Augmented reality continues to propel digital transformation initiatives forward with companies’ people as the centerpiece of their investments. As part of its ‘Preparing for the Future of Work project’, the World Economic Forum (WEF) recently released a report on the business case for reskilling and upskilling the American worker. WEF estimates that 1.37 million US workers will be fully displaced in the next decade but can be reskilled to new roles with similar skillsets and even higher wage roles at an aggregate cost of $34 billion (about $24,800 per displaced worker).
Current and future job displacement spending will likely take a similar form as training expenditures today; a mix of enterprises & governmental entities, each with major stakes on the looming skill gap’s potential effect on the US economy. The federal government’s recent investment in retooling the American worker came from recent updated provisions for the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act and a $1.2 billion grant program geared toward skilling the next-generation worker and benefitting more than 11 million students.
The WEF defines reskilling and upskilling as:
Upskilling: Learning new competencies to stay in current role, due to the change in skills required, or adding certain competencies for career progression.
Reskilling: Learning new sets of competencies to transition to a completely new role.
While assuring that the forthcoming talent pool is equipped to fill their open roles, enterprises must invest in their current employee base through training. This is major on-going investment for organizations; global training expenditures for 2017 were estimated to exceed $90 billion and average annual expenditure per learner was more than $1,000.
Although these expenditures seem significant, the WEF report suggests that organizations are not finding business cases and measurable ROI from reskilling and upskilling programs. But they are also acknowledging the side effects of not investing in this labor pool; 60 percent cite skills gap in local labor markets and 36 percent in global labor markets as significant barriers to technology adoption. About 80 percent of these respondents are planning on adopting Internet of Things technologies and 66 percent are adopting virtual and augmented reality in the next four years; while AR can unlock use cases across design, operations, and service, the innovative technology is emerging as a groundbreaking tool for training use cases and is poised to help solve this skill gap conundrum.
AR is proving a useful recruitment tool for attracting the next-generation workforce, but organizations also investing in learning and training services is proving increasingly important. According to a survey by Boston Consulting Group in the WEF report, when 360,000 employees and jobseekers were asked ‘what they value most in their jobs?’, the fourth highest answer cited were learning & training opportunities.
AR is already answering previously cited organizational concerns on training ROI; 51 percent of IDC survey respondents agree AR is driving a measurable ROI for employee training.
This augmented reality employee training ROI can be attained through any combination of factors:
To the third bullet above, the most effective and widespread training methods cited by IndustryWeek is on-the-floor shadowing and pairing; AR can improve knowledge retention for new employees in situational environments. AR can also be easily updated and customized from an information delivery standpoint; important for contextualizing standard work instructions & aligning job-specific training with shifting workforce trends to more specialized jobs cited by WEF.
Boeing demonstrated the positive impact of training with AR through its trainees assembling an aircraft wing component in less time and at a higher success rate. Microsoft recently announced a contract with the U.S. Army to bring AR to the training grounds and unlock realistic military situations to further prepare soldiers for real-world combat.
The AR training use case is becoming pervasive across the market; 39 percent of PTC customers cite ‘new training methods as the stated objective of their AR experience’ in the latest State of Industrial Augmented Reality report. Organizations successfully implementing their digital transformation initiatives are the ones investing in their workforce as the foundation for their future.
New and existing workers are citing learning and training opportunities as major criteria in selecting where they work, yet enterprises are having trouble proving ROI of training programs but understand there is a skill gap inhibiting them from adopting innovative technologies. AR is a promising solution to this skilling challenge where adoption and value recognized continue to increase exponentially.