The Power and Value of Training and Knowledge Transfer Using Wearable Computers

Many industries, such as retail, manufacturing, healthcare, and more, have a mix of user types:
Information workers, who probably have desktop or laptop computers and likely work more on documents than directly with customers, such as headquarters staff.
Frontline workers, who often work on tablets or phones and work either directly with customers or the general public. They provide services, support, and sell products, or are employees directly involved in the manufacturing and distribution of products and services. For example: retail associates, healthcare clinicians and nursing staff, tree surgeons, car mechanics, and so on.

Companies undergoing a digital transformation are facing a significant need to invest in their training programs. In this environment, it is critical to accelerate knowledge transfer between deskless employees of all ages and skill sets to ensure that industrial companies have access to the expertise they need.

Digital debt and disconnect is already costing businesses (download report)

This guide to explains more about:

  • The expected rise in the skills gap
  • Why it is important to leverage cost-effective AR and video trainings to deliver the education necessary to train technical workers
  • How wearable solutions are bridging the industrial skills gap

Today, leading businesses are moving towards interactive, video-based learning. Employees are tech-savvy, and they don’t want to learn with a physical, hardcopy manual or clipboard. They prefer and expect videos for learning and grew up with digital, interactive learning platforms like Khan Academy and Coursera. According to a survey conducted by Google, millennials are 2.7X as likely to prefer learning by watching a YouTube video compared to reading a book.
YouTube has become the primary source for all generations to increase their knowledge. Case in point: Nearly 500 hours of video are uploaded per minute, much of it focused on “How To” content. For most people, it’s common sense to search for a short, three to five-minute online video when the dishwasher
breaks down or a smartphone isn’t working properly. This is because microlearning, or learning in bite-sized pieces of visually-driven content that is easy to recall and access when needed, is emerging as the preferred way to learn. In the case of industrial workers, it’s preferable to access this content on-the-job through short videos or video calls with experts, rather than in a classroom or through module-based e-learning. This way, young, newer or even experienced workers who are growing their skill sets can receive training while completing work—increasing productivity and retention of information.
This makes augmented reality (AR) essential to training millennial industrial employees who must work with their hands and can’t safely stop to watch a how-to video on a tablet computer or make a video call to a more experienced worker with a bulky laptop.
Gartner predicts by 2022, 70% of enterprises will be experimenting with immersive technologies for consumer and enterprise use, and 25% will have deployed to production. To overcome the skills gap and enable microlearning, companies must adapt AR-powered, video-first training technology.
That’s where wearable computers come in. Wearable computers empower HR and training leaders at innovative industrial businesses to leverage cost-effective AR and video training to deliver the education necessary to train technical workers now and in the future.

Wearable computers can bridge industrial skills gap
In industrial settings, wearable, head-mounted computers with extendable boom-arm displays can be attached to safety helmets, bump caps, protective glasses and other gear, enabling hands-free, voice-controlled access for trainees who are learning on the job.
They provide an AR environment in which workers can easily use voice commands to watch short training videos, access manuals, view mechanical drawings, look up spare parts and access other materials critical for experiential training. Wearable computers can be as powerful as a tablet computer and can utilize lenses that make it appear as though the worker is looking at a 7-inch screen. A front-facing camera can be used to make video calls and show a remote expert any problems that a trainee experiences–without requiring the use of his or her hands. Unlike immersive AR or VR systems, purpose-built wearable computers are less likely to distract workers from the task in front of them.
These devices can also streamline the creation of videos for microlearning. Experienced workers can quickly make bite-sized, easily consumable training videos as they work and upload them for instant access via voice search or a QR code on a piece of equipment. Existing PDFs, videos and other references can be easily added to a training program and accessed by an entire team or workforce on an industrial wearable computer. Through this process, knowledge transfer can be achieved far more rapidly, helping to close the skills gap.

To facilitate knowledge transfer across the organization, require that the wearable computer solution you choose for a digital transformation or connected worker program has the following five features:

● Rugged drop-proof and dust-proof design to enable use in harsh environments and reduce downtime for repairs.
● Hands-free voice operation to increase productivity and ensure safety in critical environments.
● Noise cancellation microphone that works reliably in loud industrial worksites.
● Long charge times that can perform through an entire shift, because video streaming uses substantial battery life.
● Intrinsically safe design for use in restricted zones to avoid explosion or fire in oil and gas, textiles, pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturing sites.

Ready to unleash the power of wearable computers in your training program for your enterprise?
1) Identify key stakeholders, starting with IT
Get familiar with your solution and the ways it can be implemented in your workforce with the help of your stakeholders. IT is the best place to start, as it plays an essential role in video training programs’ security and connectivity. You can turn members of your company’s IT team into advocates by involving them as early as possible and getting their buy-in. Other stakeholders may include environment, health and safety, digital transformation or connected worker leaders, plant managers and users of the technology.

2) Repurpose existing training content
Search through existing training content from internal programs and vendors to find safety and quality videos, step-by-step instructions, manuals, infographics and other data that can be utilized in an initial rollout. If no existing content is available or if new content must be created, have experts capture videos while out on the job. Consider putting QR codes on your equipment to ensure that participants can easily access the right materials with their wearable computers.

3) Ensure adequate user training
Though the devices themselves will be used for training, it’s critical that all employees receive training on how to use them, how to make sure they fit properly and how to interact with them. Training can be as quick as 15 minutes per user. Wearable computers are intuitive by design, but training can prevent missteps, give users a jumpstart and provide an opportunity for employees that need additional assistance to reach out.

4) Design and evaluate a pilot program
Once users are trained, start testing your wearable computers in a defined setting with a limited number of users, a predetermined set of objectives and measurable KPIs. Identify one application, task, customer, use case or training element that the wearable computers can be tested on, and run your pilot for no more than three months. This effectively applies the scientific method to the pilot to ensure that you are gathering the information needed to report to executives.
One option is to have an expert use wearable computers to certify an apprentice or new employee on the job. Once the program is complete, evaluate its success and any takeaways for a wider rollout. When developing your reports on the pilot, each one should include the name of the wearable computer, number of users, relevant user feedback, time saved with video, safety and compliance considerations, timeframe, problems solved, cost of problem, challenges, projected benefits and opportunities, ROI, security considerations, stakeholders or business units engaged and immediate next steps.

5) Focus on planning and project management
Industrial companies that dedicate more planning and project management resources to their wearable computer training programs achieve greater productivity and safety benefits at a faster rate. No matter your training goals, taking time during the pilot and throughout your program to focus on management is essential to meeting them.

6) Identify employee evangelists
Employee buy-in is essential to expanding your wearable computer training program. This technology represents a substantial change in how many older workers operate. Their participation is often key to creating training content in a cost-effective manner. However, a top-down approach makes it difficult to garner their support, account for their needs, incorporate their feedback and permanently change the way that they work. Instead, you want to take all users on a journey that transforms how they train younger staff or go through training. If you’ve had a successful pilot, use the initial participants’ feedback to showcase the value of the program as you deploy more broadly.

7) Deploy to a larger group
Once you’ve completed your pilot, it’s time to roll out to a larger group – but not yet to your entire organization. At this stage, you’ll need to work with IT to identify and mitigate any potential security issues. Next, identify a group that will use the devices day in and day out and then conduct full-scale training with the device and how it will be used in the field. Stick to a single application or use case, and add more one at a time as you overcome any challenges.

8) Scale up your program
Build upon your initial deployment and expand the number of employees and programs that use wearable computers for training. Continue growing your digital training content database and increasing the effectiveness of your training program.

9) Communicate internally through video
Every step of the way, communication regarding your new video training program should be a priority across the business. Whenever possible, use videos to communicate about the program to practice the methods you’re instilling in your business. This works especially well when trying to scale your message. Partner with your internal communications and HR departments to get the word out effectively. Post all training programs on your company intranet, and showcase the program through internal newsletters set up for dispersing information and accelerating knowledge transfer.

Empower your training department to overcome the skills gap
In an industrial environment, on-the-job training is critical to ensure that employees can share their expertise with each other and that companies can maintain the workforce needed to power their business models. Physical manuals and classroom-based training are no longer an effective way to train up the younger generation, and companies must adapt in order to close the skills gap. Those who leverage hands-free wearable computers that enable AR and video training will overcome the myriad forces
contributing to the shortage of trained workers and secure the long-term benefits of a well-trained workforce.