The ultimate goal of professional development is to create engaging and memorable training content that employees retain in their day-to-day jobs. For years, the corporate training industry leaned on tried-and-true methods like lectures, demonstrations and eLearning, but the key question persisted: How much information are employees retaining?
Enter virtual reality (VR) training.
VR training burst onto the scene in recent years — and with good reason. According to Dr. Narendra Kini, chief executive officer at Miami Children’s Health System, VR training can lead to an 80% information retention rate for one full year after training, compared to a 20% information retention rate for traditional training. Companies see the technology as an innovative, immersive way to provide meaningful and memorable training to strengthen professional development. Some companies are starting to implement VR training as a tentpole training method seeing unique, game-changing benefits to employee education, growth and development.
One of those companies, Bank of America, first experimented with VR training through a pilot program from the bank’s award-winning internal onboarding, education and professional development organization, The Academy. Following the successful pilot, Bank of America became the first financial services firm to launch VR training in October 2021 to nearly 4,300 financial centers nationwide, reaching approximately 50,000 employees.
As companies consider leveraging VR training, here’s what Bank of America learned through the launch of a full-scale program:
Starting with a 400-employee pilot in 2019 gave Bank of America the opportunity to test the waters and see what practices worked best through VR training – and what didn’t. As the pilot progressed, it was clear that there were a lot of positives from giving managers and employees the opportunity to train and develop skills to have complex and nuanced conversations with their clients and each other.
The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, as 97% of Bank of America teammates cited more confidence and effectiveness in their jobs and greater retention of training material. Overall, employees learned material four times faster than they did in traditional classroom settings.
A Lifelike Experience
As part of the VR training program, teammates can take advantage of five different VR simulations (a number that will increase in 2022) and practice a wide range of skills including strengthening and deepening relationships with clients, navigating difficult conversations, and listening and responding with empathy. The VR trainings can put the employee in a simulated financial center, where they virtually interact with co-workers and clients. The module prompts different scenarios and conversations in a lifelike virtual environment, and provides guidance based on an employee’s answers to each question.
Historically, these skills were taught through instructor-led discussions and web-based training. In VR, teammates can practice their day-to-day job functions in a realistic and interactive environment. These trainings are highly effective at helping employees build and retain new skills and better connect with clients in the real world. In addition, the simulator can gauge employee performance and help diagnose where the employee may need follow-up coaching or more practice. The result is a well-trained, effective employee.