It is estimated that 88% of employees believe a strong company culture is “at least of relative importance” to business success.

Before 2020, team-building exercises, happy hours and ping pong tables in the breakroom were hyped as methods to bring employees together and create a fun, productive environment.

COVID-19 had other plans, sending workers to home offices in droves. With more remote and hybrid workers, there’s been a significant drop in social interactions, less team-building and fewer opportunities to build company culture.

While COVID-19 significantly altered operations, it didn’t change the backbone of organizational culture — employee behavior.

Businesses still face many challenges when it comes to upskilling. They also need to ensure “business as normal” operational activities like meeting deadlines, securing revenue to boost bottom lines and retaining employees, especially in the era of The Great Resignation.

Corporate learning is playing a greater part in organizational success strategies. Now more than ever, learning and development (L&D) is being reimagined to combat worker departures, bring new hires up to speed and build back a malleable workplace culture based on agility.

Defining Workplace Culture in 4 Steps

Fostering a thriving workplace culture requires boiling down common skills needed and putting employee behavior at the core.

First, when it comes to talent development, leadership should define their desired organizational culture. It’s normal for company structures to change and markets to evolve — but defining where the company culture needs to be is critical.

Second, leadership needs to measure how far away from the desired organizational culture they are. Understanding the gap between current behaviors versus the desired future state is key.

Third, the challenge is to determine how to get to the desired workplace culture as quickly as possible. Ongoing development on transversal soft skills will promote an open, inclusive and comfortable workplace.

The last step is to discover how to deliver role play experiences through the right platform, especially when face-to-face interaction is impractical or impossible.

Corporate learning delivered through immersive experiences can impact the organizational culture in many areas, including onboarding; diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI); sexual harassment prevention; ethics and leadership. The common thread is that these experiences are realistic and emotionally engaging.

Immersive Simulations: A Method to Nurture Workplace Culture

In the early days of eLearning, businesses used online training because it was easy. However, this foundational level of training is designed to address knowledge gaps or knowledge retention issues.

Previously, organizations delivered workshops but did not see the desired behavioral impact. With immersive simulations, employees apply soft skills in realistic situations that develop behaviors, and they have a safe space for review and practice in areas they find challenging or new.

As human behavior is central to everything a company does, L&D leaders soon realized that tailored situational learning using experiential or immersive methods are more effective at molding culture.

When people navigate complex interpersonal and inter-team dynamics, they see the impact of their decision and it encourages the right behaviors.

Of all the virtual training tools available, immersive simulation learning is perhaps the most impactful when it comes to fostering culture. With the current work from home and hybrid situation, immersive simulation supports organizational culture because it’s focused on workplace behavior. For now, it can be a substitute for in-person interaction that employees experienced during a live event. No matter the industry or context, leadership can design an interaction within the simulation to focus on elements of company culture and desired behaviors they are looking to encourage.

Reaching All Employees at the Same Time

During COVID-19, immersive simulations have allowed companies to roll out experiences to tens of thousands of employees at the flip of a switch. With everyone going through the same experience at the same time, it creates more conversation and provides the scale for real culture change and alignment.

Workers also need to feel the company is using their time respectfully. It wasn’t uncommon before 2020, that in-person training would take employees away from their desks for days or one week at a time. Often, workers would return home and not have a chance to apply that knowledge for months.

The time between learning and application should be as short as possible. Simulation learning allows employees to complete training on their schedule. Furthermore, the design is based on imitating or replicating a job situation. People are allowed to make mistakes, learn from them and try again. Allowing this flexibility while replicating real-world scenarios is key.

When corporate learners consider the content and experience relevant to their workplace role and culture, the learning is successfully transferred and there are measurable results.

The end result? Using relevant scenarios in immersive platforms helps drive engagement and reinforce organizational culture.

Organizational Culture Changes Are Data Driven

To create impactful programs and measure progress, leadership must have access to effective data points throughout the corporate learning system.

An immersive simulation platform provides reporting and analytics tools that generate real-time insights. This gives leadership a clear view of company-wide performance, where change is needed and provides the ability to focus future corporate learning accordingly to affect the desired organizational culture change.

Objective, precise data indicates when, where and how learners are doing on their skills development journey.

As a company’s desired culture isn’t set in stone, and evolves and changes over time, this data becomes a cycle of improvement. Data should never be used for the sake of data but aligned to the types of skills and behaviors to be developed at that moment.

Learning Should Be a Priority 

A strong workplace culture nurtures employee engagement, improves performance and fosters an environment of responsibility. Strengthening relationships, especially in the era of COVID-19, is no easy task.

Still, with the right talent development tools that combine behavioral science, immersive simulations and analytics, you an achieve a thriving company culture.