for your main target audience types. This will help you create content flows that make sense. Some may be able to skip basic instruction while others cannot. Wherever your learner starts, the content needs to flow logically from one point to the next.
  • Transition that idea from paper to a software design. Hopefully you’ve partnered with a specialized team/company ahead of this step, to help you evaluate your requirements, but if not and you don’t have simulation design experts in-house, now is the time to find one!
  • Create a prototype to beta test with a small subset of participants and elicit feedback.
  • Develop criteria to evaluate efficacy (e.g. to reduce error rate on a procedure within 3 months) of the training module. Having KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) in place ahead of deployment is as essential as creating learner personas. Planning makes perfect. We recommend not more than 3 clear KPI’s.
  • Make necessary modifications to program and evaluation criteria, with clear plan for capturing data once deployed.
  • Test your learning program again, to be sure it is performing as planned. Do not over-think the launch – focus instead on repeat adjustment and testing till you’re comfortable with results.
  • If the results get buy-in from management, launch the pilot program company-wide.
  • Evaluate collected data to inform next effort and attain funding for additional projects.
  • Start planning for your next training deployment!

But as you’re planning this and running through the steps, there are typically a couple of other questions businesses worry over – mainly around evolving technology and overall costs. We’ll touch on each briefly:

Which technology should we use first – VR or AR?
This is a question we get a lot, and the answer surprises people: neither. Or more accurately, not right away. Take stock of what you have already for technology and start there first. Here’s why:

“VR/AR must be additive in the training lifecycle, not siloed off as a tech innovation available to only those with specific hardware on hand. What % of your workers have VR or AR headsets at work today? Did you know that approximately 80-90% of the cost involved in creating immersive VR/AR Operations & Maintenance training content can be re-purposed across many platforms – like web, mobile, and laptops? Why not start there anyway and get VR/AR as an addition rather than a standalone?”

How will this pilot program affect my budget?
“Companies devote a lot of time, effort and money to training – with little to show for it.” In 2011 US firms spent appx $156 billion on employee training. And according to many assessments, about 90% of new skills are lost within a year,” but I digress – the point here is that these companies approach their budgets the same way they approach training: both require a mind shift.

Measuring the magnitude of the task you intend to train for is key to unlocking your budget potential, so you need to have a clear understanding of the opportunity for saving money before proceeding with any budget discussions. Otherwise, you’ll have both an unrealistic view of the cost to create simulated training and you may shy away and focus on starting out with something too small!

If a training costs $100 and helps ten people perform a task more efficiently, it costs more per person than a training that costs $100 to create but helps hundreds. A training concern that spans multiple locations and job functions offers a powerful bit of ROI and will help other decision-makers get excited about its potential. And you can trust that they will be. Feedback we hear again and again revolves around companies wondering “why haven’t we been doing this already?” – and we’re sure you’ll feel the same.

Reach out here and we’re happy to help you sort out where to begin and talk through considerations specific to your industry.