Closing the skills gap with mixed reality solutions

Tools like Microsoft HoloLens and Dynamics 365 Guides could help businesses onboard new workers before a skills deficit is created by older staff retiring

Thomas Pratt
By Thomas Pratt on 31 August 2021
Closing the skills gap with mixed reality solutions

In just over one year, the pandemic forced millions of Americans to retire early. That is on top of the number of baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) that will reach retirement age within the next few years, who account for 30 per cent of frontline workers. This has set off a race to onboard and train new workers fast enough to make up the deficit.

Until today, technology has only equipped employers for half the race. E-learning, for example, can accelerate knowledge acquisition. Learners can complete new courses at their own pace, on any device and when budgets allow, through highly interactive experiences that might include simulation or gamification. However, no matter how much theoretical knowledge these learners acquire through these courses, they will not have acquired hands-on skills necessary to perform many important tasks in a frontline job.

That’s where the slower part of the training process comes in – instructor-led training is limited to the available time of the instructor. The alternative, on-the-job observation of an experienced worker, followed by a process of trial and error to apply what was seen, is slower. Even the best blend of instructor-led, on-the-job training and e-learning is not fast enough to close the impending skills gap. 

What about the other half of the race?

Microsoft has come up with a solution that is showing great promise. A combination of mixed reality solutions – HoloLens and Dynamics 365 Guides software – can guide learners step-by-step through a new task, enabling users to work with tools in both hands and keep their eyes on the task at hand.

The best part? This approach to skills transfer requires little input or time from instructors or fellow workers, which, in our experience, is much more efficient. One day of traditional instruction can be reduced to 45 minutes by using mixed reality, with equal or better results in the user’s training.

That acceleration of the skills transfer part of the learning race may be just what is needed to onboard and upskill new employees fast enough to close the gap.

Thomas Pratt is president at CraneMorley 

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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