The great majority of the jobs that will exist in ten years haven’t even been invented yet, according to the Institute for the Future. A lot of the reason behind this prediction has to do with technology, of course.
Technology is evolving at such a quick clip that talent has to rapidly adapt to keep up. This puts learning and development organizations under pressure to find effective ways to upskill and reskill employees over the course of their careers.
This is true not just for tech companies. In every industry, from the office worker behind a desk to the frontline worker serving customers, technology is now a central part of how we do work. It impacts every type of business, at every level. The pressure on companies to reskill and upskill their existing workforces is intensified by a tight labor market and high turnover rates.
Virtual reality (VR) provides a way to replicate real-world workplaces within a virtual environment so that new hires can be onboarded more quickly and existing employees can be taught new processes, trained on new equipment, and reskilled and upskilled in various critical ways.
Upskilling vs. reskilling
Upskilling and reskilling are subtly different concepts.
To upskill employees means teaching them new skills in their existing roles, making them better at their jobs and giving them a stronger purpose at work.
Reskilling refers to teaching new skills so employees can take on a different role within a company — moving from human resources to marketing, for instance, or succeeding in a promotion.
The difference between upskilling and reskilling is distinct, but VR is equally effective in both arenas.
VR training effectiveness
“The brain perceives VR environments to be indistinguishable from reality. While a user is still consciously aware that they are in a simulated environment, the brain responds as if it were an actual, real-life experience… This gives users a sense of ‘learning by doing,’ but without actually ‘doing.’”— Derek Belch, CEO and Co-founder, Strivr
VR is an effective learning tool on several levels. Because the learner has such a highly realistic experience within a VR headset, the connections within their brain are strengthened. They can more accurately translate that learning to real life on the job.
This is not just a theoretical notion. VR has been proven to be a more effective teaching method than traditional manuals, textbooks, videos, lectures, and even roleplaying.
The in-headset VR experience can also be repeated over and over again until the learner has it down. For some roles, one VR training experience is enough. For others, it’s critical to go back and repeat the module over and over again until it “sticks” or the learner has mastered the correct behaviors. Repetitive learning breeds muscle memory and proficiency, and the on-demand access native to VR enables this.
VR for the soft skills important to reskilling and upskilling
VR has long been used for teaching specific hard skills such as how to fly an airplane. A cockpit simulator is a natural fit for this type of technology. But recently, VR has come into focus as the best way to train for certain soft skills as well — empathy, communication, listening, and customer service in general.
Within a VR module, learners are able to react to curated situations and then replay their reactions to get first-hand feedback. Verizon has used this tool to train its frontline employees on challenging situations such as snap-and-grab robbery and telephone customer service.
Because of the advantage of teaching soft skills in VR, it’s useful not just for upskilling and reskilling frontline workers, but for training managers on how to be better, more empathetic leaders. Within the environment of a VR headset, where it’s safe to make mistakes and learn from them, managers practice communication skills, how to handle difficult conversations, how to de-escalate a charged situation, and how to better manage for diversity and inclusion (link).
VR can lower employee training costs
Employee training is undeniably important, but it can be expensive. When Starbucks decided to mandate company-wide empathy training initiatives, they closed all of their stores nationwide to conduct the training sessions – to the tune of about $12 million in lost business.
Starbucks took the financial hit because properly training employees was important. At the time, high-profile incidents around bias and insensitivity had threatened the company’s reputation.
But for enterprise companies, VR training provides an alternative to this expensive training paradigm. It’s a profoundly more efficient way to scale the best possible training across every location at once. Instead of flying trainers around the country, you essentially replicate your best trainer and immerse all of your dispersed employees in the experience at scale.
VR drives better, more measurable business outcomes
VR offers a unique set of data and insights that give organizations more information about how individual learners are doing with their training, as well as how effective the VR training is overall.
Immersive Learning — the sense of presence VR provides combined with advanced learning theory, data science, and spatial design — tracks four types of data:
- Usage data — How often and for how long people engage in the VR learning module
- Sentiment analysis — Subjective data about how the learners feel about their experience in the headset
- Performance data — Accurate information about how the learner performs at specific skills
- Attention and engagement data — Head movement, eye tracking, interactions, and clicks which all indicate where a learner’s attention lies in the module
Immersive technologies also offer the holy grail of insight as far as human resources is concerned: predictive analytics. These are a measure of how well a learner is apt to do in an actual professional role.
The benefits of VR for upskilling and reskilling workers
There’s perhaps one more benefit of VR training and Immersive Learning for reskilling and upskilling use cases: the direct impact on company culture. Companies that use VR technology to train workers don’t just get a merit badge for being “good at technology.” They also demonstrate that they’re committed to creating an engaged, strong workforce.
For more on this topic and how Immersive Learning can help your organization thrive in the volatile corporate landscape, watch the on-demand webinar Reskilling for growth with VR: The future of learning is immersive.
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