Employees are the lifeblood of every organization. When companies hire and nurture the best people, it’s much easier to fulfill their missions and achieve their goals.

Unfortunately, without the right tools in place, finding the right talent can be difficult. According to a recent study, 74% of employers have hired the wrong person at some point. Not only do bad hiring decisions slow organizations down and adversely impact morale but they are also quite expensive, costing the average company anywhere from $17,000 to $240,000, depending on the position.

Suffice it to say that smart organizations need to do everything in their power to increase the chances they hire the right people every time. On top of this, companies also need to ensure their current employees have the skills they need to reach their full potential at work and stay engaged.

To this end, more and more employers are taking a groundbreaking approach to skills assessments by using virtual reality (VR) to measure prospective candidates’ and existing employees’ hard skills and soft skills. As a result, they get an accurate idea of the roles candidates and employees are best suited for and how each of them might perform in various real-world, on-the-job scenarios. This information, in turn, helps them make more intelligent hiring decisions and identify the training opportunities each employee needs to get to the next level.

Using VR for Hard Skills Evaluation

To succeed in their position, employees need to have certain hard skills, or the specific knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) required to perform a job (e.g., warehouse workers knowing how to scan and process packages or a mechanic’s ability to spot issues in a plane engine). Typically, hard skills are learned by the individual and then refined over time through education, training and repetition.

Whether an organization is trying to fill an open position with the best candidate or gauge an existing employee’s strengths and weaknesses, VR can be a game-changer. With the right VR training platform, managers can identify knowledge gaps and training opportunities faster and more efficiently than traditional training methods. Employees also benefit from instantaneous feedback on their performance so they can make adjustments with each training session, without the need for supervision.

Immersive VR training tools can collect data on individual users that can be used to create predictive models for future performance and allow for personalized training plans. As more real-world data is collected, organizations can access increasingly intelligent, data-driven recommendations about how candidates and employees are likely to perform in specific roles. Armed with that information, managers can use the data to complement their review process to determine the best candidates for particular jobs. They can also identify areas where current employees need additional training to sharpen their skills.

To illustrate, Walmart uses VR training to assess how employees and candidates might respond to angry customers or messy aisles. Once the evaluation is over, managers receive a report that outlines each individual’s strengths and weaknesses, which can help them determine whether employees need additional training in specific areas and which candidates might be best suited for open positions.

Using VR for Soft Skills Evaluation

In addition to hard skills, employees also need soft skills to thrive as professionals. These skills encompass things like team work, public speaking, attitude, work ethic and problem-solving capabilities, among others. When team members have strong soft skills, they tend to perform well. On the flip side, 89% of employees who fail at new jobs do so because they lack soft skills.

Everyone comes to the table with an innate level of soft skills. However, soft skills can be also developed and learned over time through training and experience. This is another area where immersive VR training tools can be particularly beneficial.

For example, VR training platforms can enable employees to practice tough conversations and listen back to the recordings, giving them a chance to review their performance, assess their strengths and weaknesses and figure out how they can do better. These conversations might include dealing with an angry customer, walking an employee through a poor performance review or navigating a problematic sales scenario. As real-world examples, Bank of America is using VR to help employees learn how to be more empathetic to customers dealing with a relative’s death. Similarly, Walmart uses VR training to help employees handle difficult customer conversations.

When it comes to developing soft skills, practice makes perfect. Thanks to VR training technologies, employees can continue to perform the same exercises at regular intervals, making incremental progress along the way — and strengthening their teams because of it.

How to Get Started

Simply put, VR represents the next phase in the evolution of skills assessments and employee training. Using VR technology, managers can better understand how an employee might perform in real-world situations. They can also quickly identify areas where individual employees would benefit from more training.

If your organization is looking to make better hiring decisions, promote the best people and ensure your team has the hard and soft skills they need to thrive, VR training is a no-brainer. With the right tools and approach, you can transform your organization into a highly-skilled, highly collaborative, highly empathetic operation that soars to new heights.