The past year has seen Fieri revolutionise the way it operates by providing some of the most innovative and stimulating virtual training available. Whilst initially COVID-19 pushed us online, as time has gone by, we have learned to thrive in our new environment. We still deliver essential in-person training to key workers, but a majority of our work at present is online.
The challenges of virtual training
Fieri has always embraced the importance of ‘learning triggers’ – making a topic important and memorable enough to people that they embrace it and make sense of it in a way that helps them develop. Through our programmes we always aim to provide an experience that impacts the psychological domains of cognition, emotion and motivation.
We want people to understand the theories and ideas we present, for them to connect with them emotionally, and to be motivated to synthesise them into their professional and personal lives.
We have always preferred to achieve this through providing highly stimulating experiences and giving access to incredible people. Doing this virtually has its challenges, but they can be overcome. We take a look at some of the factors that have led to success in delivering virtual training over recent months.
Use the right people
We have realised that our strength online is the same as in person – our people. Using coaches with the knowledge and experience to be credible, and the coaching skills and emotional intelligence to engage, is as important as it is when developing people face-to-face. Perhaps more so. If you haven’t ‘walked the walk’ and cannot ‘talk the talk’, it is incredibly hard to capture and maintain focus for a sustained period online. Be it an Olympic athlete talking about high-performance teamwork, or a bomb-disposal expert talking about managing pressure, credible, interesting people can hold the floor and therefore be that learning trigger.
Connection and building value
A person must value the training experience and see it as a good use of their time. Building value in online learning means communicating well before the event, building up expectations, and explaining the need. We have learned that how the activity is presented before it happens makes a huge impact on how useful people find it and how engaged they are.
We also try to provide a physical connection between the person and the virtual training. We achieve this by sending out items relevant to the training, from augmented reality cubes and virtual reality glasses, to food packs (for wellbeing programmes) and handbooks. High quality, relevant and innovative physical resources really help to differentiate the training, make it memorable and ensure that it is seen as high value, worthy of time and attention.
Technical issues threaten to undermine even the best planned and delivered training activity. However, there is so much that can be done to ensure training online runs as smoothly as possible. Using the right platform and ensuring it is configured properly is essential, as is having somebody dedicated purely to dealing with tech issues. Reaching out to people beforehand to ensure their technology works and they know how to use it can make a big difference. Done in good time, almost all issues can be identified and resolved.
Structure for the virtual domain
Many people find it harder to concentrate online and find it more tiring. Simply taking a programme delivered in person and trying to replicate it online rarely produces the same results. Using shorter periods of explanation, and switching between activities and discussions frequently, keeps focus. Keeping sessions shorter with frequent breaks also helps.
Fieri have developed activities that allow people to interact, find items, work together and solve problems. This allows learners to try out new skills and ideas, and for our coaches to observe behaviour and performance and help to develop.
An example is our 3D-rendered ‘crash-site’ where teams will need to work together to get out of a sticky situation – a perfect situation for people to concentrate on identifying leadership styles or team roles, or a shared experience for later analysis of decision making.
Flow is incredibly important to keep online learners moving forward. Use of progressive scenarios means a much more satisfying experience. Be it preparing for, mounting, then consolidating an operational task, or working through the stages of a negotiation, the ‘story’ and how it flows keeps things on track and keeps people engaged.
It is essential that cameras and mics remain on wherever possible if you want to ensure engagement. Otherwise distractions can soon take over. It also gives coaches the ability to read the audience and adjust their approach to meet the need.
A good headset makes a big difference if learners can get hold of them or be sent them beforehand.
Apps such as Gather or Online Town, where people can walk in and out of conversations and environments, can add a whole other dimension, whilst online avatar-based virtual worlds such as Second Life can provide an even more interactive experience for more technically adept learners.
The ultimate online experience has to be through incorporating virtual reality technology. It takes some planning but interacting with people in a 3D world provides an incredible array of options for high-impact learning.
If you want to learn more about how Fieri can bring your online training to life, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.