Training is best when it matches the real-life context and activities that a learner needs to do in their job…
This is hands-down the most important statement that you need to know if you are in learning and development. Like know if in your gut…and be able to persuade others that this is true AND apply it in practice. And the best way to do this is through custom simulations.
Consider this example…
You are a new airline pilot and you have gone to your classes and learned everything you need to know about flying a plane; the safety features, the rules, and the mechanics. You can probably ace your multiple choice exam for all the dials on the control panel and what you should do in an emergency situation. You can tell me lots of facts and figures and information about airplanes and what is included in the different models. That is amazing and very interesting. But you know what I care about? Getting from point A to point B successfully. Not what the name of that random dial is and how fast you can go from stopped to airborne. The only way that the new pilot is going to be able to fly the plane is to actually fly the plane. Practice. Practice and more Practice. The catch is that in order for that pilot to practice, I may be in harm’s way. I don’t know about you but I am not necessarily interested in being in an airplane with a first time pilot. But Tara, you say, there is a mentor or someone that is right next to him/her. Correct – that is great, however if there is a situation, I want that new pilot to have practiced in a safe environment prior to my flight. Hence the importance of the flight simulator – this training tool provides a realistic and contextually accurate experience for a new pilot to practice and work on mastery over the equipment and how it all fits together to produce flight. That new pilot has many hours of flight simulator training prior to their first flight. They are prepared and “get the feel” for the real world situation in a practice environment.
Now, you may be thinking that the work that your employees does isn’t life or death like this so a simulated practice situation isn’t necessary but consider the less obvious places where performance or results can suffer and the impact that has on employee’s lives and on business success. People learn through action and practice. Concepts and information provide additional detail to help frame up the action but is secondary to action/practice.
So the bottom line is this…your employees will excel when they are able to have hands-on simulated practice for critical job skills prior to working with the real situations. They will learn to put the pieces together, get used to doing a particular activity and find out what additional information they need to complete the task. This won’t happen the other way around in a content-centered approach to learning.
Consider this example.
We have a client that needed their employees to complete complex transactions on behalf of their clients. The stakes were high because the had to be accurate. We worked with our client to determine what activities the learners needed to complete in order to accurately complete the client transactions. This typically looks like a task/step matrix. This matrix will allow you to document the steps of the transaction. One the steps were identified, we created simulated client scenarios that an employee would work through as if they were working with a live customer. They were evaluated on completion of the task without feedback and the ability to complete the activity in the designated time frame. They watched the transaction, practiced with feedback and then tested on their ability to complete the transaction.
In addition to providing them a simulated practice activity, we also re-packaged the demonstration part of the training to provide just in time learning videos to the teams when they were working on real accounts back at their desks. This provided them with a spaced learning option that was available in a single activity when they needed it. Allowing them to truly learn or reinforce their foundational learning as they were in their real environment.
How are you using simulated practice training in your organization? We would love to see some comments below.