Augmented reality as a game changer for employee experience?

Augmented Reality (AR) is an emerging trend, but what are the applicable uses of AR in employee experience? Here are three examples of how to utilize AR – and tips on how to get started.

By: Andreas Ringsted, Senior Creative Advisor (2 October 2018)

It’s 7 AM. You get out of the taxi at an airport. After paying the fare, you grab your smartphone and load up the airport’s AR app. You plot in your flight number and the app instantly gives you the best route to your gate. On your way to the gate a message pops up: ‘Have you had breakfast yet?’. You press no and the app takes you on a small detour to the nearest airport bakery, where they serve hot coffee and freshly made croissants. Once at the gate, the app automatically registers your presence and readies you for boarding.

Gatwick augmented reality
No more running around – looking for that elusive gate to your connecting flight (Photo: Gatwick Airport)

No, it’s not a snippet from the next Blade Runner movie; If you have travelled through Gatwick Airport recently, you might recognize parts of it.

Last year, the airport launched a new AR and Info application. Supported by 2,000 AR beacons throughout the airport, the application provides wayfinding, personalized, real-time flight updates, gate information and check-in and security queue times straight to the user’s smartphone. The aim of the app is of course, to allow travelers a smoother experience when navigating the airport.

A trend – but here to stay

Augmented Reality is becoming one of those emerging trends that is skyrocketing and as far as we can tell, here to stay. In 2020, there will be 1 billion active AR users and when asked, 64% of consumers believe that AR will be beneficial for their work place (Newsgenapps.com). With the recent releases of AR developer kits by Google and Apple, the big boys have finally entered the playing field, so considering the amount of focus there is on this new immersive technology, it is time to connect it to your organization!

ar_vr_stats
Market predictions for immersive technology (Source: New Gen Apps)

3 ways AR can improve your employee experience

What are the applicable uses of AR in employee experience? There are many different ways new technology, including AR, can drive your organization forward internally and give your employees a better work experience. But since it’s only an article and not a book you are reading – I’ve limited it to three examples of how I think it could be utilized.

1. Enhance your internal communication with AR

Endless ‘talking head’ videos, articles on the intranet, e-mails sent out to everyone – the sheer amount of internal information being directed at the employees can clutter the good intentions of internal communicators.AR is not the sole solution to that problem and using AR in corporate communication is a two-edged sword. Be wary not to be swept up by technological hype and to use it just because you can. That being said, it can help you focus your communication efforts.An idea could be to turn your strategy posters into an animated story, displaying complex strategy and financial topics in an engaging and understandable way. As an example, imagine holding a screen over an ordinary printed poster or map. Augmented reality could enhance it with 3D visuals indicating a range of data, allowing the user to ‘walk around’ the area and absorb a greater depth of understanding.

Why AR?

There is a theory called Predictive Coding (glass.ac.uk), that means actively trying to predict what inputs are ahead, rather than passively processing information as it arrives – something we all automatically do. So for example, if you show a printed poster about a new strategy to an employee, their brains try to fill in the gaps – predicting what the poster does not tell about the strategy.

  1. “Effectively, our brains construct an incredibly complex jigsaw puzzle using any pieces it can get access to. These are provided by the context in which we see them, our memories and our other senses.” – Dr Fraser Smith, Glasgow University

Using AR, we can give the brain much more to work with and create a better image of the communication for the recipient. The interesting thing here, is to control the sequence and tempo of the visuals, or inputs – thereby heightening curiosity and engagement in unfolding the narrative.

In conclusion

AR can be a powerful communication tool. In a more traditional sense, it can increase engagement and curiosity. But be sure to ask the question “does this add value for our audience?”. It is a good idea to plan ahead and include AR in the framework of the communication and not as an afterthought.

2. Navigate the physical workplace with AR

A tool that can help employees find their way around the office, production facility or off-site work spaces, is something many have dreamed about. We all know the frustration when you can’t find that meeting room, and we have seen the confused look on the face of a new employee when they’re looking for their station.It is certainly not an easy task to create AR-based wayfinding, but the benefits should be easy to spot and emphasize – I’ve done a little math.There isn’t a lot of research done on how much time is lost finding your way around your work place, but I did find a study that says office workers spend up to 15 minutes a day looking for a place to collaborate (Goaskcody.com).

Let’s be conservative and make a calculation where a business with 5,000 employees can save 1 minute a day with a wayfinder app.5,000 x 261 (the average number of work days in a year) = 1,305,000 minutes.

According to Google, the average hourly wage in the US is around 23 US dollars, so that’s a staggering 500,250 US dollars per year in regained down-time, just by cutting down on finding your way around the organization by 1 measly minute. How is that for a cost-saver. But numbers aside, creating a less frustrating work environment increases the employee experience and makes happier employees!

When the app is developed, why stop at wayfinding – you could potentially integrate on-boarding progression, guest access, security zones, entry-level restrictions and much more.

Why AR?

Augmented Reality wayfinding minimizes confusion, compared to common digital maps (vie journal.springeropen.com). It also, and I quote: “significantly reduces the time and cognition workload of human wayfinding behaviors”.

In conclusion

AR-based wayfinding technology is not off-the-shelf just yet and will take some work to effectuate. But as people become more confident in using AR in their everyday lives, being on the forefront and integrating it into business-as-usual, could have huge employee benefits and be a time-saving tool in the long run.

3. Safety learning and on-site information

When it comes to safety, using a ‘show, don’t tell’ approach towards your employees could enhance the adoption rate, making your organization safer – and as we always say: Safety first!One of the most important considerations for safety training is that it is engaging and memorable. Making sure your employees remember and understand what has been trained is crucial.AR can improve safety procedures and on-site information, from delivery-quality training to practical, on-the-spot use, to prevent workplace incidents and accidents. Imagine giving workers on the job the power to see manuals, instructions, and tips as they pass a device over equipment, work sites, hazardous materials, etc.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I will remember, involve me and I learn” – Benjamin Franklin

Why AR?

In a recent neuroscience experiment commissioned by the media agency Mindshare, it was found that augmented reality experiences elicit significant attention, emotional and memory-encoding spikes in users’ brains, compared to traditional video and interactive online experiences (zapper.com)

This is what we are looking for, the emotional connection to learning. Augmented reality is, simply put, the next step on the evolutionary learning ladder. Employees experience a constant bombardment of inputs in the modern job of today, which is why it is imperative to create something that sticks.

In conclusion

Using AR in safety training is no easy feat, and will require hard work and a dedicated buy-in from management. But many organizations have work environments and situations where ignorance or misunderstandings can, in the worst case, be fatal. So, creating exciting and understandable safety programs by using AR is definitely worth considering!

Imagine an app that always provides your employees with up-to-date information on complex safety and on-site procedures (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Create an AR strategy for your organization

The propagation of technology often dictates how good your organization is at adopting new digital work tools. If the technology or tool is well integrated in society in general – it will have a bigger success rate internally in the organization.

This is why I suggest that you already begin to consider an AR strategy and to what extent your organization can benefit from integrating augmented reality into the work day of your employees.

Ask these questions before you start detailing your strategy:

  • Will our employees embrace augmented reality?
    Define what steps you need to take to support the adoption process, such as providing access to devices, technology and training.
  • How can AR improve our employee experience?
    Identify your employees’ needs and how AR can help fulfil those needs. Examine which tools they already use in their work and to what extent they can be enhanced by, or even replaced, with augmented reality.
  • In what areas of our communication could this be most effective?
    Choose an area where visual storytelling and increased immediacy can foster the greatest positive impact.
  • How will we measure success?
    Start your program with one specific AR initiative and track its success. Feedback and metrics can help you make informed choices about investments going forward.

Digital workplaces are on everyone’s lips at the moment, and many have been delayed, since they might have dosed off in class, when it came to upgrade and adoption processes for their digital workplace strategy. Augmented Reality will eventually become a part of your digital workplace – so get brainstorming and start planning today!