There’s no doubt that virtual reality (VR) and its use cases are growing. The recent buzz around the metaverse is a prime example of increased interest in the technology. One of the most popular use cases for VR is in corporate training, as training conducted in VR has been reported to improve engagement and knowledge retention levels, and allows employees can be trained in a safer, more cost-efficient way.

Large companies such as Walmart, McDonald’s, Vodafone, Bank of America and more have started to adopt VR training (Walmart has been using it since 2017). VR is quickly positioning itself as an essential tool to enhance the learning experience and effectiveness, crucial for employee development and success.

Why VR is Gaining Traction for Businesses

The growing use of VR among businesses is not a passing tend or gimmick; it is growing due to increased demand stemming from the widening skills and talent gaps. A recent study highlighted difficulties in recruiting employees with appropriate soft skills, with 89% of executives and 59% of hiring managers saying that candidates lack the required soft skills needed to perform a job role. The research found that soft skills including communication, teamwork and leadership were especially difficult to find in the job market.

VR is uniquely positioned to provide employees with the opportunity to learn through experience, on demand. With VR, learners can practice skills in a psychologically safe and low-risk way, until they are competent and confident to use these newfound skills back on the job.

VR and the Employee Lifecycle

VR can also support learning across the entire employee lifecycle. Here, we will consider the employee lifecycle in terms of six stages: attraction, recruitment, onboarding, development, retention and separation. The employee lifecycle model is used to visualize how the employee engages with the company and how to support that journey.

Now more than ever, employers are working hard to retain employees and support their continued development. By examining the employee lifecycle, companies can see where their weak points are. For example, they may have great retention rates but if they struggle to fill new roles, they might need a more exciting and engaging recruitment process.

VR has its role to play across numerous touch points in the employee lifecycle. Let’s take a look at how VR can support employees across each stage.

Stage 1: Attraction

Several large corporations such as General Mills, Marriott and Jaguar have designed innovative virtual environments at events or created immersive VR games to reach new talent and stand out. VR is proving to be an effective method for talent acquisition.

Offering a VR experience can exponentially increase your chances of attracting candidates and raise application numbers. Deutsche Bahn is a great example of this. When the German national railway company experimented with VR, they received up to 10 times as many applications.

Stage 2: Recruitment

Learning leaders can also use VR to help hiring managers effectively prepare for interviews with candidates. This is done by engaging hiring managers in simulated interviews and providing feedback on their performance to help ensure they’re ready to make a good first impression on behalf of the organization.

This mock approach would often be done in person, but VR opens the possibilities for practicing remotely and running a more efficient, successful interview process. In the simulated environment, hiring managers can practice asking interview questions and looking out for red flags with candidates.

Another incredibly useful aspect of the VR experience is the ability to create low-stress assessments. VR technology allows job candidates to explore whether the position is the right fit for them and gives hiring managers a realistic way to assess each individual’s skill set.

A position may have aspects or responsibilities that are difficult to describe or comprehend unless you have first-hand experience with it. In addition to interactive assessments, it’s also possible to create real-life simulations of everyday routines so that candidates experience a-day-in-the-life of a potential job. Companies across the globe are already exploring these benefits. For instance, to assess graduates for its 2017 intake, Lloyds Banking Group introduced VR exercises for the first time in the UK.

Ultimately, VR can streamline the hiring and recruiting processes, which yields tangible benefits for businesses. For instance, Deutsche Bahn found that doing so reduced interview time and cost for employers and employees, and even attracted higher quality candidates.

3. Onboarding

Onboarding no longer needs to be delivered in person. With VR, onboarding can take place from the comfort of an employee’s own home while still remaining realistic and immersive — something that is increasingly appealing since the recent shift to remote and hybrid work. New employees can be given an introduction to the company, an office tour, meet their manager and team members, and learn about a company’s history and values in an interactive way. This is noteworthy, as businesses with poor onboarding processes have lower retention rates.

An example of a successful brand that had outstanding results after introducing VR to their onboarding process is Accenture. Being a global brand that operates in 200 locations across 50 countries, Accenture needed a scalable solution for internal processes such as onboarding.

VR enabled Accenture to create a digital “new hire campus” that included spaces that simulated their physical offices as well as a space for employees to meet up. This allowed new hires to have immersive experiences where employees could connect with each other regardless of their geographical location.

4. Development

VR has the potential to be the go-to tool for upskilling, with companies already adopting this innovative learning method. As the quality of VR graphics improves and headsets become more readily available, it looks like VR training is here to stay.

VR is especially gaining traction in improving people skills like presentations and public speaking, leadership, networking, negotiations, business ethics, crucial conversations, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and more. Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom use VR training to enable employees to practice a range of people skills and receive instant feedback on their performance, so they can easily identify their strengths and weaknesses, before repeating the exercise.

Companies like Vodafone have recreated their training pavilion in Newbury in VR to allow employees to practice their presentation skills in  an environment they’re familiar with. This gives them a digital playground to practice skills on-demand, directly at the point of need – which cannot be provided in reality.

Furthermore, PwC found that the practice element of VR learning meant that learners were four times more focused and 275% more confident to act on what they learned. For those that invest in quality development for their employees, they’ll be able to maintain higher retention rates as development is one of the leading factors for an employee to leave their current position.

Conclusion

VR technology can be integrated at every stage of the employee lifecycle. While VR is not new, it is certainly gaining popularity, from attracting and recruiting new talent to onboarding and supporting their continued professional development. If used correctly, it has the power to change the employee experience from attracting a new content up to retaining employees long-term.

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