No doubt you’ve heard about the many benefits of training in virtual reality (VR). It’s hard not to. It seems like every day there is a new article about how companies like Delta and UPS are using immersive technologies to optimize their workforce or about research enumerating VR’s many benefits. Take a 2018 study by The University of Maryland, for example, which showed an 8.8% improvement in overall recall accuracy using VR compared to traditional learning methods.

But embarking on a VR training initiative can be expensive, especially when you consider the complexity of training required. In fact, the average cost of developing a custom VR training program can range from $40,000 to $50,000.

What is the return on that investment (ROI)? Beyond the safety and retention benefits you’ve read about, you can see some hard cost savings. To help you plan, here are the top five returns you can expect to see when considering a VR training program for your organization.

Reduced Time to Competency

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in; time is money. One way to improve your bottom line is to reduce time to competency when onboarding new employees. VR training can reduce training time by 40% while improving employee performance by 70% For instance, you can use VR training to assess your employees’ skills and then develop training to fill gaps. VR can also improve retention and bolster confidence on the job by enabling employees to train at their own pace without the pressure of facing real-time consequences for mistakes.

Employees have found VR training so helpful that they’ve started to demand more of it. Such was the case when Intel launched its pilot program using VR for electrical safety training. Not only did the company project a five-year ROI of 300%, but 94% of users requested more training in VR. Participants felt that being able to perform tasks in an immersive environment helped them focus and pay closer attention to their actions and outcomes.

The U.S Navy conducted a study to determine the cost effectiveness of training in VR. It compared an eight-hour training course on actual equipment against the same training with a 3D interactive simulation. The conclusion? Through immersive learning, the Navy realized $4.24 million in avoided costs, yielding a final ROI of $2.96 million from a $1.28 million investment — all from one piece of equipment. Multiply that ROI by the pieces of equipment you provide training on, and imagine the possibilities.

Better Resource Allocation

Instead of having your subject matter experts (SMEs) in the field, wouldn’t it be better to have them focus on what they do best? A tool like VR can help make better use of your top talent by capturing their knowledge and sharing it with less experienced employees globally without incurring travel costs.

Alternatively, employees can connect with subject matter experts in virtual reality to deal with pressing situations in real time. This approach cuts down on time spent sending emails back and forth or sifting through outdated manuals, boosting productivity and impacting the bottom line.

Reduced Downtime of Mission-critical Assets and Equipment-Related Expenses

For some industries, hands-on training is a must. Unfortunately, this means taking your equipment offline, which impacts the daily operations of your organization — costing you both time and money. Implementing a VR training program removes the need to use actual equipment and consumables during the training process.

It also promotes a culture of safety and decreases the rate of workplace and training-related incidents. Training on equipment can create dangerous hazards in some industries, with the smallest errors potentially creating a life-threating event. With VR training, employees can safely gain the confidence to work with heavy machinery and consumables by working in a stress-free environment. They can also observe the impact of their actions to learn how to address similar issues in real life. Ford, for example, has used VR training to reduce workplace injuries by 70%.

Public Relations

The added exposure of being among the first in your industry to try out VR can significantly boost your bottom line as people become more familiar with your products and services. Do a quick search on VR training, and you’ll see how companies like AT&T, UPS and Delta are being regarded as thought leaders and innovators in their respective industries.

The increased exposure also helps elevate your company’s image and your talent acquisition strategy. People want to work with forward-thinking companies that are driving change in their industry using the latest technologies. VR training can help you tap into what your potential employees are looking for in their workplace.

The Bottom Line

If you’re still on the fence about VR training, let this be your guiding principle. The VR market is expected to grow from $7.9 billion in 2018 to $44.7 billion by 2024. The cost of VR hardware and content development will go down as it becomes more accessible.

Beyond looking at market share, your future employees should be the determining factor — and they are already being trained in VR. In 2018, the U.S Department of Education invested over $2.5 million in VR to enhance special education — and that’s only one group of K-12 learners experiencing virtual reality. In just a few years’ time, when the next crop of employees is ready to enter the workforce, they will be looking at your company offerings and evaluating the technologies you are using. If VR is not among them, they will leave.

As you evaluate virtual reality and how it could be of use in your organization, a good rule of thumb to follow is always to consider a pilot program before jumping in. Approach VR training strategically, and you’ll see greater long-term value.