You may have heard of or even tried out Virtual Reality (VR) technology, most likely in the context of video games and art exhibitions. However, VR technology is increasingly incorporated in the professional context, with large corporations such as Walmart and Google creating a range of customized VR training programs to their employees. An example of the latest technology, VR is changing the way companies perceive professional development, offering the workforce relevant skill sets in today’s digital age.
Is your company looking for ways to improve the training process and succeed as a whole? If so, VR might be the potential solution that can accelerate the growth of your business!
VR’s place in corporate thinking
Industry-leading corporates are rushing to integrate VR technology as part of their comprehensive training initiatives. According to the 2019 US L&D Report by findcourses.com, companies with highly engaged employees are over twice as likely to prioritize soft skill developments such as leadership, customer service, sales and communication, all of which are better acquired through experience and real-life interactions. The research also finds that organizations are utilizing VR beyond traditional simulations to foster empathy at the workplace.
At Walmart, VR training accustoms the associates to a range of real-life situations, from managing the store’s produce area to Black Friday. Employees are also able to virtually interact with other stores, gaining new perspectives on management without having to leave their own store.
“The great thing about VR is its ability to make learning experiential,” says Andy Trainor, Walmart’s senior director of Walmart U.S. Academies.
Rendering real-life situations in a hands-on, engaging manner, VR grants the employees the opportunity to practice and rehearse in a safe environment. Following the popularity and success of the pilot program, Walmart now provides Oculus VR headsets to all stores in the U.S., bringing the same level of training to more than 1 million of its associates.
Beginning in 2017, UPS has also committed to training delivery drivers using VR headsets that can simulate the experience of driving on city streets. The adoption of VR reflects the company’s commitment to using the latest technology to protect its employees and the communities served while enhancing the overall operational performance.
Transforming typical classroom lessons into highly contextual and customizable experiences, VR learning excels in that it’s far more interactive and memorable than conventional methodologies such as workshops and instruction manuals. Individual employees can become more prepared and comfortable in their respective roles in a shorter amount of time. For that reason, well-known companies apply VR training in order to ensure training and performance consistency.
Changing an entire industry: How VR dominates aerospace
In jet airliner manufacturing, VR training has become an indispensable asset and standardized practice for a multitude of micro-processes. For complex tasks in building an aircraft that leave no room for error, Boeing has been testing VR as a possible solution to give technicians interactive 3D diagrams displaying guidelines and instructions in real-time. In comparison to traditional two-dimensional drawings that require technicians themselves to interpret and construct a mental image, VR models provide the accuracy that is essential to the industry overall.
Boeing’s arch-competitor Airbus utilizes similar approaches to incorporate VR in its production line. Through the usage of VR models on top of the real aircraft, the inspection time of an Airbus A380 fuselage has dropped from three weeks to just three days. In cooperation with Japan Airlines (JAL) and JAL Engineering, Airbus has developed a prototype application based on VR to present new training and operational solutions, pushing the boundaries of what is currently available. Such practice brings the manufacturer and its customers to an even closer relationship, enhancing communication and the interchange of technological advancement within cross-industrial partnerships.
From the production line to the delivery of aircrafts, VR technology significantly facilitates the operation of an industry where quality, safety and cost-efficiency are of utmost importance.
As major aircraft manufacturers adopt VR technology, it is clear that VR enhances existing processes, enables new, innovative practices, and stimulates positive competition.
The effectiveness of VR in professional training
From a broader business advice perspective, companies of all sectors should implement VR technology as part of their training practice for a number of reasons. At a time when 42% of UK employees rate L&D as their most important employee perk, businesses can – and should! – capitalize the interest for L&D and utilize effective programs incorporating VR to fulfill and strengthen the workforce, which can also boost the company’s retention rate.
STRIVR, a VR coaching company at the forefront of this technology being used by companies such as the NFL and Walmart, has provided some insights into why VR has rapidly gained traction in the training process. According to Danny Belch, the Chief Strategy Officer at STRIVR, VR’s ability to allow employees to practice their learning in a safe environment is what makes it such a rich complement to Learning and Development (L&D) training.
“You can get a legitimate lifelike scenario with full end-to-end practice. It’s not role play. It’s alone and the stakes are free. You have this beautifully free space to practice, to stumble on your words,” says Belch. In other words, VR training creates a realm of unrestricted possibilities, challenging the individual to test and modify their behaviors for the best outcome.
Because companies believe that technology contributes to the diversity and inclusivity of the workplace, VR can make a tangible difference in the way professional training is conducted and the overall dynamic of the workplace. Scenarios such as job interviews are rendered so that the participant can better understand the experience of another identity – in a virtual body of different race or gender more susceptible to workplace prejudice. Situating individuals in unaccustomed positions, VR training escapes the framework of imagination and pushes the participants into a more direct and impactful mode of learning.
Should small businesses care? Of course!
It is not only the large firms that are linking VR technology to their training initiatives. However, the common misconception that smaller businesses don’t have the resources to become tech-savvy makes many hesitant to invest in VR programs.
In reality, companies investing $1,500 or more per employee per year on training average 24% higher profit margins than companies with lower training investments. Using VR as a training tool is not only becoming more affordable – certain VR headsets work with mobile devices and retail for as low as $199 – but also provides additional savings on travel expenses and time associated with conventional training.
Most importantly, small businesses are just as likely as big corporates to encounter real-life situations that VR technology is able to visualize. Human interaction is universal and not determined by the type or size of the business. In fact, it is exactly the smaller companies who benefit the most from VR that foster a productive and innovative company culture necessary for growth in the competitive environment.
According to the findcourse.com report, VR makes up only 4% of US companies’ L&D training technology today. There is still room for the expansion of VR in professional training, and it provides a great opportunity for your company to get a head start on taking advantage of this wonderful technology.