Are simulations changing the role for Learning & Development

Learning and development has been passing through rapid advancements taking place in terms of technology and the learning methods arising out of it. At[1], you can expect to explore a number of methods in this regard, backed by latest technological innovations. Learning and development is no more associated with conventional learning modes, rather newer and better forms are replacing these at much faster pace. One such method that is changing the role of learning and development to a great extent is simulation, which we would be discussing in this post.

So what simulation is? Simulation is the technique for learning and practice that can be utilized in various disciplines and to different trainees. It is the method to amplify and replace real experiences with guided ones, usually immersive in nature, which replicate or evoke substantial aspects of a real world in a completely interactive way[2]. Simulation based learning and development is the way to enhance professionals’ skills, knowledge and attitudes, while protecting them from unnecessary risks. The simulation techniques, strategies and tools for learning are applied in developed structured learning experiences, and also used as a measuring tool connected to a targeted teamwork learning goals and competencies. Previously, simulation was heavily seen in fields like health, aviation and military, but today’s organizations are also shifting to this technique for leveraging their learning and development departments. The realistic situations and equipment enables practice and retraining till the employees master the skill and procedure. Teamwork training carried out in a simulated setting may bring an additional advantage to the conventional didactic instruction, amplify performance and possibly also facilitate error reduction.

There is evidence that learner in the session that use simulation learned the concepts in lesser time as compared to those in traditional lecture based session. A study carried out by Mercer in 2010[3], revealed that Human Resource managers cited succession, leadership, training and development as their most major talent management concerns. This explains why a number of talent managers and HR departments are recognizing business simulations to help their employees develop better business acumen, leadership and decision making skills. Simulations bring an opportunity to practice the new processes, methods and technologies without risks and engage participants to develop behaviors required for the business success. Business simulations change the learning and development in the following ways:

  • It impacts employees in a more dynamic, effective and engaging way than conventional methods such as lecturing or reading
  • It builds alignment commitment and capability for execution for corporate strategies, initiatives and business models
  • It provides a realistic estimation of the business temperament and develops interaction that enable participants to experience their role in developing outcomes
  • It allows the practice of key skills and behaviors that impact business outcomes

Within some minutes of being placed in the simulation, the employees are engaged in an experiential learning environment that enables them derive applicable, immediate meaning for their companies and real world jobs. In simulation, a business year is compressed into a day or less, and thus learners can experience high priority issues, in a matter of hours, that otherwise could usually happen over the course of various months[4]. The teamwork aspect of the program enables them to get benefited from the wisdom of the crowd in a real time, as they experience and discuss probable solutions. Instant debrief sessions make sure that feedback is given in a timely way and that the feedback sticks.

The concept of simulations is a familiar one for the digital natives like us, and even video-game playing is experiencing credibility as a social good. The enterprise counterpart of what is now niche environment could become the novel operating system for the real world business. As more and more employees who are growing up online, utilizing real time simulation games like Farmville and Second Life enter the workforce, the forward thinking HR managers would see that business simulations hold a wide range of applications[5].

  • Faster familiarization of new employees with a business’s products, services and customers: The future of work will witness far more mobile workforces and agile businesses would need to fasten the time-to-competency of the teams.
  • Enhanced alignment building: Most successful businesses of today develop a strong culture for their workforce. In future, businesses will infuse this culture across their entire ecosystem, to everyone performing any task on their behalf.
  • Execution capabilities and skills development: Business acumen, leadership, decision making and an understanding of how the function influences the top and bottom management lines would be a crucial aspect of every high performing employee’s know-how.

HR professionals, managers and business executives are making simulations an integral and foremost driver of business acumen, insight and attitude change all across the business processes and corporate initiatives, which is expected to bring more positive changes in learning and development role in organizations.

[4] Jha AK, Duncan BW, Bates DW. Simulator based training and patient safety in: Making health care safer: a critical analysis of patient safety practices. Agency for Health care, Research and Quality, US dept of Health and Human Services. 2001:511–8.
[5] Bransford, J.D., A.L. Brown, and R.R. Cocking, eds. (2000). How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School. National Academies Press.

Copyright 2016 Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.

Bryant Nielson – Managing Director of CapitalWave Inc.– Being a big believer in Technology Enabled Learning, Bryant seeks to create awareness, motivate adoption and engage organizations and people in the changing business of education. Bryant is a entrepreneur, trainer, and strategic training adviser for many organizations. Bryant’s business career has been based on his results-oriented style of empowering the individual.
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