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VR is taking corporate training to the next level

Clarissa Castillo explains how VR corporate training promises to optimise employee retention, improve skill building, and increase return on investment

For many people, virtual reality (VR) training still seems like something from a sci-fi novel. However, military personnel, doctors, and airplane pilots have been using VR simulation training for decades. In fact, many sports teams and athletes, including American football quarterback Tom Brady, have taken to using VR training as a way to get in extra training and reps without risking injury.

VR training is based on the common idea that people learn by trying and getting feedback on mistakes. For high-stakes professions, it was a natural fit.

But as the scalability of VR has increased, the technology is expanded into more general use where employees working in retail, logistics, and customer service industries are practising in VR headsets to get better at their jobs. This VR training revolution is still in its infancy but is set to revolutionise corporate training of physical procedures, conversational ‘soft skills’ and integrate employees into corporate culture.

How is VR being used for corporate training?

First and foremost, the cost of a corporate training system is crucial for companies. However, current methods involve face-to-face training, observing real-life situations, mentorships, and pre-recorded video sessions. Beyond being outdated, these current practices are not very efficient and, by extension, cost-effective.

VR can help shorten training

According to Glassdoor, it can take up to eight months for an employee to be fully productive. Employees need time to understand their work and how they fit into an established team. In a practical sense, they must also get accustomed to a new space and where things are. It takes time before they feel comfortable in a new role. The good news is VR training can shorten the adjustment period.

VR tours and hotspots give employees the room to seek explanations and ask questions in an interactive environment. This self-customises the training to the needs and interests of an employee, making them more comfortable faster and the training cost-efficient for the company.

VR corporate training is more cost-efficient

VR training offers the scalability of videos with the variety of scenarios that face-to-face training can provide. Some VR training companies even offer customisable client experiences on top of their pre-rendered training modules. And training scenarios can be updated to remain relevant.

For example, in 2018, Walmart trained more than a million associates with VR. Walmart used VR to train employees on new Pickup Tower units in their stores before the towers were even installed—no teachers or physical set-ups were required.

Adrian Carthen practised on the Pickup Tower and said: “It felt like you were actually loading the tower. And I could train any time that I wanted, and it was done in just a few minutes.”

VR corporate training - Walmart
VR is transforming the way Walmart trains associates. Find out more

Instilling this confidence and familiarity is exactly what makes VR so effective as a corporate training tool because the experience is life-like while giving associates the freedom to make mistakes and learn by ‘doing’ in a safe environment.

Best yet, VR reduced training times from eight hours to 15 minutes, with no drop in efficacy. All Walmart associates nationwide will need to undergo Pickup Tower training. The time-saving benefits of VR should return over a million full days of work. It is easy to see why Walmart chose this method of wide-scale training.

Developing conversational soft skills

Demand has increased for employees with well-developed soft skills to improve customer service and managerial skills. VR corporate training offers a unique balance for training soft skills. It is immersive enough for people to take the training seriously but comfortable enough where learners can speak frankly compared to talking to real people. It gives them the familiarity of an uncomfortable situation without the dangers and anxieties of a real-life scenario.

For example, retailers can implement a module to train storefront employees on de-escalating an upset customer, or team managers can practise mediating an interpersonal conflict. Trainees practise speaking and active listening as a simulated conversation becomes increasingly tense. It allows a company to immerse their people in an experience with a customer or employee before they are forced into a live scenario.

The benefits for HR personnel and employees

According to the 2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the overall employee turnover rate is 25% within the first six weeks of employment. Turnover is influenced by working conditions, leadership, workplace conflict, and insufficient training. Therefore, a practical evaluation for effective corporate training is the turnover rate. If employees are not sticking around, VR corporate training can be the boost your company needs.

One primary challenge is acclimating new employees to company cultural norms. VR enables HR teams to offer interactive onboarding and allow newcomers to get a feel for the organisation and learn about processes, products, and services while watching real teams in action.

Some brands rely on employee culture to distinguish their brand. Instead of training specific skills, implement an Exemplar Model, highlighting several very salient examples that work in tandem to shed light on an abstract theme. This produces a great onboarding experience.

A bright future

VR corporate training gained traction before the Covid-19 pandemic, but quarantine and the push to remote work boosted demand and fast-tracked the need for efficient training tools. VR training eliminates physical barriers and provides powerful new ways for employees to connect, collaborate, and learn. VR is not only the perfect medium for right now. It’s the future of immersive learning.

VR corporate training - Clarissa Castillo

About the author

Clarissa Castillo is a writer and outreach specialist

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Images: Canva and Walmart