How technology is transforming employee leadership training

As the workplace environment goes through another major transformation, companies are increasingly using innovative technologies and techniques like AI, VR, and gamification to train the next generation of leaders.
Industries: Work
Trends: VR & AR
  • How AI can help train the next generation of corporate leaders
  • Can VR make it easier to handle difficult conversations?
  • The role of gamification in leadership training

The workplace environment has undergone a major transformation over the last couple of years. Probably the most impactful change observed during this period has been the emergence of hybrid and remote work models, which enabled employees to spend a portion or all of their time working from home. This growing trend has had a significant impact on managers as well, who have had to acquire new skills, such as empathy and communication, to account for the fact that many of their workers wouldn’t be present in the office anymore — physically at least. To adapt to these new developments and remain competitive in their field, companies need to invest in employee leadership training, which plays a key role not only in the personal development of employees but also in the overall success of the business. It’s worth pointing out that employee leadership training itself has changed dramatically over the years. Just like in many other aspects of our lives, technology has taken on an increasingly prominent role in employee leadership training as well. In the following chapters, we are going to take a closer look at how innovative technologies and techniques like artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), and gamification can be used to provide a more immersive, engaging, and personalised training experience.

“Virtual Reality is transforming corporate training by reducing training time and improving training results. We have seen that people leaders are more confident in the material they learned than traditional learning formats”.

Kevin Cornish, the founder and CEO of Moth+Flame

How AI can help train the next generation of corporate leaders

Artificial intelligence in particular has proven rather effective at training the next generation of corporate leaders. Among other things, it enables companies to provide each employee with a personalised training experience and deliver instant feedback. In some cases, it can even be used to predict employee performance with a high degree of accuracy. AI can be even more effective when it’s combined with virtual reality, enabling companies to immerse their employees in highly realistic VR simulations that provide a safe and controlled environment in which they can practice leadership skills. Studies suggest that VR simulations have a positive impact on employee engagement and motivation, which in turn leads to improved performance. Thanks to its natural language processing (NLP) capabilities, AI can also be used to provide employees with instant feedback, which has been shown to improve their communication skills — a key requirement for a good leader — and helps them perform better in performance evaluations. Employee performance prediction is another area where AI has proven extremely useful, allowing managers to identify employees who may be at risk of falling behind and react in a timely manner by delivering targeted support.

For instance, Cultivate Intelligent Coaching is an innovative, AI-powered leadership development product designed to help managers identify their blind spots and coaching needs. It does so by analysing active feedback from 360 surveys, as well as opt-in passive listening signals from various workplace communication channels, including Slack, Google Workspaces, and Microsoft Teams. Each manager receives highly personalised leadership insights and actionable recommendations in the form of nudges, while the personal dashboard allows them to keep track of a wide range of metrics and monitor their progress. Furthermore, rather than having to wait for the right moment to put their newly acquired skills into action, it enables managers to make an immediate impact by integrating coaching within the daily workflow. What makes Cultivate different from most digital coaching approaches is that it employs AI intent models to analyse observed behaviour and provide more meaningful insights into which areas require further development. In addition to identifying the frequency of interactions between a leader and their employees, Cultivate can also understand the tone they employ in those conversations. For example, it can tell the difference between offering advice and soliciting opinions. It can even determine how often the leader recognises their employees or offers encouragement, enabling it to provide more accurate coaching recommendations.

Can VR make it easier to handle difficult conversations?

Novant Health is a leading healthcare provider with 15 hospitals and more than 1,600 physicians in its network. In partnership with the VR provider Moth+Flame, the company recently developed a VR-based leadership development training designed to teach leaders how to approach sensitive issues. “Healthcare is extremely personal and can sometimes require difficult conversations”, says Chere Gregory, senior vice president and chief health equity officer of Novant Health. “I’m proud to be part of an organisation that is committed to investing in forward-thinking training and development, giving our team members the confidence and ability to have these needed conversations with fellow team members and/or their patients”. The training features a simulated, lifelike environment where leaders can practise difficult workplace discussions with the help of natural language processing — using their voice to interact with virtual participants. Compared to 2D instructional training, VR-based training enables leaders to learn by doing, which significantly increases the efficiency of the training. “Virtual Reality is transforming corporate training by reducing training time and improving training results. We have seen that people leaders are more confident in the material they learned than traditional learning formats”, adds Kevin Cornish, the founder and CEO of Moth+Flame.

“Leadership cannot be taught, it has to be experienced”.

Imran Sayeed, chief technology officer at NTT DATA

The role of gamification in leadership training

If you’ve ever watched someone play video games, you may have noticed how completely absorbed they are in what they are doing. Wouldn’t it be great if you could achieve the same level of engagement when learning new skills? Well, that’s where gamification comes in. Described as the application of gaming elements like points, badges, and leaderboards in non-gaming contexts, gamification can significantly increase employee engagement levels and improve their performance levels. A case in point is the systems integration company NTT DATA, which uses gamification to train future leaders. “We believe leadership cannot be taught, it has to be experienced”, says Imran Sayeed, the company’s chief technology officer. To this end, the company developed a game called Ignite Leadership, which enables employees to experience a wide range of leadership scenarios in a fully immersive environment and learn more about new management subject areas. Within the game, employees can collaborate with one another and develop key leadership skills like negotiation, communication, time management, change management and problem solving. The game also allows employees to receive instant feedback from their peers and even be recognised for their performance, while at the same time enabling managers to identify employees who are showing aptitude for leadership positions.

Similarly, the leading consulting firm Deloitte has developed an online curriculum called Deloitte’s Leadership Academy (DLA), which combines in-depth courses, video lectures, tests, and quizzes with missions, badges, and leaderboards to encourage employees to learn critical leadership skills. Employees start by completing an ‘onboarding’ mission, which involves watching a 3-minute video that teaches them how to use the website. Once they complete the mission, each employee receives a badge, after which they are asked to create their profile and upload a photo by connecting the platform to their Linkedin and Twitter personal accounts. The platform leverages the principles of gamification and behavioural science to motivate employees to achieve their learning goals, giving out badges for each online learning programme employees complete. There are also ‘secret’ badges that can only be unlocked by achieving certain goals, adding an element of surprise and excitement to the learning process. The platform also features a leaderboard that allows the company to recognise players who display an extraordinary commitment to their learning. To avoid discouraging newcomers, the leaderboard resets every week, so that each week represents a new start and a new opportunity for everyone to put their best foot forward.

Closing thoughts

The workplace has undergone a significant transformation characterised by the rise of hybrid and remote work models. This shift requires managers to develop new skills such as empathy and communication to adapt to the changing dynamics. To remain competitive, companies must invest in employee leadership training, which plays a crucial role in personal and organisational success. Artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a powerful tool for training future leaders. It enables personalised experiences, instant feedback, and accurate performance predictions. When combined with virtual reality (VR), AI creates immersive simulations that enhance engagement and motivation. Additionally, AI’s natural language processing capabilities provide immediate feedback on communication skills, a vital aspect of effective leadership. AI also helps predict employee performance and identifies those at risk of falling behind, allowing for targeted support. These innovative approaches, along with gamification techniques, enhance employee engagement and performance, creating a dynamic training environment for leadership development in the evolving workplace.

Industries: Work
Trends: VR & AR
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