Covid Pandemic & Future of Virtual Training in PSI Domain

Anil Puri
CMD, APS group

A thought leader and an action catalyzer rolled into one – Anil Puri is a rare combination of a visionary, and one who has mastered the art of strategic and tactical thinking to the core. He has been using this combination to seed new ideas and to lead them to their implementation on-ground. This has been a consistent feature of his career. He has rich experience of approximately 35 years in corporate in diverse domains & from functional managerial level to apex as chairman of a corporate group. Training has been very close to his heart and has always occupied center stage in planning the businesses. He has been instrumental in building a team of highly qualified training professionals on Pan India basis to develop security protocols and deliver client and site specific training to enable the security personnel at premises of esteemed clientele. He has established ‘APS Centre of Excellence’ a training institution, a state-of-the-art training facility accredited with MEPSC and approved by PSARA Controlling Authority which has earned a place for itself in skilling of security personnel in PSI domain. He has also pioneered the virtual training of security personnel within the APS Group. Concept of Mobile Training Van was also his brain child which has risen in popularity chart. Here he has chosen to share his thoughts on the impact of Covid pandemic and future of the virtual training in PSI domain.

INTRODUCTION

It’s been unprecedented time across the globe. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to many significant changes in the way we live, learn and work. The novel Coronavirus or Covid-19 has changed how millions around the globe are educated and skilled. The spread and the fear of infection of Coronavirus has shut down almost all training centers and educational institutions. In the wake of an unprecedented lockdown period, the skilling ecosystem/ educational system is moving online as far as possible, turning classrooms into online spaces and teachers into virtual educators. Various authorities in their respective domains and realms, at the MNC corporate level/ at the higher educational institutions, and/ or at the school level, have been proposing the setting up of virtual classrooms for e-learning. The institutions for the past one year have geared up in full stream to conduct remote learning. The new paradigm shift in approaches to learning have not only narrowed down the equality gaps but also introduced innovative solutions for skilling in the sector. Many training academies, schools and universities throughout the country are attempting to provide some form of virtual learning with the help of virtual teachers and virtual platforms available.

The government is formulating policies to foster digital skilling. There is a concerted effort to enhance the digital infrastructure to help facilitate the use of innovative educational tools. In the near future, digital skilling will no longer remain a novelty but an essential mode of imparting education. With digital transformation, parallel to the education sector, skilling system in PSI is bound to readjust itself by redefining how we learn and what we learn. Digital technology is also helping overcome language barriers – for learning material to be made available in multiple regional languages is a more feasible option when effected digitally. Innovative e-learning platforms have been gaining huge popularity. Students can attend classes and participate in discussion forums online, at their convenience, from their offices, homes and so on. Over the past few months, millions of students and teachers have adopted online education and skills. This includes the vocational education apparatus like technical training institutes focused on practical and shop-floor training, which have also transitioned to online delivery.

TRADITIONAL MODE OF TRAINING IN PSI

Traditionally, training in PSI domain has been predominantly run on ILT (instructor led training) pattern – face to face basic training conducted at PSA owned training centers as mandated by PSAR 2005. Post basic training – OJT and on site training – are conducted at client’s premises through ILT by trainer. Bulk of the time, this takes the shape of instructor mainly refreshing the skill sets acquired during the basic training with special emphasis on practical handling of security and safety equipment, access control, visitor management, material management, crowd control, handling of unruly customers, handling of emergencies, prevention of theft & pilferage, POSH and fire safety training. At most of the times this training is imparted outdoors at the space earmarked by the client. Client specific training is also conducted using same modus operandi. Most of the MNCs and organizations from IT & ITES domain have dedicated training rooms but balance of 99% employers premises are devoid of any dedicated indoor training rooms/ areas. Most of the times, the dedicated training rooms are occupied for conduct of ‘in house training programs’ as part of the corporate trainings which are being regularly run for the regular employees on their pay roll. These in house corporate training programs are not security related but generally have linkage to adoption of new technology, new processes, awareness drives about new business initiatives in specific domains and up gradation of skill sets required to be acquired by the employees to take it forward. Security personnel are always the last priority. The open space in the premises within the tight time window of availability of few minutes of change of deployment shifts of security personnel thrice in a 24 cycle. Duration of training is limited to 30 to 40 minutes and limited to the scope illustrated above. Indoor training is limited to PPT and training videos on standalone mode but no interface with client network because of cyber security protocol. Selected few have started using the mobile training vans to fill in the void of the dedicated training room at client premises. However, this has proved to be an effective tool of delivery of training but did not offset the requirement of the virtual training necessitated by Covid pandemic.

IMPACT OF COVID PANDEMIC

When Covid-19 struck in early 2020, everything changed dramatically. Forced into lockdown mode with a large percentage of the workforce suddenly operating from home, business interest in (and need for) virtual training accelerated at an unprecedented pace. Many unprepared organizations had to fast track virtual training. Although emigration from the physical classroom had actually begun years ago with some remote workforces experiencing travel cutbacks, the pandemic caused companies to adopt solutions overnight rather than over a few months. What had been on the roadmap to someday research and roll out was forced upon almost everyone, and for many, without any prior experience – let alone skill or proper technology to make it happen. Astute learning leaders recognized that it was either pivot or perish. Organizations that were already considering the shift, as well as those that were offering it at some capacity but were not prepared to exponentially scale their learning efforts to meet the increased demand, scrambled to adapt their existing face-to-face training for online delivery. A huge challenge was maneuvering the intricacies of designing and deploying effective virtual training systems that do not compromise the original goals of face to face training programs. A key challenge for trainers remained, which was how to effectively emulate an in-person learning experience in a live, synchronous virtual environment. Many turned to their basic enterprise web conferencing tool to help them achieve learning objectives. They discovered that specialized live virtual training solutions, which allow them to creatively use embedded tools, could help them bring people together for valuable discussion, dialogue, practice, and collaboration. But all that narrated above broadly holds-good only for the IT and ITES entities. This part remains primarily restricted to the corporate training.

Bulk of the PSI struggled to find its feet to handle the crisis created by pandemic, with no immediate and spontaneous solution at sight; resorted to use the relaxation granted under clause of ‘emergency services’ to PSI by MHA and continued with the traditional ILT mode with necessary Covid protocols. Some of them ventured to explore the ZOOM, TEAMS, Google MEET and Webex and conducted webinars for corporates but training of security guards suffered.

BARRIERS AND RESISTANCE IN VIRTUAL TRAINING AND HOW TO ELIMINATE THEM

In PSI, the enterprise-wide learning is one of the most important responsibilities of the management, organizations and in particular the training and development professionals. This makes it critical to find the right modality for optimal delivery of learning content. It also brings to light the various barriers that go in the way of learning and fulfilling the requirements of the organization. A better understanding of these barriers, or obstacles, can help in maintaining learner engagement and fulfilling the objectives of training programs for the individual learner as well as the organization.

  1. Resistance to change: The resistance to change is one of the common barriers to workplace learning. When corporate learners are told that their methods and processes need to change, some resistance can be expected. While resistance to change is particularly common among tenured employees, it is not uncommon for younger employees to feel the same way. However to some extent same template also holds good for security personnel. Most of the old wines are only marking time and are reluctant learners.
  2. Lack of knowledge: The first thing to understand is that resistance arises from the lack of knowledge. Often, employees believe that new processes will change the comfort of their jobs and their present situation. Therefore, creating awareness about how the new training will improve their lives and their jobs is necessary to deal with this barrier. Change management exercises are handy as they create a non-threatening environment to voice their fear of change. Learning and development professionals must use a variety of tools and best practices to encourage employees to learn.
  3. Lack of leadership training: Leadership development is critical to organizational learning. Leaders who are equipped to guide learning efforts will boost morale, engagement, and the confidence of their teams. An inadequately trained leadership team can lead to poorly managed teams and chaos and even more resistance during periods of change. Managers need to be engaged with new processes or training as employees will most likely remain disengaged without them. When organizational learning and training programs are not prioritized from the top-bottom, it undermines the organizational objectives as a whole. Continuous training and development is key to ensuring that managers guide change and learning efforts effectively.
  4. Presentation problem: Poor presentation is one of the biggest barriers to workplace learning. Learning activities should be presented in the most appropriate and palatable way. An one-size-fits-all approach is the bane of engaging training programs. There is a need to incorporate practical learning activities and related scenario-based examples into the training. These activities engage users in active problem-solving and can lead to better cognitive engagement. Learners are likely to participate in learning activities if they understand the objectives behind it. This makes communicating learning outcomes for the individual and the organization important. Encourage and create discussion forums and online spaces for security personnel to interact casually. This will encourage them to engage emotionally with the training process. For learner engagement techniques, it is critical that the existing strategy is in line with the goals and the needs of the organization. Overall, a culture of learning is integral to the success of learning and development at the workplace.
  5. Different learning habits: The current workforce includes at least three generations of security personnel, all of whom have a different relationship with technology. Naturally, this makes training bound to be less effective if all users of learning technology are assumed to be equally tech-savvy or to have the same learning habits. Personalized learning can help overcome this barrier. Personalized learning also addresses skill gaps apart from ensuring that a rigid predetermined path is not forced upon all at site.
  6. Hectic user schedules: Employees have a finite amount of time that has to be allocated to different facets of life, work, and leisure. A heavy workload and lack of protected learning time can impede workplace learning in many ways. While allocating dedicated time for training, creating micro-learning modules can also help in user time management. This approach helps deliver useful and relevant content in bite-sized chunks. Users are free to engage with the learning material as per their will, whenever and wherever. Training schedule should not become in daily routine of the security personnel.
  7. Effective and timely feedback: The value and effectiveness of feedback in improving learning cannot be understated. It helps to guide learners through the training process and is as important as establishing learning goals. Research indicates that learners are most likely to benefit from feedback if they receive it before they move onto the next assignment i.e., enhancing learning through formative assessment and feedback. Here are a few characteristics of effective feedback makes that learners understand what good performance means, encourages self-assessment, inspires positive motivation, provides opportunities to close the gap between current and desired performance.

BENEFITS OF VIRTUAL TRAINING

For corporate training, a well-designed virtual training, which can take place in multiple, sometimes non-traditional, formats, offers many benefits. These include:-

  1. Just-in-time learning that can be applied immediately.
  2. Spaced learning opportunities.
  3. Greater chance for individualized contribution, feedback, and coaching.
  4.  The ability to reach an audience that is isolated or challenged with disabilities.
  5. It’s more economical than face-to-face training, especially when scaled.
  6. It’s a great equalizer; trainers don’t know who is a manager or a subordinate, so every learner is important.
  7. Opportunities for dispersed learners to interact and network with one another.
  8. More flexibility in program design.
  9. Reduced travel costs.
  10. Increased efficiency.
  11. Employees spend less time away from the job.
  12. Flexibility to learn over a period of time, versus all at once.
  13. Increase in diversity and inclusion.
  14. Enablement of work/ life balance due to less travel and time away from home.
  15. Ability to offer continuous learning opportunities to increase knowledge retention.
  16. More accessible for those with physical, auditory, or visual disabilities.
  17. More creative for L&D practitioners.

LEARNING MODELS

Having seen the benefits of the virtual training, the key decision which needs to be taken is to decide on one of the three learning models which will be the best for your business requirements.

Pure eLearning: Where employees are trained only online. They take courses and tests and read recommended articles and books.

Blended learning: Where only a part of the training is transferred to online learning. For example, you can ask employees to complete all the prerequisite courses through eLearning and then undergo hands-on training in person.

Instructor-led training: This type of training allows learners and instructors to interact and discuss the training material, either individually or in a group setting. Instructors may deliver training in a lecture or classroom format, or even virtually, using video conferencing tools. But, moving human can be expensive.

PRE REQUISITES OF DIGITAL INFRASTRUCTURE

Once the learning model has been selected, the next important step is to pick the learning management system – the main software required. An LMS requires other software which will be available in the server. 100s of LMSs are available in the market; some of them are commercial and some are open-source applications such as MOODLE. To select an LMS, you need to consider the following questions: Are you planning to host webinars? If yes, the list of LMS features should include webinar software or integration with video conferencing services. Are you going to implement instructor-led training? If yes, then you need an LMS that allows you to manage classroom schedules and locations, monitor performance and attendance, and assign learners and instructors to offline sessions.

USER AND COURSE MANAGEMENT

To reach to conclusion as to how to work with users and groups in the LMS, one may have to answer a few questions. How will you register employees – will users register themselves, or will an administrator register students? Who will be involved in managing the LMS? Do you need a system that allows you to assign different user roles such as administrators, publishers, subject matter experts and users?

Are you planning to create individual training programs for different employees or organizations? How will you add new users – by email or by importing them from an Excel file, or both?

CONCLUSION

Skill development through e-learning has gained increased importance and acceptance in view of the challenges posed by Covid-19. The rapid adoption of digital technologies is redefining businesses globally. However, in the current business environment, digital is not only about technology, it also encapsulates how work is done, how data lies at the core of decision-making, how innovation is approached, how best practices are applied, and how cost and efficiencies are rationalized. As a result, the talent landscape in this new e-environment is being re-imagined and digital skilling/ training has opened a window of opportunity for – trainers and trainee, ensuring greater participation in the learning process. With advances in connectivity and aspirations of tailor-made learning, skilling through e-learning is becoming an integral part of the training methodology of most organizations. These organizations are also leveraging multiple learning channels and focusing on a hands-on project-based training and social learning approach for skill development. Skill development through e-learning is gaining momentum for both domain as well as soft skills.

According to a study by KPMG in India and Google, the Indian e-learning market will be worth a staggering $2 billion by 2021. Delivery of soft skills competencies is moving towards the digital mode with the help of short concept audio-videos, real-life scenario-based AI solutions, secondary research projects, and smart gamified solutions.

The employee lifecycle commences and concludes with the entry and departure of hires, respectively. Each element of this lifecycle requires targeted training. If you deliver your learning sessions as silos, they address only a specific goal at one time. For more effective learning, you need to develop training as a continuous process. PlayAblo (Cloud based LMS) can help you deliver training needs that differ for each stage of the employee lifecycle, so you can combine the different requirements into a continual learning curve.

If someone asks me “What’s the secret ingredient of a company’s success?” I will opt to state that a dedicated, well-equipped workforce, with complete know how about their specific responsibilities. But is it okay to just recruit a security professional and leave it on him/ her to figure out his/ her role within your organization? NO. You need to give them access to a full-fledged support system. So, how do you do that? My answer is with a comprehensive and custom corporate training program complete with inhouse and development sessions. This is how I define, the role of corporate training and skilling of security personnel in the growth of my company.



 

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