Most HR professionals are aware of the benefits of mobile-based training programs, yet more than half of businesses recently surveyed still use paper-based training materials even though they believe such tools are ineffective.
The survey was conducted by Inkling, a digital learning platform for frontline employees. Although 500 retail and restaurant organizations participated, their responses still reflect marketplaces outside those industries, says Jeff Carr, CEO of Inkling.
“Paper-based training is still somewhat common despite the demand and availability of mobile [training],” he says. “Customer-facing employees don’t receive enough ongoing training and lack direct access to reference materials and training guides. That’s not a shock, but in 2019, you’d think a store, restaurant or office would have figured these things out and it [mobile learning] would be a little bit more commonplace.”
Based on survey responses, outdated training and communications tools are hindering effectiveness for customer-facing staff. Ninety percent of respondents agree that it would be beneficial to switch from outdated or inefficient paper-based training to online or mobile-based training, while 86 percent of executives and customer-facing staff agree that communications need to improve in both directions. While most respondents (97 percent) have or are beginning to introduce mobile-based training apps or software, 86 percent say mobile-based training has improved frontline staff’s ability to meet customer expectations. But usage of mobile devices still has a long way to go. Fifty-six percent believe that mobile devices are not being maximized and employees still lack the right tools to quickly address customer queries.
According to Inkling’s research, employees dislike corporate learning management systems because they typically are not interactive or streamlined, Carr says, adding that workers prefer micro learning to traditional workshops because it enables them to access small bites of information on mobile devices while completing tasks or projects.
“As we move toward a 3.5 percent unemployment rate in the U.S.,” he says, “there’s a need for a better employee experience in the learning space, everything from real-time feedback and check-ins to in-the-moment, in-the-flow, which are huge trends.”
Versatility and Interactivity
Transitioning to mobile-based learning poses several HR challenges concerning when this type of learning is appropriate, identifying specific content to deliver and to whom, assessing how much mobile learning should be offered, and determining where and how that content is delivered, says Ron Zamir, CEO at AllenComm, a global professional-services firm that focuses on training.
Zamir says he believes mobile-based learning will accelerate this year because training products can now be displayed on practically any device with a screen.
“With simple laser technology, you’ll have the ability to project stuff on any flat surface,” Zamir says. “You can project training content, product descriptions and value propositions on mobile devices, computers, walls in a mall or screens in gas stations or elevators.”
Companies will also use mobile devices as bookends for onboarding. Before orientation, he says, new hires can receive information on their cell phone, for example, about the organization’s history and then while on the job, access additional mobile-based content that reinforces concepts critical to their job success, such as the company’s customer service approach.
In the near future, he says he expects mobile-based learning to evolve beyond sending content to mobile devices.
“Mobile learning will be less content heavy and more social-interaction heavy,” says Zamir. “It will be more about interactivity and sharing information between employees versus devices that receive content. That’s where the phone will actually shine.”
Still, Zamir remains skeptical of high-tech learning’s current reach, saying it’s going to take many years before people “don’t want to hold a book in their hands.”
Until then, he says, HR should avoid overloading itself with technologies that address a narrow training need.
“Make sure that any technology investment you make to create or display content can play nice with all the different modalities you’re trying to use as part of your mix in your training department,” Zamir says.
Focus on Content
Historically, the training market has been slow to adopt new approaches or formats, says Ibrahim Jabary, CEO at Gamelearn, which develops game-based training and communication software for mobile devices.
Not everyone in the training market fully understands the benefits of video games, Jabary says. Looking ahead, he says, most mobile-based learning or training formats will be influenced by gamification and, as mobile devices and networks become faster, training suppliers will build content featuring experiential learning combined with gamification and social learning.
At that point, the most important HR challenge will be supply not meeting demand. “The lack of quality content is going to be a huge obstacle,” Jabary says, explaining that some clients are currently frustrated and asking for products that haven’t been developed yet.
Meanwhile, he says employees have grown bored with traditional-learning formats.
“Everyone needs to think about how to make content attractive again,” Jabary says. “If you find a way to make people have fun while sharing, creating or organizing their knowledge, that would become a huge tool.”