4 benefits of using VR for soft skills training

Shein Shanin

Shein Shanin

Date: May 17, 2022

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It was an early morning in July and it felt like just like any other day at the office. I just got comfortable sitting down at my desk, fingers poised over the keyboard as I try to remember my new login password. Suddenly, the boss called me and two of my male colleagues in for an ‘urgent’ meeting. I sighed and walked over to the conference room, laptop and my coffee in hand.

“Good to see you all. As you know we’re looking for new direction and opportunities to increase our revenue. I’m open to any ideas. Let’s think outside the box guys,” said my boss, David.

“I’ve been having a few thoughts on this; we could open up a new market by reaching out to some financial institutions which we have not tapped into before,” I piped up enthusiastically.

“Yeah, that’s a nice idea, I’m not sure if we are going in that direction. Let’s keep thinking – what other ideas does everyone else have?” David said, dismissing my idea.

After a few rounds of discussion between my colleagues and I, suddenly a wide grin spread over my colleague Greg’s face. “Boss, what about banks and trying to get in there? We’ve never really worked with banks before!”

“Now you’re thinking! That’s a good idea!” David exclaimed while throwing me a cursory glance.

Greg nodded his head vigorously, completely happy with himself.

I could feel my blood start to boil – I had said the exact same idea just now, but David completely ignored me. This is not the first time that this has happened. Time and time again in this office, I have never been taken seriously.

“David, I just said that a few moments ago and you completely dismissed me!” I exclaimed. Exasperated and tired of being constantly looked over, I continued my tirade, “And now HE says it and you think it sounds great!”

“This is ridiculous” I muttered under my breath.

All three men in the room, turn their heads towards me, completely unaware of the bias that had just happened.

The screen goes dark.

That was one of the scenarios we filmed for a VR training module on unconscious bias in the workplace. The module aims to teach the soft skills needed for managers and employees alike to be more mindful on how they communicate within the office.

“All life happens in conversations, be it with other people or with yourself. And its conversations that people don’t always get right,” says Cathy Johnson, a Professional Certified Coach and senior facilitator based here in Singapore who advised us on how we should structure these modules. With over 32 years’ experience in the industry, she saw the value in using VR to teach people how to have conversations in the workplace.

“So, the thing about VR thing is that you get to have a conversation. It’s where people can react in a conversation in a way that they normally would react, and then see what the impact is – either it’s going to work or not,” she explains during our interview at Club 1880, a private members club, where she often conducts one-on-one coaching sessions with her clients.

Cathy believes that there are advantages to using VR training in a corporate environment, and rightly so. Here are 4 key advantages of using virtual reality as a training platform.

  1. Training becomes immersive

Research on what’s dubbed “the forgetting curve” found that learners forget 70% of the content within 24 hours and nearly 90% in a month. That’s a staggering amount of information that is not being retained. For companies it shows that no matter how much they invest into training and development, nearly everything they teach employees will be forgotten.

However, the more active, the learning, the more effective the outcome. Immersive learning has taken the HR and L&D world by storm. It remains the cornerstone of corporate learning today. The concept is founded in behavioral and cognitive science, it provides a memorable tool to accelerate employees’ proficiencies.

With VR, engaging employees now means going beyond one-way training experiences by simulating real-world scenarios in a safe, engaging, and immersive environment.


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The Forgetting Curve

2. Learning is safer and risk free

The Harvard Business Review reports that companies are facing a growing soft skills gap with 59% of surveyed hiring managers and 89% of executives reporting difficulty in recruiting candidates with soft skills such as communication, teamwork and leadership.

In a post-covid world, these soft skills are essential and have become more difficult to develop as in-person training and education becomes scarce. VR enables immersive, interactive experiences to help develop these skills without the risk of real-world consequences.

VR’s use of realistic scenarios like the one above helps learners make emotional connections with course content. This helps learners form memories that are triggered by an emotional response that then enhances their ability to retain the course information.

Furthermore, there’s no one to be embarrassed in front of in VR. An employee can practice without worrying that a co-worker or partner is silently judging you. VR also does not get tired or impatient, so an employee can practice until they feel comfortable.

“But I think, however it happens, one of the things that can help embed the learning is to have people to meet afterwards whether in-person or virtually, to talk about what happened and what the impact was. I think it’s it helps to embed the learning by having some kind of deeper discussion afterwards – what would typically be called a debrief,” adds Cathy.

3. Training becomes more affordable

A study done by PwC in 2020 found that at scale, VR can be significantly more effective than soft skills training options. They found that employees completed VR programmes 4 times faster than in person trainings, and 1.5 times faster than e-learning programmes.

While practicing soft skills in an immersive environment has many benefits, HR will have to take the cost of VR training into account.

According to a PwC study “VR content initially requires up to a 48% greater investment than similar classroom or eLearn courses.”

However, the greater the number of employees that undergo VR training, the more cost-effective that training becomes.

These are general estimates, but they give a good starting point for companies to determine if VR is a scalable option for their training requirement.


VR simulates real-world scenarios in a safe, engaging, and immersive environment.

4. Saves time

While employees have more time to practice, there is research that shows that VR significantly reduces the amount of time needed for training. A 2020 Harvard Business Review article reported that an American telco conglomerate, Verizon, used VR to train their call centre employees on how to de-escalate a conversation with an upset customer. It found that per-person training time dropped from 10 hours to 30 minutes.

In another study by PwC, a group of managers were given the same training on inclusive leadership in one of three learning situations: a classroom, eLearning, or VR. It found that employees were able to absorb what they learned 4 times faster with VR than classroom training. Managers who participated in VR training were 40% more confident than classroom learners about applying the skills that they learnt.

Conclusion

VR was already beginning to catch on before Covid-19, but with the global pandemic pushing people to remote work, there is a real need for VR as a training tool. It is obvious from the various studies that VR soft skill training is more effective than traditional training methods. If your organisation is interested in creating a VR training module for soft skills, please do not hesitate to get in contact with us to see how we can help.


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