Training is an essential part of building and maintaining any successful business. Technological advancements have increased the amount and types of knowledge required to perform a task. There is still a need for some traditional skills, but gone are the days when a new employee learned a fixed body of knowledge and applied that knowledge for their entire career.
Sending employees off to training courses used to be the only means by which a business could keep workers up to date. But that too appears to be ending as faster, more efficient, less expensive means of upgrading employees flood the work world.
Technological advancements have made work less demanding but have extended the knowledge base required to complete a task. Employers need to realize that access to information on a “need-to-know” basis is an essential attribute that they must embrace if they wish to survive. Management should take advantage of new methods now available within most industries.
Online training is a starting point. This type of training is much like the old classroom approach where the employee watches and listens to experts explain problems and methods. Like classroom training, however, it assumes a full vessel (instructor) pouring information into an empty vessel (student). This method of instruction, known today as sage on the stage, is teacher-centered instead of student-centered. The sage on the stage method of instruction does not always provide practical or in-depth discussions of issues because there are often too many participants and not enough instructors. In the guide on the side model the instructor draws on the students’ work and life experience and guides them to finding their own solutions. The focus of this model is on the process of problem solving through critical thinking but also fully recognizes the role played by raw knowledge. Unfortunately, unless the instruction takes place in real time, online training does not allow much interaction.
Augmented reality (to be distinguished from virtual reality) was developed in the 80s and 90s for military application. Augmented reality enhances selected environments or aspects of them to enrich perception; it does not create an artificial reality. The need to train astronauts and pilots in real time became cost prohibitive, but replicating reality with computer-generated situations trained individuals to deal with potential issues via simulation. The gaming industry has demonstrated how inexpensive it is for computers to generate information perceptible by all the senses. As such, it will not be long before heads-up displays will incorporate augmented reality to guide workers step by step in real time as they learn how to diagnose and fix a specific problem.
New technology will reduce training time.
The implications of this ability to identify a problem and find a solution are that workers no longer need to retrain every time information becomes outdated or obsolete. This technology will enable employees to learn incrementally and advance at their own pace. Incorporating augmented reality hardware within the workplace will reduce training time, encourage younger workers to join your business and increase productivity. The ability to impart knowledge, experience and skill without the expense of transporting individuals to the job site is a massive cost savings and a step to providing the best possible service to clients in a fraction of the time required to send in a team to fix the problem. This is the model of the call centre in India or the Philippines: technology permits remote solutions to technical problems without the need to send someone to the site of the problem. The fact that a remote expert can solve the problem within a short time today means you can operate your business more efficiently and meet tighter deadlines.
Clients want instant fixes to their problems. Employers should consider investing in the new approach to training if they wish to stay in business. Owner-managers should consider the following sequence of a transformation process:
- Examine their existing business model to determine whether there will be a future market for their service or product.
- Phase out services and products that will become obsolete within the foreseeable future.
- Determine how to provide improved services or products for existing customers.
- List the equipment or process that must be replaced or updated and research the appropriate replacements.
- Set a timeline for financing, acquiring and integrating the upgraded equipment/process, training staff and reconfiguring the workplace (if necessary).
- Establish a hands-on training schedule to deal with real issues rather than hypothetical ones presented in a classroom environment. Employees learn faster if they can apply new processes to familiar problems. Once they are up to speed, employees can apply the new knowledge in the existing work environment and expand its application going forward.
- Engage all employees right from the start in the employer’s vision of the business and encourage them to adopt the new skills they will need to prepare them for a future in the organization.
- Promote the expectation that training will increase productivity and personal satisfaction, reduce turnover, and increase job security.
- Investigate external training facilities that provide recognized certificates of achievement through formalized training that emphasizes the need to complete or pass a training program. This approach allows your business to evaluate the results supplied by an independent source and to identify those employees who should be set on a career path and those who exhibit sufficient competence to evolve with current and future changes.
THE FUTURE IS NOW
Owner-managers need to understand the inevitable changes occurring in their business. Perhaps a complete re-think of the business and a five-year plan will be worth the time. Planning and skills development today will build your future business. And, the future is now.
***This article was originally published in Volume 32, Issue 2 of Business Matters in March 2018. BUSINESS MATTERS deals with a number of complex issues in a concise manner; it is recommended that accounting, legal or other appropriate professional advice should be sought before acting upon any of the information contained therein. Although every reasonable effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this letter, no individual or organization involved in either the preparation or distribution of this letter accepts any contractual, tortious, or any other form of liability for its contents or for any consequences arising from its use. BUSINESS MATTERS is prepared bimonthly by the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada for the clients of its members. Richard Fulcher, CPA, CA – Author; Patricia Adamson, M.A., M.I.St. – CPA Canada Editor.