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Business Leaders are Turning to AR to Onboard and Train Frontline Workers

By Dr. Hendrik Witt, Chief Product Officer, TeamViewer

For the past few years, America’s workforce has experienced intense disruption from a multitude of challenges, such as the pandemic, digital transformation and what is being called “The Great Resignation.” This disruption has rippled throughout industries, forcing organizations to embed processes to adapt and causing workers to change jobs at much greater rates. While employees in all kinds of jobs are those hitting the exits, many of them are frontline workers.

No matter the role, onboarding a new employee requires supervised training before undertaking productive work. This training often falls to the veterans in an organization and ends up taking away valuable time from their own responsibilities. By finding ways to shorten the duration of initial training — e.g., showing new hires the tasks, tools, procedures, and policies that come with employment — a new hire can become a productive employee more quickly and the veteran employee can resume their normal work sooner. A growing number of employers are looking to advanced technologies, including wearables and augmented reality (AR), to achieve this goal.

Turning To Technology

Many organizations rely on outdated training methods, using paper-based manuals, e-learning or instructional videos. These training methods feature minimal interaction and do little to teach the person the job they’ll do.

But with the emergence of advanced technologies, such as AR, companies are starting to realize there is an alternative to the old and outdated methods of employee recruitment and training. According to a recent survey TeamViewer conducted, 86% of respondents found AR has improved the quality of their training. Additionally, companies training with AR are 2.5 times more likely to hit their onboarding goals.

As an example of how augmented reality is being used, AR-enabled smart glasses can serve as a live training aid, helping new team members solve problems with the assistance of experienced team members. A manufacturing worker can learn how to use specific machinery without hands-on training. More immersive on-the-job onboarding can reduce training time, create highly efficient learning environments and foster employee acceptance.

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How AR Connects Employees

Here’s where mixed reality becomes a practical use case in the industrial metaverse, a new ecology of deep integration between new information, new tech and the real economy. Smart glasses can provide employees with hands-free step-by-step instructions that take them through the tasks they’ll be required to perform. Workers will quickly understand how to complete each task and not depend on an experienced employee to supervise them for any significant length of time.

If an employee has a question or needs assistance, a team member can see exactly what they see through their smart glasses and provide additional instruction. This makes training faster and more efficient. It also engages employees more in their work than the traditional training materials mentioned earlier. Here are a few other ways that training using AR could work:

  • A worker puts on smart glasses and uses a personalized QR code to log in to a training library of personalized content.
  • The employee uses voice commands to pick the appropriate video and is led through a series of tasks.
  • AR can ensure the employee follows proper protocols, such as wearing protective equipment. The system could stop the employee from performing the next task until they’ve completed all appropriate steps.
  • Instructions, tips and best practices can be transmitted to the glasses via text, voice recording or video.
  • Throughout the training, the employee sees the desired outcome of the workflow. Once training is finished, they return to the main menu and can repeat the training, start a new session or complete the work without a visual aid.

Promising Returns For HR Leaders

While companies benefit tremendously when infusing their onboarding and training processes with AR, they are also seeing improvements in their bottom line. Our survey found that 80% of onboarding leaders expect frontline employee productivity to increase in 2023 due to new technology, while 67% said that training with augmented reality is becoming a key competitive advantage.

These capabilities also benefit existing employees using the same technology for upskilling. This keeps employees engaged in their careers as they continue to receive new training and skills that increase their value. This will help retain workers who felt in the past like they reached a ceiling at an organization.

Before embracing AR as a strategic tool for training and retaining frontline workers, however, there are a few things companies should consider:

  • Understand how to initiate a successful implementation. Existing platforms and teams will likely need to be involved, including your IT department. Determine a budget and what’s possible in-house versus through a partner. As efforts scale, a combination of in-house and third-party will be common.
  • Ensure needed integration between software and wearables. Lack of the necessary integration remains a primary obstacle to realizing ROI. Take stock of existing platforms and sentiment toward them, and then identify potential integration synergies, as well as obstacles. Having a device management platform that supports smart glasses could make content delivery and support easier.
  • Identify your hardware needs. Hands-free will likely be the first critical facet to understand and will dictate much of the discussion afterward. If hands-free data access is needed, then smart glasses are the solution of choice.

The role of frontline workers continues to change and business leaders need to recognize this shift. The Great Resignation and Great Reshuffle pose challenges for businesses, but the ones who can adapt to the needs of workers and create an engaging environment will continue to thrive.

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