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How VirtualSpeech & Strivr are redefining soft skills training

Partner spotlight
Soft skills
min read
Strivr and VirtualSpeech logos against a black background

Soft skills training has surfaced as one of the most important types of workforce development across almost every industry. It’s the difference between a lousy customer service experience and a transcendent one. It defines good leadership versus bad. Soft skills can truly make or break an employee’s success on the job, transforming their own experience as well as that of their customers, co-workers, and colleagues.

In a recent webinar conversation, VirtualSpeech founder, Sophie Thompson and Strivr CTO, Aneesh Kulkarni discussed how VR and other state-of-the-art technologies are redefining soft skills training for the enterprise. VirtualSpeech is a leading provider of immersive soft skills training, offering courses including public speaking, storytelling, and leadership communication. Strivr pioneered immersive learning through Virtual Reality (VR), offering an enterprise-scale platform along with a range of content offerings from off-the-shelf modules to blueprints and fully custom-built experiences.

Both companies were founded in 2015, and the industry has experienced significant evolution in the decade since. As Kulkarni puts it, “We’re now in the era of XR — the era of faster, lighter, cheaper.”

Today’s headset displays have a higher resolution than those of a decade ago, making it possible to accurately convey emotion in the faces of avatars and actors. With improved graphics, it’s possible to create learning experiences that are more real than ever. Navigation has become more fluid and intuitive, while mobility improvements have enabled broader accessibility. Last but certainly not least, Generative AI has entered the mix, enabling more dynamic and naturalistic conversations resulting in more effective training — specifically for soft skills. And most recently, we’re seeing a real inflection point opening up the world of Extended Reality (XR), allowing for learning in the flow of work. 

In case you missed it, here are some insights from the webinar conversation between Thompson and Kulkarni.

Soft skills are critical to the enterprise

Empathy, active listening, communication, and the ability to give feedback can be vital underlying success factors in a role. To be their best, leaders must be emotionally intelligent (a metric known as EQ). Customer service associates have a higher baseline for customer interactions if they are more practiced in particular soft skills, including how to navigate difficult conversations and diffuse challenging moments. From the manager on the factory floor to the sales rep visiting a job site, soft skills training is important in just about every aspect of the enterprise. 

Immersive learning is effective at helping people practice difficult conversations, give feedback, improve upon presentation performance, weave respect into all of their interactions, and even learn how to properly deliver bad news, from a manager firing an employee to a care provider tasked with telling a parent that their loved one’s prognosis is not good. But where immersive learning used to be a cutting-edge idea for enterprise organizations with deep L&D pockets, today, mainstream companies are making it real and practical — and seeing the impact.

Enterprises are making it real

During the webinar, Kulkarni spoke of one of Strivr’s biggest banking customers, which has been using immersive learning for a few years now to train its employees in soft skills, customer service, and leadership. This bank’s foray into immersive learning was a VR experience focused on de-escalating challenging customer situations to build customer satisfaction and loyalty while ensuring employee safety. 

The results of the initial pilot, which trained around 400 associates, were much more confident and capable employees — 97% of participants reported strong positive sentiment to the training. In October 2021, the bank announced it would roll out the training to 50,000 employees, distributing headsets to every location in the U.S. with an initial library of more than 20 VR courses. These course modules covered a variety of topics, with soft skills training experiences focused on strengthening and deepening relationships with clients, navigating difficult conversations, and listening and responding with empathy.

Building the business case for immersive learning

It’s one thing to talk about the potential impact of a new technology, but to ensure successful deployment and adoption at scale, organizations should consider how best to introduce it, gain alignment across stakeholders, and build for maximum ROI. To that end, Kulkarni shared the proper way to bring in immersive learning.

  1. Identify your business objective and how improving employee performance can best be measured. It helps to have metrics you’ve already tracked to use as a benchmark.
  2. With full knowledge of the challenge, objective, and opportunities for improvement, research the right solution.
  3. During this process, educate yourself thoroughly on how VR and XR can help your company in particular. Read case studies and research papers so you can grasp the impact immersive learning has had on other organizations.
  4. Get executive alignment early with company executives as well as leaders in IT and finance. The best way to get that alignment? Kulkarni says, “Get them in a headset.”

Experiencing immersive learning is the best way to understand its value. Contact us for a free 30-day demo

VirtualSpeech, now available on Strivr, features AI-powered roleplays that offer multiple benefits for enterprise training, transforming how teams develop and refine their skills. You can engage in realistic, free-flowing conversations that surpass traditional branched learning, and receive instant feedback on your delivery, context, and content for continuous improvement. The personalized training can be tailored to any industry, making it the perfect scalable solution to help practice on demand and reduce resource costs from typical training methods.

AI is becoming more and more relevant to immersive learning

Kulkarni and Thompson also delved into the magical mix of AI and XR within immersive learning, laying out some of the most likely use cases for AI now and in the near future:

  1. Personalized learning plans — Using AI to understand the skills of the specific user in order to tailor learning experiences and improve their practice over time.
  2. Adjust the type of content and difficulty level of the module — In real time, based on learner interactions, almost gamifying the experience to challenge users to go further, keeping engagement high.
  3. Conducting skills-gap analysis — Analyzing large sets of data and identifying important hindrances to soft skills training such as the use of a lot of filler words in conversation.
  4. Enhanced feedback — Delivering more accurate, individualized assessment of how each learner is doing in a module.

The trick, as Thompson noted, is to apply AI thoughtfully to immersive learning for soft skills without actually using customer data to train the model.

At-scale, mainstream immersive learning is on the horizon

Immersive learning has already entered the mainstream, and as immersive content libraries grow, the gap will close between immersive learning and tradition elearning. Immersive learning has already been proven to be far more effective, but enterprise organizations require the right off-the-shelf and custom models for it to be relevant and practical for every enterprise.

Eventually, Kulkarni and Thompson foresee a future where immersive content will be both easy to find and easy to implement in any workplace. With headsets distributed beyond L&D labs and training rooms to actual desks and conference rooms, employees will soon be able to access learning in the moment by simply putting on a headset and pressing a button.

A new customer service rep could then take 10 minutes before a shift to brush up on soft skills they need in their job, or a manager could take a few minutes to prepare for an interview that’s about to kick off. In fact, integrations with calendar apps could automatically build those functions into a normal workday. Imagine sitting down at your desk to a notification that reminds you about an important meeting, with a link to take a quick training session before it starts. 

Learn more about the VirtualSpeech partnership with Strivr

The partnership between VirtualSpeech and Strivr is a critical step to this reality. This collaboration brings a new suite of virtual communication for immersive training onto the Strivr platform, offering Strivr customers an even more comprehensive collection of immersive training experiences, with broader access to richer soft skills training.

Strivr customers can now access VirtualSpeech content directly through the Strivr platform — creating a single portal for all immersive learning content.

Contact us for a 30-day demo.

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Key takeaways

  • Soft skills are critical for enterprise employees, and having effective training is key.
  • Understanding how to build a business case for immersive learning is important in leading a successful deployment across your organization.
  • AI is becoming more and more relevant to immersive learning as it enables more dynamic, naturalistic, and impactful training scenarios.

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