Imagine that one day you walk into your company, get out of the elevator, go to your usual workstation and find no desk, no chair, no computer, nothing. Just a message telling you to go to a room downstairs, where someone is waiting for you, telling you that you have just entered an immersive experience!
It’s not fiction, this was exactly how an immersive training course in proactive customer management began, in a company where classic training wasn’t enough to transform the knowledge acquired into observable behavior that could be converted into business, in this particular case.
From that moment on, a sort of “real-life game” began, where each customer manager would have to put into practice some concrete and proactive commercial actions with their customers in order to get their equipment back. For example, scheduling a meeting to talk to that customer about a new project would entitle them to get their chair back. A game where, in just a few weeks, customer managers have realized that the market landscape has changed and that their attitude must be much more dynamic than before if they are to add value to their business. And they have done so.
In fact, in the vast majority of situations, when we are dealing with training projects, there is a great deal of concern about the design of the training, the evaluation of satisfaction and sometimes (and only sometimes) the evaluation of learning. After that, companies simply wait for the trainees’ behavior to change, although some of them don’t even realize that there is an empty space between learning and behavior change: how to use the knowledge acquired to make behavior change happen.
Perhaps an example will make it clearer. Think that you are responsible for a team of occupational therapy technicians in a luxury residence for the elderly and that we are talking about training in resuscitation techniques. The training took place in a classroom, was based on slide shows and was very dynamic, all the trainees rated the session exceptionally highly and their knowledge was measured, with very high results. Would it be expected that we would now simply wait to see how well these trainees are able to put what they have learned into practice? What if you were the one who needed to be revived by one of them?
If the answer seems obvious for the example presented here, why should it be any different for other subjects? Sales technique, time management, team management, among many others. Even when we’re talking mainly about behavioral skills, it’s essential to help the trainee understand how they can put what they’ve learned into practice to make change happen.
This is just one of the reasons why immersive learning makes sense and can be applied in teaching or professional training contexts.
But as well as being an excellent tool to support the transfer of training to the workplace, immersive training has another important advantage, which is its ability to involve trainees in the training project. Let’s take a closer look.
Immersive training is an experiential training technique that consists of transforming training projects into real storylines in which trainees are invited to live an absorbing experience that runs parallel to their daily lives.
An immersive experience can consist of a real-life situation, as we saw in the initial example. This experience involves trainees in an unexpected, disruptive context that generates a range of sensations and emotions, and is the key to understanding how to use the knowledge transmitted in this training project.
Research into the benefits of experiential learning has been going on for around 30 years and during this time, new teaching and training techniques have emerged which have been incorporated in various countries to support the formal transmission of content.
This innovative technique thus emerges as a complement to traditional training and aims to achieve a greater degree of involvement on the part of the trainees, who then put the contents of the training project into practice, realizing their usefulness and practical application, something that will influence them to spontaneously adopt new behaviors.
Immersive training projects have a strong communication component before they begin, which aims to involve trainees in the plot of a story that will serve as the basis for the experience they will have. There is also a phase of formal transmission of content, put into practice through that same immersive experience. Finally, there is a phase that aims to make the connection between the experience and how to apply the learning to the reality they will encounter in their organization.
There is a central axis to all the projects: they are based on the plot of a “real story”. This story is written on purpose for each situation and is the thread that gives meaning to the entire training project, accompanying the trainees before, during and after the training, if the projects have a post-training follow-up phase.
All the training themes, whether technical or behavioral, can be worked on in immersive training, since they all aim to get the trainees to adopt new actions, which is the central aspect of each experience.