The Training Revolution
03 June 2023
According to the International Labor Organization, 2.78 million workers die every year on the job. If you are responsible for people in any shape or form, I’m sure these statistics will send shivers down your spine and may even give you sleepless nights.
I’ll tell you what else bothers me: we are living in an unprecedented age, the age of smart phones and 1-day shipping. And yet, the most powerful tool we have to try and curb these ILO numbers hasn’t changed. TRAINING. Don’t get me wrong, traditional training methods have their positives and are necessary but surely, we can do better. Death by PowerPoint, information overload, poor trainee engagement, and the challenge of gauging understanding are features of training we have not been able to improve on. Now that is SAD.
In 2019, I was presented with the opportunity to do something about this gloomy state of affairs. I was approached on LinkedIn by a visionary who proposed we create immersive, engaging, and gamified experiences to help tackle the staggering statistics of work-related accidents. His idea was exciting and the cause was indeed noble, but everybody comes up with great ideas, let alone ones that call for revolutionizing an entire industry. Plus, I had my hands full at the time: I was chairing the UAE branch for the largest safety membership organization in the world, I was in the middle of a PhD, I was managing the HSE department for a Fortune 500 company across the Middle East and Africa, and I was a husband and father of 2 beautiful young children. Nonetheless, I agreed to meet Mousa from Pixaera and hear him out.
It was a very interesting first encounter. Two young guys who looked like they came from the television series Silicon Valley visited me at my office to present their idea. Mousa’s passion was inspiring and they asked me to put a virtual reality headset on to take me through some of the work they had already done. As I entered this virtual world, I was taken aback. VR was something I had seen on TV ever since I was a kid but I never imagined it would feel so real and evoke the full spectrum of emotions from excitement and joy to sorrow and fear! While I navigated this 3D space, the opportunities for improving safety performance seemed endless and I was instantly a convert. This was definitely the future of training and I wanted to be part of defining it.
Since then, Pixaera has been able to develop powerful simulations that are being used by some of the world’s largest organizations. My role in the process is to create the stories that users go through and provide technical guidance and advice to the design team. With this level of technology, trainees can now experience the consequences of their decisions in a safe environment before they step foot on site. The story-based training experience is interactive and engaging which ensures much higher levels of retention. And we can even build a deep understanding of every trainee by collecting data about the choices they make in these experiences.
As a safety trainer, I know the shortcomings and challenges of conventual training far too well. However, there is hope on the horizon. With technology like virtual reality, training no longer has to be a monotonous, box-ticking exercise. Instead, it can be effective and fun. Being part of the training revolution and saving lives in the process is something I am very proud of. But we still have a lot of work to do. One person will die in the next 12 seconds because of a work-related accident or disease (ILO). I don’t know about you, but that’s just unacceptable…