Virtual Reality for Training and Communications

For several years, virtual reality (VR) for corporate training has been predicted to become a reality. In the business setting, virtual reality is immersive learning in which real-world situations are simulated via technology for training and developing employees. Research is proving VR is a highly successful learning tool for neurological reasons. It can boost information retention, increase employee engagement, improve soft leadership skills, increase employee retention, and contribute to various other benefits. The virtual world can blend with real-world training to create a powerful communication and training tool.  

The Virtual World is Calling 

To clarify the world of immersive learning, consider the reality-virtuality continuum described by Milgram and Kishino as far back as 1994. At one end is the real environment, followed by Augmented Reality (AR), Augmented Virtuality (AV), and Virtual Reality (VR). When the real environment is combined to any degree with the virtual environment, it’s called Mixed Reality (MR). Some scholars believe most virtual reality today is really Mixed Reality because VR is a blend of digital and physical worlds. There is a new discipline called human-computer interaction (HCI). Sensors and processors create computer perceptions of environments based on what is called perception APIs. The inputs include keyboards, touch, mice, voice, ink, and skeletal tracking.  

Augmented reality and virtual reality are the fastest-growing employee and leadership training tools and are subsets of the Mixed Reality spectrum. Augmented reality augments sensory inputs by adding computer-generated interactive digital elements to the person’s real-world environment through a mobile phone, tablet, or headset. It can range from popup displays of information to 3D scenes placed on top of a person’s normal information.  

Virtual reality for training is a more advanced technology. A computer-generated model or simulation of a 3D environment is created, and a person can interact in that environment in what seems like a physical or real way. Currently, equipment like a helmet with a screen or gloves with sensors is used. This is immersive training through VR.  

Augmented reality and virtual reality are not identical technologies. In a few words, augmented reality adds to a real-world environment, while virtual reality gives a person the impression they are somewhere else by filling the field of vision. Organizations interested in using advanced training technologies are more likely to choose VR because it has total visual immersion and can take the user anywhere the company wants for training purposes, whether it’s to an office, manufacturing floor, or halfway around the world to a new cultural setting.   

The Cognitive Foundation of VR 

Virtual Reality for training creates an immersive environment, meaning learners are engulfed in the virtual world. Neuroscience underlies the VR experience. Numerous science-based learning models have been presented by the scientific community to explain the positive impacts of virtual experiential training that simulate real-world scenarios for employee training and leadership development.  

The Ned Herrmann Whole Brain Model defined four brain quadrants that manage thinking and learning. 

  • Analytical – realistic, critical, analyzes, logical, knows how things work 
  • Practical – organizes, reliable, takes preventive action, plans, gets things done 
  • Relational – emotional, expressive, supportive, sensitive to others, feels 
  • Experimental – imagines, infers, speculates, curious, likes surprises 

VR engages all four brain learning centers at the same time, creating a powerful experience. This is important because people usually have a preferred way to communicate, which depends on the thinking style preferred. VR can help train your leaders to utilize all four brain quadrants so your managers can communicate in different situations with different types of thinkers. Employee and leader communication skills are significantly strengthened.  

Virtual reality for training has another benefit. The brain receives auditory, visual, and sensory input. During a virtual reality session, it’s tricked into thinking it’s somewhere else. The learner becomes an active participant who can influence outcomes in a dynamic virtual environment as the person would in the real world. You can develop any scenario that’s important to your business.  

VR creates “presence.” The International Society for Presence Research defines the concept of presence in this way.  

Presence (a shortened version of the term “telepresence”) is a psychological state or subjective perception in which even though part or all of an individual’s current experience is generated by and/or filtered through human-made technology, part or all of the individual’s perception fails to accurately acknowledge the role of the technology in the experience. Except in the most extreme cases, the individual can indicate correctly that s/he is using the technology, but at *some level* and to *some degree*, her/his perceptions overlook that knowledge and objects, events, entities, and environments are perceived as if the technology was not involved in the experience. 

Virtual Reality for training produces metrics, too, which enables trainers to personalize and adapt the experience in real-time to strengthen areas of weakness. VR training analytics can tie learning data to workplace performance outcomes. Tracking produces feedback data on key decision points, learner behaviors, interactive behaviors with VR components like avatars, the number of times an employee restarts an event (indicating comprehension difficulty), training frequency and duration, sentiment analysis, attention, and learning engagement, to name a few.   

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Can We Use Virtual Reality For Corporate Training? 

Virtual reality for corporate training is already used by numerous companies, including Fortune 500 businesses. Topics cover onboarding, leadership training, diversity and inclusion, safety training, soft skills development, job duties training, technical training, complex process training, and more. You can teach hard and soft skills through the selection of VR scenarios.  

Forbes Human Resources Council member Stephen Baer mentions three ways companies are using VR for corporate training and gives examples.   

  • KFC and Ford combine VR and gamification to teach physical skills. 
  • H&R Block and Walmart use VR to conduct role-playing exercises so workers can practice typical real-customer conversations. 
  • ExxonMobile and UPS use VR to create a safe learning space for high-risk job duties. 

According to Baer, Walmart extensively uses VR for employee soft skills training to “…encourage empathy, teach communication and conflict management skills, assess leadership abilities, and tap into the potential of workers.”   

Virtual Reality for training has been adopted by firms across industries, including retail, financial services, manufacturing, transportation and logistics, and others.  

Since any type of virtual scenario can be created for experiential learning, there are numerous reasons for utilizing VR. Following is a sample of employee training and leadership development opportunities.  

  • Upskill employees on a new procedure, job responsibility, technology tool, etc. 
  • Place managers in workplace situations needing conflict resolution 
  • Train leaders on recognizing and appropriately responding to signs of unionization 
  • Train leaders on identifying different types of protected concerted activity 
  • Train leaders on effectively responding to various employee gripes or grievances to minimize Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges 
  • Train employees on recognizing personal bias by placing them in situations where people with different cultural backgrounds are communicating 
  • Present various retail customer incidences, like unhappy or angry customers, to help employees better understand the customer perspective and the ideal responses. 
  • Strengthen employee competencies 
  • Strengthen competencies for career advancement 
  • Improve leadership communication with employees 
  • Enable healthcare workers to learn new procedures and manage different types of patient interactions 
  • Present simulations of different road scenarios for employees in the trucking industry 
  • Create workplace conditions that involve threats to employee health and safety to develop strong leadership in protecting employee well-being 
  • Learn to effectively communicate with emotional intelligence and cultural awareness on global teams 
  • Place employees in gaming situations to promote innovation  
  • Use as a recruiting tool to improve employee retention through better hiring decisions. 

This is just a short list of the unlimited scenarios that VR can accommodate. Numerous companies are training frontline workers with VR technology. Besides the ones mentioned, other well-known organizations include GE, Bank of America, and Verizon, to name a few. FedEx Ground is using virtual reality to train package delivery workers on safety and job responsibilities that are often strenuous.  

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Is Virtual Reality The Future Of Corporate Training?  

The prediction is that Virtual Reality for corporate training will soon be the top enterprise option for several reasons.   

  • People learn up to four times faster compared to classroom or workshop learning. 
  • Improves learner retention 
  • Significantly reduces training costs by eliminating travel costs and employee time away from the workplace. 
  • Links training to real-world situations, turning the abstract into hands-on learning. 
  • Large numbers of people can be trained at once or over time anywhere and at any time. 
  • Accessible by all employees with the right equipment 
  • Adaptable to the dynamic business environment in which change is now continuous and often sudden and disruptive 
  • Enables training people on advancing technologies so they remain upskilled. 
  • Enables safe training opportunities for learning high-risk job responsibilities 
  • More engaging because it’s immersive training through VR 
  • Can combine existing training materials and eLearning programs with Virtual Reality training, with each supplementing the other to form a complete training package.  

VR training scenarios must be developed, of course, and that can take 2-6 months, depending on the complexity of the VR scenario modeling. To ensure the most efficient development, it’s recommended to utilize VR experts who can develop the complex programs that most benefit your organization and provide training on the solutions.   

Can VR Improve Employee Engagement In Real Life (IRL)?  

Virtual Reality for corporate training can play a crucial role in increasing employee engagement in real life for several reasons. For example, one of the most common reasons employees feel disengaged is due to a belief their job training is inadequate. VR can provide skills improvement and upskilling opportunities in an interesting way. Workers feel more confident about their jobs.   

Another reason is younger employees like Millennials, and Gen Z want to work for employers who utilize state-of-the-art technologies. A Dell study found that 91 percent of Gen Z said the technology would influence their decision as to the jobs they would accept. Gen Z, says Dell, has a deep understanding of the transformational impact of technology. At the same time, the generational members were confident about their tech skills but said that doesn’t mean they were ready for the workforce. Virtual Reality can address training for workforce readiness and deliver cutting-edge technology, both factors increasing employee engagement. 

Virtual Reality used for onboarding and immediate job training increases employee engagement from day one. Employees can learn from their mistakes that all new hires are vulnerable to committing but can now make those mistakes in a virtual environment.   

When the pandemic forced MGM Resorts to shut down, getting employees to return was a struggle. MGM management decided to address the great rehiring and retention challenges by providing deeper employee engagement and helping employees build their confidence and skills in providing quality customer service by using VR. The strategy was rolling out new VR courses in specific departments, starting with guest services because of the importance of successful customer service to the entire operation.   

The metrics that VR provides can help leaders ensure employee training is effective. Employees need training that addresses their specific needs. Your employees want relevant training; your leaders want to know their staff is getting the training they need to do a good job; your organization wants to ensure the investment in training has a positive and high ROI. Delivering relevant training through an immersive experience increases employee engagement in so many ways.  

Virtual Reality is a full-body experience, so the employee is fully engaged in the training too. It’s a safe space for learning skills, reducing the stress and self-consciousness that comes with traditional training forums like workshops. It can increase awareness of responses to various job situations.  

Finally, VR can be delivered whenever it’s most convenient for the employees. It’s very adaptable. For example, In Is VR the Future of Corporate Training? 

Jeremy Bailenson describes how Sprouts created VR to exemplify core values. The company chose to use the Exemplar Model instead of training on specific skills.  

In the Exemplar Model, an inventory of stored examples is used to solve problems. It says that human memory assigns ideas and objects into broad categories. Sprouts used the examples to test employees on their conceptual understanding of core values. The results were that 48 percent of trainees who learned via VR learned all six core value concepts, and only 3 percent of trainees who learned via traditional training methods did.   

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Keep Your Employees Engaged and Develop Your Leaders 

Virtual Reality for corporate training can train and engage employees and develop your leadership communication and employee engagement skills through the delivery of VR immersive training. From onboarding new hires to training frontline employees to developing leaders who are proficient in labor relations and employee engagement, VR is adaptable, efficient, and comprehensive. Add it to your current training program that includes classroom and eLearning and increase employee engagement by efficiently meeting employee needs in an interesting high-tech way.  

Contact IRI Consultants to talk to Digital Solutions experts who can help your company develop and implement state-of-the-art customized Virtual Reality training that is the best fit for your organization. 

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