Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Simulations Help Development Programs Take Off

Thursday 18 October, 2007
Training simulations have long been critical to many jobs, including pilots, astronauts and military. But simulations have also taken off - pardon the play on words - in the corporate context. Here is a 'frequently asked questions' guide to simulation training in today's corporate world.
What are simulations being used for?
Topics taught through simulations have become vast and only seem to be growing. They include:
Business acumen Marketing
Change management Negotiations
Client relationship management Operations
Financial management Project management
Hostile environment training Selling
Leadership Strategy execution
Logistics management Talent management
Team building
What are the different methods?
Taking a step back, the word 'simulation' can encompass a range of training methods in the corporate context. The range is defined by the extent of the replication.
Some typical simulation methods and their pros/cons:
  • Case studies: Can be utilised in a range of ways that vary in time consumption, cost and effectiveness. The most basic is a write-up that is discussed between two people or a group. A more intense version is a competition between groups that have to draw up detailed plans based on the case and present them.

    Pro: Less expensive, and can be done in stages.
    Con: Effectiveness is more dependent on participants' attitude.

  • Role plays: Having two or more individuals take on roles is actually another version of a case study that brings the reality to the next level. Role plays vary by the extensiveness of the write-up. The more complex and detailed the situation individuals are given, the more intense and rewarding it can become.

    Pros and Cons: Are the same as for case studies, but role plays can be slightly more time consuming to prepare and somewhat more effective if a situation is re-created well.

  • Games and other live interactions: These can range from outdoor team activities to board games around business issues.

    Pro: Highly interactive and effective.
    Con: Time intensive for participants.

  • Computer programs: These have become very sophisticated and, at the top end, can utilise advanced 3D technology.

    Pro: Engaging and can be used independently without the constant time of a planner/leader.
    Con: Costly, but can be justified on a cost-per-use basis.

What can't be expected of a simulation?
A simulation can never be the "real thing". Employees will take more risks in negotiations during a simulation when there is nothing to lose.
What are the business benefits?
Overall, the benefits of simulations or any experiential learning far exceed the student/teacher model for businesses. But more specifically, simulation training offers these potential returns:
  • 3-in-1 training: One simulation not only (1) reinforce the subject matter, but can (2) contribute to team building and (3) sharpen analytics.

  • Higher productivity: The main purpose of any training is to improve productivity and effectiveness, and simulations done well yield the best results.

  • Retention: Employees sometimes are reluctant to do simulations, but say that they are very rewarding and recognise the investment the company has made in their development.

All in all, the key to any effective development program is the recognition that individual employees learn in different ways. In order to be effective, there are multitudes of different tools that organisations can use for training purposes - classroom training, e-training, on-the-job learning, not to mention mentoring, coaching and on and on.
The advantage of simulations is that, when done well, they require immediate decision-making in a context that most closely mimics real situations. And, there is a lot to be said for that.

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