Trends
by
Geert Jan Kraan
,
Marketing Lead

How VR is redefining soft skills training

Virtual reality is redefining soft skills training. By providing a more realistic and personalized learning experience than classroom training and e-learning, VR training helps companies to upskill their employees up to 4x faster — even at a time when training budgets are shrinking and in-person training may be off the table. VR learners are also up to 275% more confident to act on what they learned after training.

The rise of soft skills training

As technology becomes more prevalent in every part of society, the role humans play in the workplace is becoming more focused on the tasks automated tools cannot handle, like collaboration, leadership, problem solving, and customer engagement. At the same time, teams increasingly have to work with diverse groups of colleagues and customers.

Soft skills like leadership, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, active listening, and providing constructive feedback have emerged as essential attributes for today’s job roles. Enterprise leaders are looking for candidates who excel in these skills, but are also faced with a unique and growing challenge around building and teaching soft skills to their current employees.

Around the globe, corporate learning experts are pushing the need for soft skills training. This poses a dilemma for employers that recognize the need for effective training approaches but have to deal with shrinking budgets and can’t provide in-person training given the current remote working environment.

“The working world after the pandemic will be different. As companies emerge from the shadow of the crisis, they will have a golden opportunity to reimagine every single aspect of how they learn.” - McKinsey

How VR is redefining soft skills training

As an affordable way to upskill employees faster and with better results, virtual reality training in the workplace has quickly become one of the best solutions to this challenge.

In a recent PwC study on the use of VR in soft skills training, a group of new managers in 12 locations took the same training designed to address inclusive leadership in one of three learning modalities: classroom training, e-learning and VR training.

The study clearly showed that VR can help business leaders upskill their employees 4x faster than in the classroom, with participants showing a 275% increase in confidence to apply their skills afterwards. They were also 3.75x more emotionally connected to the provided content than classroom learners and 4x more focused than their e-learning peers.

Many different use cases

With VR training, employees can practice important soft skills in a virtual and safe environment with simulated feedback conversations designed for learning, practice, and evaluation. For optimal retention, these scenarios closely match the ones employees face in the real world.

By being completely immersed in a realistic virtual environment that replicates their work environment, employees experience a phenomenon called “presence.” This means their brain is treating the VR experience the same way it would treat real life, which makes their soft skills training more authentic and memorable.

VR training can support many use cases, including:

  • employee onboarding and performance reviews
  • leadership, project management and negotiating skills
  • diversity & inclusion and anti-sexual harassment training
  • speaking in meetings and giving presentations
  • learning and practicing empathy
  • giving feedback & delivering bad news
  • navigating uncomfortable or emotional conversations
  • settling disputes between colleagues
  • handling customer complaints

Easy to setup & better retention

As L&D leaders consider new ways to train their employees while supporting hybrid ways of working or just want to improve their training methods, VR-based immersive learning has proven itself as a highly effective, engaging and cost-efficient way to teach soft skills to employees.

Not all soft skills are meant to be taught in VR, however. But for difficult conversations, feedback, empathy, and diversity & inclusion, enterprise L&D leaders are finding that immersive learning outperforms older methods like classroom training or e-learning.

VR training can be done in different forms. Research clearly indicates that story-based VR training scenarios using 360˚ video and a realistic workplace simulation deliver better long-term retention. With the on-demand nature of VR training, soft skills can be practiced in a realistic environment as many times as needed to feel more confident and capable on the job.

Unique data & insights

VR training uses a combination of data science, learning theory, instructional design, spatial experience design, and several gamification elements like scores and leaderboards to challenge trainees to always do better.

Once learners have gone through soft skills training in VR, L&D leaders can then review detailed and actionable data about performance (skill proficiency, attention, engagement, etc.) on an individual or team level.

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