In an increasingly online world, knowing how to interact with customers and colleagues virtually is essential to succeeding in any career. For some, these virtual communication skills don’t come naturally or easily and they risk falling behind the rest of the team and workforce.
This is where simulation-based learning comes in - an increasingly popular way of helping staff to develop their online communication styles and skills. So what is simulation-based learning? How can it be used and what are some of the benefits of adding it to your training catalogue? Read on to find out more.
Simulation-based training allows employees to carry out realistic simulations of day-to-day events and interactions that they may encounter in their workday.
Through immersive scenarios, they can learn in a highly managed, low stakes environment, where they have the freedom to practice situations as many times as they need to get it right. Crucially, they can subsequently improve their skills and increase their confidence for the situation in real life.
This way of learning can be supplementary to more traditional, online-based training and can even be superior to it in that students can learn in a proactive way that closely mimics experiential learning, which can achieve up to 90 percent learning retention, compared to only 5 percent for traditional learning activities such as online classes or videos.
Because this training allows employees to become familiar with situations they may actually encounter in their workday, it will enable them to feel more confident in their role and ability within the organization, through learning in an interactive environment that allows them to practice and develop skills more quickly.
You can use simulations to create a variety of different environments and situations that an employee may encounter. These include:
A customer service simulation can allow employees to practice dealing with angry customers over the phone or through a live chat platform.
These situations can be highly stressful and difficult to manage in real life, however through simulations, an employee can learn how to deal with these customers in a variety of ways that aligns with the organization's culture, helping them to diffuse the situation and remain calm themselves.
For those with more office-based roles, simulations can be used to practice delivering effective presentations over video - a skill many employees lack. For example, a simulation can replicate popular video conferencing software such as Zoom or Teams, with the virtual audience asking questions throughout the presentation and afterwards.
Employees can also receive feedback on their performance, including feedback on how confident they were while presenting, how quickly they talked, how often they used hesitation words, and how the audience is likely to have perceived them.
Example of a virtual presentation simulation, where you practice presenting to a virtual audience and receive feedback on your performance (Credit: VirtualSpeech)
Should a role be primarily sales orientated, employees can learn how to give a great pitch with sales pitching simulations. This allows them to go through a demo sales pitch in a simulated virtual meeting room.
Not only can your sales team practice the actual pitch and timings of it, they can also learn how to answer client questions and common objections, as well as receive feedback from the simulation on how well they did this.
Something that everyone has to face at some point in their career is having difficult conversations with a colleague, especially if they manage a team or department. Simulations are a great way to practice these conversations, for example, simulating having to give a colleague a bad performance review, or delivering news of redundancy to a colleague you’ve known for a long time.
This type of simulation is invaluable for showing how to conduct such a tough conversation in a sensitive yet authoritative way and helps managers effectively handle these interactions during challenging moments.
Example of a difficult conversations simulation, where you practice firing an employee (Credit: Talespin)
Simulations are fantastic as a standalone learning tool when employees may already have the knowledge they need and simply don’t know how to put it into practice. For example, a manager may know theoretically how to handle a difficult conversation but struggle with saying the right things when the moment arises.
Simulations can also be beneficial when combined with e-learning, especially when the employee is starting from a beginner’s level. E-learning allows employees to learn theory and best practices and then the simulations encourage them to practice their learnings and receive feedback on their performance.
Using simulations as an endpoint to e-learning modules gives learners a chance to put their new knowledge into action, thereby solidifying it in their minds and bridging the gap between theory and practice.
Adding simulations to your organizations training catalogue can be highly beneficial to both employees and to you as an employer.
Simulations allow your employees to get plenty of practice in a low risk, low-pressure environment, where they can get feedback on their performance and therefore improve on areas that need it most. This will enable them to develop and increase their skills and confidence in their roles, leading to fewer mistakes in real life interactions.
In addition, these simulations can be easy for employees to find and enrol on when they are added directly to your training catalogue. Simulations don't require additional hardware or software downloads and can be completed directly from employees’ work laptops, providing them the opportunity to learn through experience on demand.
Experiential learning (learning by doing) is a fantastic way to improve how employees feel about actually doing these things in their daily workflow. By having plenty of practice in realistic simulations, they will be less likely to need as much support from other staff members while on-the-job.
In the long run, this can increase employee engagement with both their own role and with the wider company. As people feel more comfortable and confident, they are more likely to remain in their role and perform highly. Effective professional development can improve employee retention levels, and simulations can ensure that your staff are well-informed and more experienced.
Simulations can also be an effective route to reducing a company’s carbon footprint because they can accelerate learning and reduce the need for additional training, and thus the associated costs to the environment of transporting multiple people to a central location.
Adding simulation-based learning to your e-learning training catalogue is an excellent way of helping employees to learn and practice essential parts of their role, leading to an increased skill and confidence level for day-to-day virtual communication and interactions.
Introducing simulations, especially for those working in primarily online or remote based environments, is a great way to build a well developed, confident workforce who are ready to tackle the challenges their role may bring.