Protecting and empowering Verizon’s frontline workforce with Immersive Learning

A row of Verizon demo smartphones in a retail store

It’s a busy Saturday morning at the local Verizon store, with a new wireless promotion in full swing. Customers are coming and going, eager to speak with store associates to learn more about devices and deals. With every associate busy helping customers, it can be hard to keep track of who’s in the store. That’s when it happens. Someone who seems like a potential customer lingering and checking out devices turns out to be a thief planning a snatch-and-grab. 

What should a store associate do when someone grabs a device and runs? Finish helping the current customer? Chase after the thief? Call the police? Time is of the essence here, and the associate must make a split-second decision.

A still from a Verizon video about immersive learning showing a white, blonde woman
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Be prepared is the answer. Yet, traditional training in a classroom or with a video  simply doesn’t give employees the realistic experience they need to feel confident and act quickly when faced with a situation that can be unpredictable and emotional.

This scenario happens all too often in wireless carrier retail outlets, and can go as far as armed robbery.  The devices on display are high-value and in high demand. For the safety of everyone around, it’s critical that store associates know what to do when faced with such high-stakes, potentially dangerous situations. 

Verizon wanted to better protect and prepare their 22,000 frontline employees across all 1,600 Verizon stores in the U.S. Nearly all of them will have experienced the heart-pounding rush of an armed robbery — in Virtual Reality.

It’s one thing to talk about safety and security for your employees. It’s another thing to bring that idea to life.

Michael Mason, Senior VP & Chief Security Officer, Verizon

Watch The Webinar: How Verizon Uses VR For Safety Training

The origin of Immersive Learning for Verizon’s L&D

As the telecommunications company that brought 5G mainstream, Verizon has an enormous stake in customer-facing, state-of-the-art technology. The company’s 800-person L&D organization, led by Lou Tedrick, strove to bring this same level of commitment to innovation to their own employees as well. She aimed to do this by first identifying the most critical, high priority training initiatives that were ripe for innovation. And hands down it was safety training.

Lou from Verizon

We focus on the safety of team members and customers, not the inventory. That’s one of the things want  to make sure they knew: The inventory is replaceable. You’re not.

Lou Tedrick, VP of Global Learning and Development, Verizon

Enter VR-based Immersive Learning. Teaming up with the company’s security organization, Tedrick and Michael Mason, Senior VP & Chief Security Officer at Verizon, worked with Strivr to define the critical use cases where Immersive Learning could make an impact: snatch-and-grab theft and armed robbery.

Building on existing security-camera footage from real in-store robberies, in conjunction with new 360-degree filming for VR, Verizon and Strivr built three training modules to pilot. Simulating  three emergency situations at various points during a theoretical workday, and breaking to debrief between sessions, allows store leaders to practice the nuances of proper response in these high-stakes situations.

VR view with a scenario about preparing for a potential robbery in a retail store

L&D and Security collaborate

Right away, Tedrick and Mason noticed the change in training engagement: “It’s impossible to wear those goggles and not be fully engaged,”  says Mason. “At the end of the day, that’s going to lead to better outcomes when people ultimately have to face a robbery situation.”

Tedrick confirms the impact on participants: “Their hearts were racing; they felt like they had experienced a robbery. By the time they got to the third module, the amount of confidence they’d gained was astronomical.”

You talk about what you’d do if it happened. But actually living it, feeling it? You don’t know how to prepare yourself. This helped get me prepared for it.

Sarah, Solutions Manager, Verizon store

Successful pilot under their belts, Tedrick’s team is now deploying Immersive Learning to 1,600 stores across the country, with the goal of exposing every frontline Verizon store employee to customized VR training

Verizon is also implementing other types of VR training beyond the realm of store security, including training call-center reps on communication, empathy and de-escalation skills for customer service interactions. The use cases for Immersive Learning will continue to expand for Verizon.

Explore The Learning Objectives And Immersive Data From Verizon’s Training

No company today is exempt from safety risk. Whether it’s frontline retail employees exposed to robbery incidents, manufacturing workers operating potentially dangerous machinery or hazard identification in the field, the entire workforce faces risk. Every company seeks to mitigate that risk. To minimize liability issues, protect brand perception and, most critically,  defend valuable human assets, every organization stands to gain from going beyond traditional types of training.

Today, immersive technologies like VR enable a fundamentally better way to properly equip and prepare your employees to excel at their roles while keeping them safe. Real-world simulation can translate into real-world behavioral change. Employees can build skills for life and in turn, contribute more significantly to the business.

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