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Readdressing the skills gap with AR

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Ahmet Misirligul)

Industries of all shapes and sizes are facing a significant skills shortage, and unless business leaders tackle the issue head on, the skills gap will only worsen. In the UK alone, the digital skills gap was set to cost more than £141 billion in GDP growth, according to Accenture; a figure set to worsen as the full effects of Covid-19 are realized across the UK. Organizations need to embrace new technology, standardize knowledge and retain critical digital skills in their talent pool. Fail to act fast, and business leaders face a loss in productivity, innovation, and team morale, as staff churn rises.

As the pandemic evolves and a second wave is anticipated in the winter months the scarcity of resources, upskilling in-house talent and offering training and continuous learning opportunities to fill the gaps must be prioritized. Augmented Reality (AR) is an integral tool for businesses when it comes to training and onboarding staff, not just under the current climate, but as an efficient long-term business solution. By using AR for effective knowledge transfer in industries such as manufacturing and IT, crucial knowledge can be shared first hand, regardless of location. For businesses, this means faster knowledge sharing to make maintaining safety and compliance easier, for example, as well as less business travel to accommodate new safety measures. Here are just some of the benefits of using AR-enabled tools to address skills gap issues in business:

Tailored support, no matter time or place

AR transcends common communication barriers such as time and location as it enables experts to fix issues beyond the screen by seeing through their connection partner’s smartphone camera. This technology enables them to observe equipment, machinery or infrastructure issues and diagnose the problem, all from one screen. But AR offers more than a better look in. AR technology takes communication to the next level through offering a deeper interaction for colleagues, as well as dynamic and instant visual feedback which helps to ease the learning curve. For example, experts can use AR capabilities to set 3D markers onto real-world objects and label the next steps for the trainee to guide them through the solution. These capabilities can also be used on wearables such as smart glasses, helping provide real-time and specific learning opportunities, and allowing experts to efficiently guide employees through tasks such as equipment assembly or server maintenance.

This way of getting remote support in the moment it is needed most helps to close the skills gap by seamlessly sharing the knowledge of technical repairs and maintenance. Other tools such as high precision markers can also help to mitigate any language barriers, enabling more effective global communications. Therefore, the next time the issue arises, the employee will be able to fix it themselves rather than relying on the experts — safe in the knowledge that they’re still on hand if needed.

Strong knowledge transfer and retention

AR also enables businesses to offer hands-on training and knowledge retention, even with Covid-19 restrictions in place. This technology goes beyond needing an AR-capable solution at your disposal. Thanks to features such as session recordings, or being able to take a screenshot of a live video stream, businesses can create a pool of expert knowledge that can be accessed on-demand by employees.

Through creating a pool of expert knowledge, employees do not need to rely on specific colleagues to be on call as soon as an issue arises, and instead refer back to recordings and documentation that might help them troubleshoot the issue on their own. This has more than a direct benefit for the employee. AR experiences enable businesses to curate more flexible and cost-effective training programs and continually track and improve processes across the organization. The result? Staff spend less time on training and maintenance processes, and more time to focus on closing the skills gap, and sharing knowledge that can streamline efficiency and drive productivity.

Real-time training for efficient onboarding

It’s clear that we can use AR to upskill colleagues and progress in our roles by using tools to support and improve our day-to-day work. However, training new employees is one of the most valuable applications for Augmented Reality, particularly as there is currently a shortage of key experts in areas such as manufacturing. Deloitte’s research found that as much as 50 percent of open positions remain vacant due to skill shortages in this industry.

AR can be used across the business, from onboarding a new member of staff, to ensuring that the employee is aware of the correct protocols and procedures. For example, when a new employee is familiarizing themselves with a machine, teams are providing remote sales training or onboarding new customers, an AR-capable smartphone or tablet can provide relevant training to ensure it’s operated correctly. This is critical in a time when businesses need to ensure efficiency and swift implementation, all at a remote distance. Furthermore, if this technology was not available, uncertainties could lead to a break in compliance, safety issues, or even increased downtime — all critical issues in multiple industries, including manufacturing and IT.

Critically, AR tools mean businesses in a range of industries can develop more dynamic and cost-effective training programs and retain the vital skills within every layer of their organization. As the pandemic continues to impact business in ways we necessarily cannot predict, businesses must implement new technology that will attract talent, upskill the current workforce, and reduce staff churn. What remains certain is that the businesses that will win, are those that embed the right tools within their organization and encourage a culture of continuous learning that will drive them forward.

Bhaskar Mitra, Global Product Marketing Manager, TeamViewer