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Are You Future-Ready?

Four tips for embracing technology and preparing your workforce for tomorrow

Are You Future-Ready? Pictured is Midlab’s augmented reality cleaning technology. Photos courtesy of Midlab.

For the past 20 years, the industrial manufacturing industry has implemented automation and robotics in its facilities to increase efficiencies and overcome challenges related to labor, product inconsistencies, and profitability in the face of competition. The commercial cleaning industry is at the start of its hike and the path looks very promising for the implementation of millions of robots around the world. The real question is….are you ready?

According to a recent ISSA webcast that explored the role of robotics in our industry, we will see 3 million robots deployed over the next 10 years globally. As we discuss robotics with our members and industry professionals, we need to embrace technology and adapt our business operations to take advantage of the opportunities that come with this innovation. It is time to get into the growth mindset and stop being complacent.

In the 1990s, students for the first time could earn their college degree exclusively online. As of 2018, 95% to 98% of public universities and colleges offered some form of online learning, according to thebestschools.org. This trend will continue and drive demand for more online vocational learning experiences as well. However, with many trades, it is important to understand that a skilled worker will not be successful by only taking online courses. A true blended learning and assessment process for workers will drive real change and impact the bottom line for any organization.

Over the years, you may have read many articles promoting a blended learning approach for adults with a primary focus on kinesthetic and hands-on learning. As we continue to engage our workforce with technology, online learning platforms have become a primary source of employee education. Thinking about how technology is impacting education and certification, here are a few tips to help you become future-ready.

Tip 1: Take advantage of digital learning

Online learning will continue to grow and will soon implement virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). When an organization reduces its operational budget, it often cuts training first. Considering the cost of training and education, how can you become more cost effective when you have a geographically diverse audience? Leveraging online learning and VR can create a real-life learning experience without the need for a trainer on site.

In addition to cost-effectiveness, VR can enhance training safety. VR is one of the best ways to reduce liability when training staff on the complexity of using hazardous chemicals and tools safely. In addition, leveraging robots to do daily, time-consuming tasks will allow workers to train via VR for tackling more complex tasks.

Tip 2: Measure your results

The famous management consultant Peter Drucker once said, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Online learning platforms collect the data necessary to measure someone’s success and path. As companies begin to identify how they can work together, some are combining quality cleanliness scores with required learning paths based on the deficiency trends that occur in the quality audit phase. With the cleaning industry’s high turnover rate, online learning can be an effective way to drive learning and decrease employee turnover, while offering a low-cost training option. Leveraging other data sources such as quality assurance applications, worker injury reports, or absenteeism rates will help drive forward the educational needs of the workforce.

Tip 3: Use data to customize education

Data collection can significantly impact education and certification. For example, numerous sales assessment tools can provide accurate data on the “DNA” of a salesperson. Once the assessment is complete, we can identify the gaps within the individual’s capabilities to become more successful. As the data flows, we can create a micro-learning environment that is specifically tailored to that individual’s needs.

Imagine that your assessment reveals you lack skills in closing sales. Based on this identification, you would undergo training to maximize your potential and overcome your gaps. Undergoing certification is another way to leverage data and confirm you understand the fundamentals of your learning.

Tip 4: Use a blended learning approach

Learners will typically retain 50% of what they were just taught after an hour. However, it is said that an individual will retain closer to 80% to 90% if they teach the information they learned to someone else.

Soon, VR and AR will close a gap in the learning process and help overcome the obstacle of lowered learner retention numbers becoming the norm as younger professionals with a digital approach to life enter the workforce. Utilizing VR learning, employees will watch a short video then be prompted to perform the task they just learned with a headset and sensors tracking their motions.

With the transition in motion today for tomorrow’s future learner, remember that VR will not be the only mechanism of learning. Implement a blended approach with frequent, short learning sessions for your employees. As people do not learn the same way, it’s important to blend classroom-led and performance-based training with online learning and other new teaching methods such as VR. When building your learning experience, remember to create a blended approach that engages the learner at a deeper level.

Learn from others

We need to acknowledge how other industries, such as manufacturing, have implemented automation and learn from the challenges they faced training their teams. The automation acceptance phase was difficult for companies to overcome as employees initially viewed robotics as their replacement rather than a tool to enhance their output. Remember, people will support what they help to create.

Prepare for entry

Now that robots and automation are becoming more prevalent, we need to prepare for their entry in the cleaning industry. Here are some questions to consider as you prepare your training programs for tomorrow.

  • Do you have a training program detailing how to prepare your physical location for automation?
  • Do you have a training program explaining how to prepare your staff for automation?
  • Does your training program coach building occupants on how to “co-robot” while in the working environment?
  • Does your training program cover the value of automation for your team?

Brant Insero

Brant Insero is ISSA director of education, training, certification and standards. He can be reached at brant@issa.com; phone, 847-982-0800.

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