Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) often need more resources to deploy technology in the large-scale ways bigger companies can. However, they still have plenty of exciting opportunities to pursue.
1. Use Virtual Reality to Make Training More Immersive
Virtual reality (VR) initially gained traction in gaming, but people are now exploring how to use it for workforce training. A 2021 survey of SMEs in the United Kingdom found 12% currently use it that way and 35% of that group found it a cost-effective option. Plus, 47% of companies using VR said it helped improve workers’ understanding of what they learned.
Even though VR simulations may represent significant expenses, you’ll often find the costs balance out in the end. For example, having someone go through a simulation could give the worker a realistic experience without requiring them to use physical supplies you’d eventually have to restock.
VR is also beneficial for teaching people concepts that would otherwise be too complicated to demonstrate in a real-world setting. Those could include skills related to working at heights or handling unusually high numbers of customers.
Moreover, it can reinforce safety procedures trainers could not safely and realistically recreate, such as those related to fires or earthquakes. When people interact with the simulations, the experiences could be more memorable than reading about emergency procedures in an employee manual or clicking through an e-learning module.
“A 2021 survey of SMEs in the United Kingdom found 12% currently use virtual reality for employee training, and 35% of that group found it a cost-effective option.”
2. Choose Technology Champions to Ease Transitions
Workers are not always immediately thrilled by the news their companies will soon introduce new technologies. A 2022 survey found 49% feel frustrated by workplace-provided technology and tools. Plus, 42% purchased tools themselves to improve their productivity. Another notable takeaway was 26% of respondents had thought about leaving their jobs because of the lack of suitable tech tools.
One clever workaround is to get feedback directly from the people who use the tools. What features do they need that would most benefit how they work? Which parts of their processes take the longest now and how could the right tech tools shorten that time frame?
Then, once decision-makers identify the most appropriate tools, they should select a few people to be tech champions for the organization. These individuals are usually the point persons colleagues contact when they need help with a new tech-related product or process. The tech champions are also usually involved in calls with sales representatives and technical support personnel that assist with a company’s tech implementation.
When employees know there are certain people they can approach to get quick tech help, they often feel better supported and more upbeat about the process. The tech champions should also keep track of the most common questions or problems and provide them to management. That information can identify training gaps to address as soon as possible.
“A 2022 study revealed 49% of respondents feel frustrated by workplace-provided technology and tools.”
3. Use Virtual Meeting Platforms for Knowledge-Sharing Sessions
One of the positive things to come from the COVID-19 pandemic is the increase of platforms such as Zoom to break down geographical barriers. Suddenly, people worldwide could participate in seminars, workshops and other events without leaving their homes.
Such situations are still possible, and capitalizing on them is a great way to increase a workforce’s skills and awareness. One possibility is for profit-based SMEs to invite non-profit experts to discuss topics that apply to both organizations. For example, 99% of non-profits understand the necessity of donor information security. The percentage is probably similarly high among for-profit businesses regarding their feelings about customers’ payment information.
A non-profit expert in donor database security could go through the various actionable steps taken to prevent cyberattacks and user errors. Then, people from the for-profit SME could talk about how to apply some of the same techniques. Skill-sharing sessions about relevant subjects across organizations help people stay engaged through common ground.
Another skill-sharing option is to plan a virtual meeting where a celebrity with broadly applicable expertise speaks to your team about their knowledge. That might mean an Oscar-nominated actress talks about storytelling or an Olympic gold medalist discusses overcoming obstacles.
The great thing about using virtual platforms for these skill-sharing sessions is you don’t have to pay for anyone’s travel expenses. The fact that the famous person can speak to employees from their current location is also attractive to people with busy schedules.
“Skill-sharing sessions about relevant subjects across organizations help people stay engaged through common ground.”
4. Rely on Vendor-Provided Material When Applicable
It’s understandable if SMEs don’t have all the internal tech talent required to meet all their goals. That’s why many representatives assess when it’s time to work with external technology partners and companies.
Research from 2022 indicated almost half of SMEs have technology partners. Then, a third said they work with managed service providers or cloud companies to meet goals. Those in the second group also said they expect proactive recommendations from those entities regarding technologies to meet their goals.
An advantage of working with a technology provider is the company often has detailed resources to help customers get the most out of the product. The available resources could range from video libraries to live courses. Such content is frequently part of your subscription, but it’ll occasionally be available for a modest fee.
In any case, it’s worth seeing what’s available. Then, select the appropriate people within your organization to learn the content and present the takeaways to colleagues who could also benefit from them. Alternatively, if the material is short enough, schedule it into all employees’ workdays.
Since vendor-published content is also custom-made for certain products and audiences, it provides pertinent details without making learners use search engines to find what they need. Vendors also frequently update the training materials to reflect new releases, keeping them current.
Technology Helps Upskilling Happen
These four ideas show how SMEs use technology to increase employees’ skills. Regardless of which options organizations try, leaders should always get feedback from participants, finding out what worked well and how they can improve future training efforts.
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