Chief Creative Officer at The Training Arcade and The Game Agency – exciting, engaging and educating audiences.
Although we might still be a long way from dialing into the Matrix, virtual reality has evolved significantly since Heilig’s Sensorama in the 1960s, and it isn’t being used strictly for entertainment these days.
VR has made its way into the corporate world with incredible success and will only evolve to become more commonplace. Whether employees type away at a computer, ring up items at a register, pilot a forklift in a hectic factory or deliver quarterly sales projections during a shareholder’s meeting, VR can help them be better at what they do. VR turns passive training into an immersive experience by tricking the brain into thinking what it sees in the virtual world is real. VR provides a practice playground for individuals to try new skills, safely fail, learn from their mistakes and succeed on the job.
What separates VR from other media is that it engages with the user’s many senses. Being able to move around and have fun while learning crucial aspects of a job is a kind of magic that other forms of training can’t capture.
VR has been shown to increase the retention of information, making workers more prepared for day-to-day tasks. VR acutely captures the working environment and is second only to performing the job itself. As organizations realize this, they are finding unique, innovative ways to incorporate VR in the learning and development of their workers. Let’s delve into some of the most successful examples to see how it works.
When KFC built its VR training, “The Hard Way,” in 2017, it was a revolutionary way to teach physical skills through a digital platform. The interactive experience combines e-learning with gamification in an escape room simulation. Through mini-games, users go through a five-step process of learning how to inspect, rinse, bread, rack and pressure-fry the world-famous chicken.
Ford also combines VR and gamification, giving technicians a look at a virtual model of the Mustang Mach-E engine so they can learn how to diagnose and repair engine problems. Incorporating gamified VR into your multi-step employee training can be used to create excitement and provide a fun, memorable experience that workers can draw on later to recall important details of their job.
A Safe Space To Learn
Safety is one of the most important components of any onboarding program. However, it can be difficult to find a safe way to learn when one small mistake can become life-threatening. High-risk occupations, such as construction, operating machinery, the medical fields or working with dangerous substances, have a small margin for human error. In some cases, VR is able to minimize dangerous errors by allowing new employees to learn important aspects of the job in a low-risk digital environment.
ExxonMobil did just that with its Digital Garage. Using VR technology, oil and gas operators and chemical manufacturers can experience the volatile space of a liquefied natural gas tanker. Instead of exposing workers to on-the-job hazards, VR gives them the opportunity to learn in a safe and controlled way, where they can practice making quick decisions, improve their skills and correct mistakes with realistic scenarios.
UPS has implemented a similar training platform, using VR both to introduce drivers to company regulations and to demonstrate the potential problems of a sorting facility. Starting in a virtual setting, drivers can build up confidence from the viewpoint of a truck. They learn specific rules, like looking left, right and left again at an intersection, and they aren’t able to proceed until they have done so. This builds strong habits in a scenario where there is no actual danger.
Closing The Soft Skills Gap
The way we work is changing, and soft skills like communication, teamwork and leadership have become more vital as remote work becomes more common. Unfortunately, these skills can be difficult to find. When businesses can’t train their workers for these skills in person, technology can help bridge the gap.
At H&R Block, for example, new hires use VR to conduct role-playing exercises on a large scale so they can practice having real conversations and get instant feedback, without the real stress. This VR program directly led to shorter customer handling times and a 50% decrease in dissatisfied customers, and quickly became the preferred training method for employees.
Walmart is another familiar brand using VR to assess and teach soft skills to employees. Using VR headsets, Walmart’s training takes employees through a variety of scenarios built to encourage empathy, teach communication and conflict management skills, assess leadership abilities and tap into the potential of workers. VR doesn’t completely replace in-person interviews, but it helps to streamline the process of promoting employees, which saves a huge amount of resources in a company that large.
As more and more Fortune 500 companies turn to VR to solve the unique problems that come with a rapidly evolving workforce, it is clear that virtual reality will play a key role in the future of corporate learning and development. VR is not only efficient, low-risk and versatile for a variety of skills, it is a memorable and fun experience for users. VR has the capacity to bring elements of e-learning, hands-on training, micro-learning and personalization into every learning experience. As part of a robust learning and development program, there is no doubt that we will see more innovative uses of VR in the future.