Our Future of Work Roundtable series recently continued with a presentation on career development and agility training from Daryl Williams, Senior Director of The DeBruce Foundation, and Anita Davis, Chief Mission Officer of MOKAN Goodwill.

What follows is an excerpt from Williams’ and Davis’ presentation. Join us for our upcoming Future of Work sessions by signing up here. And, to experience Mursion’s virtual reality simulations and see for yourself how this platform can support your own business to learn how VR can play a role in honing the interpersonal skills needed to foster a culture of coaching, schedule a demo today.

Daryl: I wanted to give you a background on what we do at The DeBruce Foundation. Our mission is, we expand career pathways to economic growth and opportunity. How do we do that? We do that in a multitude of ways. One of the ways we’re currently trying to make that happen, is we have a variety of digital tools and platforms that we’re trying to create leveraged results and ways that we can impact a lot of people with our platforms and programs.

We have a couple of versions of career development across particular platforms that we work with. We have an assessment called the agile work profiler. We have a larger framework, which is the agility advantage model. Both of those, we want to test. Agilities, they’re not characteristics, they are interests and your skills based on your work history, and they are applicable to every job in the economy. We did a lot of science behind that, which if you want to go to our website, we can show you how we came up with the themes of how they occur within every job in the economy.

Agilities, they’re not characteristics, they are interests and your skills based on your work history, and they are applicable to every job in the economy.

What we do is we have an assessment that will let you know what your agilities are, 1 through 10. We were trying to bring that into the world of work in a practical way where it can really be meaningful for people to grow their agility. We don’t think that they’re fixed. They’re not a stagnant thing. It’s like it’s more of a snapshot of where you are. One of our challenges was we say, well, if they’re built on work activities and things, your skills and interests, how can we grow them if we don’t expose people to those skills and interests? We went on a hunt. We said we need to find ways in which we can do this to individuals who are in our universe after they take our assessment and get their agilities back.

Some team members, some senior team members, we searched the internet, we scout around trying to find platforms, we thought that could be useful. That’s how we found Mursion. I was looking at Mursion and I said, this could be a very unique way to test to see if indeed this could provide a platform.

If we set up simulations that allow people to test their work skills in a safe environment where it wouldn’t hinder their job or their potential increases or career trajectory, Mursion seemed like a safe space for us to try to work together to see if we could come with some scenario that we could design that we could then test with the population.

We went through probably three to four months of designing and experimenting to figure out exactly how this would work. Then the difficult part was, we don’t have an audience. Who can we test, someone that will allow us to do this. That’s where the very nice and wonderful team at Goodwill came into play. I talked to their senior leadership. They were very open to helping us test this on their population.

We did it in two phases. The first phase was I wanted to test to see if the population was open to the platform and the content being delivered on that platform, because this is a very unique way of learning for some people. Although there could be some outcomes, we had 200 sessions with 100 people, that we just wanted to test to see what their response was to the platform. Phase one overwhelmingly, they thought it was a very effective platform. They were excited about it. One of the interesting data points was, the group that was most responsive and thought it was the most effective was not the 18 to 24-year-olds. It was the 55 to 62-year-olds. That was something that was unexpected.

The next step was, after we completed that phase, then I wanted to see if we could get more of an intense exposure of the scenario to a smaller number of individuals, bringing their supervisors to do a pre-pose. Can you look at how they perform in part of these scenarios now, to the agilities now? Let’s expose them to these sessions for Mursion. We pick two of the agility simulation sessions and expose them to five sessions of each one. Then we’re going to do a post of the supervisors to see, did they observe any behavior change in their employees along the line of the agilities. That’s where we are now.

There are some interesting things that from our side, that’s how it looks, but from the Goodwill side, there could be another set of challenges and a different viewpoint of how this looks from their organization. I want to turn over to Anita at this point. She can tell you what it looks like from the other side of the table.

Anita: We were excited to be a part of this partnership. DeBruce has been a long-standing partner of ours in the community. We were really interested in this opportunity for a number of reasons. The first reason is because our mission is all about empowering people through work. Our retail stores are the first step of that mission, because the people who we employ often need some upskilling and reskilling, and we’re really focused on investing in our workforce to ensure that they have those essential workplace skills. This was an ideal opportunity.

The other reason that we were really interested in that is because we are heavily focused on new technologies, emerging technologies, like virtual reality. This met two of our core initiatives. We were excited and really had great success with this partnership.

Some of the things that we had to take into consideration is that we have a really busy retail environment. How do we incorporate this without disrupting the workday, disrupting work schedules and the flow of customers? How did we integrate that? This is a great tool for that because it’s flexible, we were able to incorporate these simulations. What we found was that one simulation per week was about where people felt comfortable with being able to absorb the training and the things that they were learning, and then still be able to balance their workday.

Something else that really worked for this project was to have peer group discussions. That really was a way that they could practice what they were learning through the simulation, but come back together with a group of their peers and talk about what they were learning, how that was applying within this area of work in the retail sector that they were experiencing, and what challenges that they may have in actually implementing the skills. We felt that that model, and really keeping that peer discussion involved, was a key element of the success of this project.

I will say for us, I think that it’s different for every environment. Some environments, it may not require as much adjustment as we had, because we have a very busy schedule, but I do think that process of incorporating training into the everyday environment, not making it something that they have to do before or after work, but being able to allow them to do this during the workday was very helpful for us.

Daryl: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that what drew me to Goodwill in the first place was they have an initiative called the Artemis Initiative, and it’s really about the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Anita: The Artemis Initiative is focused on bridging the digital divide and recognizing that there is this upcoming emerging set of technologies that they’re calling the Fourth Industrial Revolution that’s related to virtual reality, augmented reality, internet of things, robotics, artificial intelligence, and other technologies. We recognize that already, there are many people from many walks of life who really aren’t exposed to these technologies. Being able to use this as an early adopter within our workforce was a great way for us to test out this technology and really understand how to apply it from a workforce development perspective.

Our next step, we’re very excited, will be to try to implement this technology in our external-facing education and training programs. We are recruiting students currently for what we are calling a Bridge to Technology Program, and we hope to be able to customize some simulation to teach people 21st century skills, very much the essential skills, but we’ve added on some things like critical thinking, creative thinking, problem-solving and others that we hope to be able to use some of this technology for as well.

Daryl: I really wanted to emphasize that when you use the Mursion platform, there is really a lot of tentacles where you can find partners, if you include them early enough for what you’re doing, that could really be beneficial to the project you’re trying to undertake in. Goodwill is a prime example of that. That’s what DeBruce Foundation, our mission is to try to find co-creative partners that can be innovative with us to help this idea of expanding pathways, and digital platforms are a great way to make that happen. That’s what we did.

I think that the goal of these sessions is to have people practice the uncomfortableness of using these work activities in the safe space, so when they encounter them in the real world, they’re more comfortable in dealing with them. I think that’s what Mursion does, actually, is to take the difficult conversations that may push people a little bit, but they will practice those ideas there, as opposed to the real world and real-life consequences that can happen if you have to deal with them without having the practice.

I think that the goal of these sessions is to have people practice the uncomfortableness of using these work activities in the safe space, so when they encounter them in the real world, they’re more comfortable in dealing with them.

I think people who go through these things will be challenged. I think that’s why the information and the way it’s set up upfront is critical. This is a growth-related activity, and usually, growth is very uncomfortable for people. Knowing that going into it is different than feeling attacked if you didn’t know that if you went into one of these scenarios. I think that’s an important aspect to do.

We look at this platform very seriously. It’s a serious tool to move people along a continuum of growth in terms of certain characteristics.

It’s interesting because one of the things that I think is important, at least for what we were doing with DeBruce and Goodwill, is we wanted to make sure that would be as far as the agilities are concerned. We think people use them all the time. They just don’t know that they’re using them, and they don’t know how to manipulate them and leverage them to their best advantage.

by Wendy

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