Virtual reality (VR) has the power to revolutionise the world of corporate training. As we learn to adapt to changing working environments; from an increasingly remote-based workforce to the challenges faced by the long-term impact of Covid-19, having a strong and reliable skills base has never been more important. In the face of these changes, is now the time to embed innovative ways to support skills development – and could VR training be what your company needs?
VR training is an immersive learning experience that recreates real life settings and simulates work challenges. It gives employees the chance to gain on-the-job training in a risk-free environment where they can learn by doing. Retention of skills learned in VR is high, meaning it is more likely to be applied in the workplace and ultimately lead to increased productivity.
Replicating dangerous work environments makes VR training an attractive proposition, as it provides a safe space to learn high risk skills. From the defence and aerospace, to the oil & gas sectors, VR has been used to simulate potentially fatal scenarios without compromising safety.
It is also a powerful tool for highly skilled and technical training, where mistakes are easy to make, but could be costly. Medical training in VR is increasingly being adopted for surgeons to learn, and crucially practice intricate procedures. Across engineering and construction, VR training is helping to optimise performance and improve collaborative and interdependent workflows.
With the integration of artificial intelligence, VR provides a safe and responsive environment for learning a range of soft skills and stimulating behavioural change, from management & leadership, speech delivery and customer service.
The numerous benefits that virtual reality training can bring to your employees’ professional development and motivation levels. This coupled with increased efficiency, a reduction in downtime and potential cost savings means that virtual reality training is a fantastic tool to support businesses dedicated to long term success.
Introducing VR Training to The Workplace
If you are creating a VR training programme for your company’s learning and development portfolio, careful consideration needs to be taken at all stages of planning, delivery and evaluation to maximise impact and effectiveness. You need to have a clear understanding of your company’s training needs, as well as harnessing expertise in training development and technical innovation. In adopting this new immersive approach, you will need to:
- Be clear on what you want to achieve
As with any training course, you will need to define your requirements. What’s the current situation and where are your skills gaps? What’s your baseline and where you want to get to? What are the desired learning outcomes? By clearly identifying what issues need addressing by training, what the current situation is and where you want your team’s skills levels to be, you will be able to start designing the content for your training interventions.
- Get your timing right to avoid virtual fatigue
Being in a virtual environment can be an intense experience – especially if you’re new to the tech. Although there’s been amazing developments in hardware over the last few years, wearing a headset for hours at a time is uncomfortable and disorientating.
Keep your virtual training sessions short and sweet. Training in bite-sized modules are best; ideally each practical session should take no more than 20 minutes. Make sure that if an employee is working through several sessions in a day that they factor in regular breaks to return to the real world.
- Get your hands on the right hardware
Hardware is crucial for VR training experiences. If you’re rolling out VR training at scale across your company, you need to make sure that you’ve the right hardware in place for your employees. Simple, right? Not necessarily! Demand for kit such as Valve Index, HTC VIVE and Oculus Quest is potentially outstripping supply, so make sure that you’re talking to suppliers from the start to ensure that a lack of kit won’t hold back deployment.
- Invite all aboard! Taking your employees on a virtual journey with you
Not all employees will initially feel confident or comfortable using VR. When introducing immersive technologies into your training portfolio, factor in simple kit training exercises alongside clear user guides. It’s also a good idea to highlight why you’re introducing this innovative training and the positive impact it will have on their personal development.
Make sure you’ve also undertaken the necessary risk assessments to ensure that training is being undertaken in a safe way by all employees. For example, training in an appropriate physical space is crucial; remember that when you’re in VR, you’re blind in the real world – so bumping into other objects is a real possibility!
- Harness the power of data and evaluation to supercharge your training programmes
The ability to monitor and evaluate performance in VR training is a game changer in the world of training. During the experience, your employees every move – from hand gesture to eye movement, as well as their interactions and responses can be recorded. This information is gold dust for developing and reviewing training experiences. By introducing testing the programme and analysing the data, you will get the chance to assess what works – and more importantly, where changes are needed.
Gaining the Support of Key Stakeholders
So, you’re convinced of the VR training benefits. Moreover, you want it to play a central role in transforming your company’s training portfolio for your employees to grow professionally and your business to thrive. But will everyone agree with you? Your board members and senior management team may be skeptical of its value, and employees may be wary of new tech. Winning over hearts and minds by developing a compelling change management strategy is key to the successful wide scale adoption of new ways of learning. This should include:
- Demonstrating the ROI
Being innovative is great, but what’s the impact on the bottom line? Developing and sharing a clear ROI proposition and implementation plan with stakeholders is crucial. Investing in a robust and effective immersive training programme isn’t a short-term novelty; it’s a long-term solution to develop the skills of your workforce. Initial hardware costs, on top of course development that may seem a costly upfront expense, but the benefits can far outweigh the initial investment.
Compared with classroom-based courses, there’s potentially significant cost saving by removing the need for employees’ travel to attend courses. Significant savings can be made on administration time too, as assessments & training records from VR can feed seamlessly into HR records. Additionally, keeping courses up-to-date, re-running courses and giving employees the chance to repeat training as many times as they like requires no, or little budget as you don’t have repeat trainer fees.
It’s not just direct cost savings that impact on our ROI – remember that having employees learning faster and retaining learning more effectively will lead to less downtime, a more productive and safe working environment and help to motivate and retain employees, which is great for business too.
- Listening to, and involving your employees
Ultimately, it’s your employees who will be the main users of any new training systems, so getting their support and buy-in is crucial to successful adoption.
Getting key employees involved in the process of developing training will help you to benefit from their existing knowledge base, as well as build trust and acceptance. By taking an inclusive approach, you’re in a better position to identify skills gaps and create bespoke training that address these needs in a more impactful way. You’ll also be demonstrating how your company is responsive to employee needs, so they may become your biggest advocates for adopting new technologies! It’s also a great way to test the effectiveness of courses before rolling out on a wider scale – and implement necessary changes at the development stage.
- Highlighting the impact of practical learning on skills development
Attracting and retaining highly skilled and motivated employees is good for business. Investing in innovative, practice-based training programmes contributes to the creation of a working environment where employees are motivated and valued, as well as being better equipped to carry out their jobs. Increased efficiency can lead to a boost in productivity levels – and that’s an attractive prospect for any company looking to grow and thrive.
VR is great as a training tool as we tend to learn best when we learn by doing. This is where VR has a significant advantage over classroom, or online learning programmes. VR training platforms such as Future Visual’s VISIONxR™ have the potential to replicate work spaces and tailor-made scenarios to directly address an individual’s needs. Employees can learn by repeating practical tasks multiple times in a realistic, but risk-free space. Not only that, but collaborative learning means that teams working interdependently can hone their collective skills and working practices.
- Stop talking about it – showcase it!
Why try to explain what a VR experience is like to your stakeholders, when they could just try it for themselves? For people that have never used virtual reality before, it’s difficult to imagine what an experience is like and the impact it has. By putting them in a headset and giving them a hands-on tour of the virtual training world, they are far more likely to understand how it works and its potential to help keep employees at the top of their game.
Costs Involved in Developing a VR Training Programme
Whether your business is an SME or a multi-national corporation, introducing training solutions that are cost effective is of universal concern. Although there are long-term VR training cost benefits, it requires significant upfront investment; so getting a clear picture of the potential costs is crucial to make informed decisions. These include:
- Hardware costs
The most obvious difference between traditional classroom-based and VR training programmes is the requirement for kit to access training. This means that the initial VR training cost can be significant, especially if introduced to scale across larger businesses. However, with the falling unit cost of hardware such as HTC VIVE and Oculus Quest, VR is increasingly becoming a viable training solution, when balanced against cost savings such as downtime and travel.
- Software costs
Software costs can vary depending on the level of sophistication required, such as the quality of 3D modelling and sense of realism in asset design. By using a VR software platform such as Future Visual’s VISIONxR™, you can balance quality experiences against your budget, with off-the-shelf and bespoke options available to suit your needs.
In addition to development costs, don’t forget you will also need to factor in annual platform fees and user licences. You may also need to consider how VR platforms integrate with existing HR systems you have in place.
- Course planning and content development
Learning should always remain at the heart of any training programme. Whether you’re using in-house expertise or external course developers, remember that VR training also needs allocated resources for the development of course aims & objectives, structure, learning content and required outcomes. Additionally, you’ll need to consider the cost implications of regularly reviewing and revising course content to ensure it stays up-to-date and relevant.
Improved Learning Outcomes With VR Training
Monitoring and evaluation shouldn’t be an afterthought, but be central to your VR training strategy. Immersive training experiences are widely recognised for improving retention of knowledge, as it gives employees the chance to learn by doing and reinforce new skills by repeating tasks numerous times.
Employees who have used VR for learning also believe overwhelmingly they are better prepared for their job. But the tangible evidence for VR training effectiveness isn’t just subjective and anecdotal – it is backed up by performance data and evaluation.
Performance data from VR training experiences can be easily recorded. Monitoring gestures, giving you an accurate assessment of an individual’s ability and measurable evidence of the learning process. Improving retention of learning, employees are more likely to apply their new skills in the workplace – and ultimately having a positive impact on the business overall by improving their productivity.
Is the future of training virtual?
Adopting innovative new training programmes is a crucial part of a company’s need to evolve in response to our changing world, in addition to the fragmentation of workplaces through globalisation and remote working. The recent advances in immersive tech means that VR and training may offer a perfect solution to keep your employees highly trained, motivated and productive – just at the time when you need them performing at their best.
So, the question isn’t why you should be looking to VR training innovations – but rather, why aren’t you?