Why your ‘secret sauce’ training belongs in VR

White man wearing VR headset and holding handset in front of boxes and jars on shelves

What’s the “secret sauce” that makes your brand memorable? How do you teach it – or rather, instill it – in your employees?

If seeing heads nod in the distance as the lead trainer reads yet another slide deck sounds familiar, it may be time for a reimagining of the learning content that solves some of your biggest problems. 

In our Ultimate Guide to Immersive Learning, Josh Bersin advises that “the highest performing companies allocate up to 40% of their training spending for “upper right” programs. These programs drive competitive advantage for your company.”

Josh Bersin training quadrant

These are your “secret sauce” trainings, the ones that make your brand memorable. These are the trainings that attract top talent to your company. They turn your company from a place where customers do routine shopping to an organization where they are inspired by your mission. 

Advanced learning methodologies like VR-based Immersive Learning can also help you to produce employees who are more engaged, excited, and willing to take full ownership of their careers.

Immersing employees into a virtual world is more memorable

So what is Immersive Learning and how can it make your secret sauce training more effective? Immersive Learning uses the power of experience via Virtual Reality (VR) to simulate a real-world working environment. This creates a safe and engaging training environment that enables learners to practice new skills on demand.

This advanced approach to learning is based on decades of neuroscience research illustrating that the brain treats VR experiences the same way it treats real-world experiences. It’s more memorable and realistic. 

A VR training scenario is a close indicator of how your employee will perform in a real-life work environment. 

Jeremy Bailenson video
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Dr. Jeremy Bailenson on the science behind VR’s impact for training

The sensory immersion is key to its effectiveness. Because things look and sound as if they were real, the brain processes virtual reality as though it were a real experience.

Dr. Jeremy Bailenson, Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab & Strivr Co-founder

Creating centers of operational excellence with VR in logistics

Transportation and logistics companies are under immense pressure right now, given the severe backlogs in the global supply chain. While digging out is first and foremost, many businesses are having to rethink their approach to the training and development of new employees. Leaning into the secret sauce training that increases efficiency and productivity amongst their workers could help them meet the moment more effectively. 

Every logistics company has its own methodology for filling boxes, loading trucks, and safely shipping items across national and international borders. Workers train for the job through a variety of methods. One of the techniques used is shadowing senior employees. Shadow training offers hands-on practice and on-the-job learning, but significantly slows down some of the most productive workers while they train new hires. Depending on the onboarding period, this slowdown could last for months.

Imagine giving new workers that same hands-on experience, but in a safe environment that doesn’t drastically reduce productivity. Immersive Learning gives these hands-on workers an opportunity to learn and make mistakes in a safe environment. 

With the use of VR, one major logistics operation gives new employees access to a baseline level of knowledge that is consistent and can be applied with the support of a senior mentor. Because new hires learn and practice in an Immersive Learning environment, senior employees can focus on mentoring new employees rather than assume no prior knowledge. 

This helped new hires achieve full proficiency 50% faster than they had when they relied on shadow training alone and powered a 19% productivity increase in just one month.

Making soft skills training your secret sauce

With the holidays around the corner, large retail outlets like Walmart are expected to be packed with anxious shoppers. Add to that holiday frustration a pandemic that has people on edge, and it’s a sure recipe for conflict in the workplace. This is why Walmart has made soft skills central to its associate training program. 

Soft skills are rooted in an associate’s attitude, personality, motivation, manners, and more. These are the very skills that help hiring managers decide if a person is ready to be hired or promoted to a new position. 

Walmart added a VR training component to its beKIND training, a methodology used to teach and measure the use of empathy in customer service. Customer-facing associates train in VR to de-escalate a negative encounter with a customer. Associates are able to build confidence in their ability to give a kind and empathetic response that can be measured in real-time.  

Immersive Learning works in soft skills training because employees are able to practice having challenging conversations in emotionally charged environments. Learners are able to put themselves in the customer’s shoes in order to build their empathy muscle. They can use the playback feature of the VR training in order to experience and self-evaluate their performance with a would-be disgruntled customer. 

Learners feel free to make mistakes in their VR training interactions, allowing them opportunities to encounter every category of customer possible. Then employees engage in a self-critique that leads to long-lasting behavioral changes once they go back onto the retail floor. 

Walmart was thrilled that they were able to reach a 100% adoption goal, despite it not being a mandatory training, further proof that associates love it and it should continue to have an impact at scale.

Watch the Walmart webinar

Scaling culture as your company’s super power

Grocery stores were thrown into the essential services pool during the pandemic. As a result, companies like Sprouts, the natural and organic grocery store chain, experienced a hiring spike that necessitated a training system that allowed them to efficiently train new employees on core values and customer service techniques. 

The previous training methodology for this grocer involved a group of trainers traveling to individual stores to conduct cluster training sessions. Trainers found it challenging to ensure that the training was consistent across hundreds of retail locations. 

The senior leadership team found that Immersive Learning solutions may be its ticket to trainings that were scalable, standardized, and effective. But what makes Sprouts’ success so remarkable is its overall approach to learning and development. Sprouts places a high importance on training its team members as a core segment of its company culture.

Team members take part in learning communities that prepare them to take on more responsibility. As a result, one in four team members is promoted annually. Those team members on the road to store management are tracked using the company’s operational readiness score. There are a series of data points that certify store managers based on levels of competency. 

After reviewing the training outcomes across multiple stores, the data reveals that store managers who master job-specific competencies repeatedly outperform their peers in every key performance indicator. Sprouts’ learning and development team now becomes more than a “nice to have” asset. It becomes an investment that nurtures the company culture.  

Once Sprouts added VR to their secret sauce training, they found it not only useful for new employees but also useful for existing team members. They created a refresher course for existing team members, to help them hone skills that may have been missed during new employee training. 

What Sprouts’ leadership team gathered from the Immersive Learning experience was that those who went through the VR training demonstrated a 16x improvement over non-VR learners. The VR learners had even outperformed senior managers who had learned using the in-person training methodology.

Watch the Sprouts webinar

So what’s your secret sauce training?

Whether you are working on hard or soft skills, making a transition to Immersive Learning can be valuable as the workforce adjusts to change at a rapid pace. 

Want to learn more about how your secret sauce training can be reimagined through an Immersive Learning experience? 

Request a consultation with a VR expert to deep dive into the learning programs that make your company unique and successful.

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