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Transforming new hire onboarding with VR

Operational efficiency
min read
A man with a microphone addressing a room of new hires in an onboarding session

Confucius once wrote, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

Learning through experience has proven time and time again to be the best teacher. What if, in addition to the cool hoodie and coffee cup, you immersed your new employees in the most memorable new hire training your company has to offer? This is possible with Virtual Reality (VR) as part of the onboarding process.

Across industries, we’re seeing HR and learning leaders investing in VR training as a key part of their onboarding process, and it is paying off.

Onboarding using VR is far more engaging

What if your new hire training made people feel engaged from the get-go?

VR  gives new hires a chance to interact with their future work environment, and at the same time, try out a cool piece of technology.

Immersive Learning in VR is an effective onboarding solution that simulates real-world scenarios and trains employees in a safe and engaging job training environment. It combines the sense of presence of VR with advanced learning theory, data science, and spatial design to improve effectiveness and user engagement.

How do people feel about new hire training in VR? From our customer surveys, the positive sentiment has been overwhelming:

  • 80% think VR training was more engaging and more enjoyable than non-VR training
  • 82% want to continue using VR
  • 94% felt prepared to handle similar situations on the job after VR training

The numbers affirm our commitment to providing a positive and engaging experience for effective onboarding. Engagement is critical for many organizations, but the new hire training has to work. VR can also contribute to highly effective skills development.

The new way to onboard builds real skills

Going through a new hire training module in VR is not just fun and different: people are actually learning faster and more effectively. People build critical skills needed for the job. New hires can get hands-on practice with new health and safety protocols. They can upskill their communications skills. If they work in a warehouse, they can learn how to safely pick and pack boxes. These are just examples of the key skills in the fields of health & safety, operational efficiency, customer service, soft skills, and diversity and inclusion that you can build on during your onboarding phase.

On-the-job training

A national grocery chain used VR training to help distribution center employees practice in their role as an order selector as part of a robust onboarding process. Before VR, job training lasted 10–12 weeks and didn’t start until the employee showed up for the first day of work. The grocery chain wanted the order selectors to see, hear, and immerse themselves with consistent, scalable, hands-on job training. In VR, order selectors learned the “pick method” to emphasize speed, accuracy, and safety on the job.

With VR, learners built all the skills they needed in 5–8 weeks, much faster than their original 10–12 week timeline, which resulted in a 19% increase in productivity within a month of employees completing their VR training. The productivity increase was a result of new hires with better skills, plus a reduction in unproductive time for the “master” selectors that were assigned to train new folks. This example of effective onboarding took lessons learned from other training efforts and brought them to life.

It’s important to note that VR training does not replace the entire employee onboarding process. Instead, we think about how we can use VR to give a learner an experience where an in-person job training would cause disruption to business, present a significant cost to your organization, or create a safety risk. In the grocery chain example, all new hires learned the same consistent skills in VR then moved to shadow training on the job.

VR dramatically reduces training time

Because VR is offering hands-on practice, it offers shorter, more effective new hire training that builds the critical skills needed to succeed.

  • Walmart: 96% reduction in new technology training time, from 8 hours to 15 minutes
  • Verizon: 95% reduction in customer de-escalation training time, from 10 hours to 30 minutes
  • Sprouts Farmer's Market: 81% reduction in new hire onboarding time, from 4 hours to 45 minutes

How does VR reduce training times?

  • Learning by doing increases employee understanding and retention.
  • Realistic practice in VR leads to real-world behavioral changes because learners are empowered to make decisions that are consequential to their training performance.
  • Real-time feedback, in-turn, accelerates proficiency.
  • Complete immersion increases preparedness and confidence.
Quotation mark
The key is that learners are being immersed in the exact space where those skills will need to be employed. This sense of presence makes learners feel they’ve ‘been there before’ when they step onto the job.
April Kandel
Program Manager, Strivr

It also reduces the time needed to learn and practice new skills. Research has shown that our brains treat VR experiences much like they would treat real life, so the learning that happens in VR translates much faster and more effectively into real life.

The new onboarding demonstrates culture

Every organization has a culture and values that contribute to a strong employee experience and customer experience. The employee onboarding phase is a key place to instill and drive these values home. How do you illustrate those values at scale to employees across geographies?

Sprouts Farmers Market turned a new hire training challenge created by the COVID-19 pandemic into an opportunity. During the early stages of the pandemic, the nationwide grocery chain needed to hire thousands of team members quickly and safely. In addition to training quickly and consistently at scale, Sprouts also needed a solution that would convey the cultural values of the brand in aiding meaningful interactions with customers at stores. Sprouts saw a VR platform as a tool to make this happen.

Sprouts rolled out the new hire training program to 340 stores across the United States. In the headset, learners are guided around a virtual store, simulating common interactions between team members and customers while highlighting each core value. VR learners were 16X more likely to remember all six of the Sprouts core values compared to non-VR learners.

By experiencing these values in action through total immersion with simulated customers and colleagues, new hires had a better understanding of what good demeanor and customer service looked like.

We’ve also found that using VR during new hire training helps create a culture of learning. It is more than just a medium to illustrate skills and values during the onboarding phase. It says something about an organization’s dedication to the employee. It says to the employee that their company cares about them, wants to encourage learning, and invest in their professional growth.

Onboard & train anywhere with VR

With VR, new hire training can occur anywhere. Sometimes due to safety and compliance reasons, as well as time and opportunity cost, it is not practical to conduct training on-location. But VR enables learners to put on a headset and be transported to the warehouse, office, or store floor without having to close down operations or train during off-hours.

And with the Strivr platform, companies can provide immersive experiences at scale, whether new hire training happens at home, at a training academy, or in each individual location.

VR’s bright future as a new hire training tool

The new onboarding is:

  • Far more engaging
  • Faster than traditional training
  • More effective at building skills and instilling core values
  • Lets you train anywhere

As industry leaders optimize their onboarding process to focus on building critical skills and delivering that training at scale, know that your organization is not alone in this transition.

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