Training in the virtual world will become the new real
Virtual Reality, when done right, is a complete immersion that leads to mental transportation to another place. Your brain should feel like it is somewhere else, despite where your body is.
I experienced this at the Dutch company ASML, who provide products and services to mass produce chips on silicon. Their operators train on the complex machinery with the help of Virtual Reality. To prove the power of VR, they tested my (real) fear of heights. Even though my body was standing on a first floor carpeted office in the town of Veldhoven, I did not dare to walk across a narrow footbridge. Because my brain told me I was standing at a height of 25 meters, and the footbridge had no railing. All thanks to the imagery in the goggles.
Stuck in the training past
Even though the worldwide market for training is growing, too many companies continue to cling to the once-a-year, formal-training blueprints of businesses past. They are missing out on the possibilities of a digital, on-demand L&D approach. Organisations could benefit from earmarking some of their budgets for new methods of training employees, many of whom want personalised experiences that are available to them in the moment.
Imagine VR trainings for new call-center employees, with an end goal of increasing employee- and customer-satisfaction scores. In the training, new employees put on headsets and are immediately placed in the call-center environment. They spend a few minutes getting acclimated before answering a simulated call from a customer. After asking the customer a few questions, the employee is “transported” into the customer’s home to understand the context surrounding the phone call. Back at the call center, the employee finishes helping the customer and then is taken back to the customer’s home to see the impact of his or her decisions.
The scene at the end will be based on how the employee handled the transaction.
VR as an immersive experience lends itself to the idea of walking in someone else’s shoes. It allows someone to react as they normally would outside of the VR experience.
The American retail corporation Walmart has reported its own success with VR training, which it rolled out at all of its 200 training academies last year. It found that knowledge retention was 10 to 15% greater among associates who went through VR training compared to standard training. After coupling that with the increased employee engagement, Walmart decided to deploy VR headsets to all its stores in the U.S. for associate training by the end of the year.
Augmented and mixed reality
While VR is meant to be an immersive and transportive experience, augmented reality (AR) is designed to enhance users’ line of sight. It will give wearers pertinent information exactly when and where they need it most. AR allows you to see your entire surroundings minus what may be added or blocked by the smart glasses frames. ARinjects directly into a point of view, delivering relevant information when you need it. It is used for manufacturing, material-handling and field-service teams at large companies like Boeing, GE and Accenture to improve productivity, compliance, training and upskilling.
Now that these technologies are becoming commercially available, experts agree that the future of training and L&D will be found in virtual, augmented and mixed reality. Convincing business leaders may take some work, however, as research shows that only 3% of leaders plan to significantly increase their investment in training employees. This number is worrisome given that the research also found that 50% of business leaders identify future skills shortages as a key business challenge.
Training in the virtual world still unreal
By 2020 more than one-third of the core skills needed to perform most jobs will be made up of those that are not currently considered crucial to the job (WEF). To proactively address this issue means upskilling and “new skilling” the workforce. However, research has shown that standard classroom-based learning or PowerPoint presentations can be tedious, laborious and disruptive to work.
These methods also are not conducive to knowledge retention, whereas emerging research finds that AR/VR improves learner performance, reduces on-the-job mistakes and increases productivity.
Learning is the best investment you can make