Soft skills are becoming increasingly important in today’s workplace, and virtual reality can help employees improve their soft skills by placing them in realistic simulations to practice those skills.
As companies’ upskilling needs grow, soft skills training can be especially challenging. Virtual reality can help close this gap. VR headsets can immerse employees in a simulated environment where avatars act out challenging situations. The VR environment allows employees to practice learning soft skills in a safe, life-like simulation. Simulation can also be more cost effective than risking the intern losing the account or not handling the situation.
Here are five soft skills where companies are using VR training.
1. Emotional intelligence training
Farmers Insurance uses virtual technology to train its claims adjusters in identifying and assessing claims. However, simulations also help novice adjusters learn emotional intelligence skills such as active listening, empathy, and keeping a cool head when customers get angry. All of this contributes to the overarching soft skill of emotional intelligence.
VR’s program initially focused on teaching employees how to perform insurance appraisals on damaged residential properties, but now emphasizes improving their soft skills during claims conversations in which customers can be overwhelmed or angry.
“Active listening [and] empathy skills are vital to delivering the positive customer experience we seek,” said Jessica DeCanio, head of claims training at Farmers Insurance, an insurance and financial services provider based in Woodland Hills, California.
A particularly useful aspect of VR training is that employees can learn at their own pace, DeCanio said.
2. Speaking practice
Many people have to give presentations for work, but improving public speaking skills takes practice.
VR simulations can provide an immersive public speaking experience in which speakers deliver their speech in front of a large crowd, a sparsely populated lecture hall, or a more intimate office or conference room environment. The VR headset collects data during the exercise, then evaluates the speaker’s presentation and shares tips on how they can improve.
Some platforms can be integrated with the speaker’s presentation materials, such as a slide show or other visuals.
3. Development of leadership training
VR can also help participants develop their leadership skills.
Leaders and leaders-in-training can participate in VR simulations of difficult one-on-one discussions or group interactions such as meetings. The simulations involve employees with varying degrees of enthusiasm, emotional intelligence and performance levels, and participants must respond to them in the most effective way possible.
For example, Walmart uses VR to train its managers on diversity and inclusion. Managers meet with a subordinate who has made offensive remarks and must discuss why the behavior is a problem and how the employee can improve. This improves managers’ soft skills as they practice having a difficult conversation.
4. Testing the skill level of employees
VR can help managers gauge the skill level of employees before giving them new responsibilities.
For example, new sales hires at HPE Financial Services interact with a customer simulation and managers evaluate their performance. Managers then assign different levels of training to employees based on employee VR scores. If the new hire performed particularly well during the simulation, they may be given permission to skip several levels of training.
5. Evaluation of the soft skills of the job candidate
VR can also help managers screen job applicants. During the interview process, the recruiter may ask job applicants to participate in VR simulations so that the recruiter can assess the candidates’ soft skills.
For example, if a candidate is applying for a management position, a recruiter might ask the candidate to participate in a simulation that recreates a difficult one-on-one conversation with a direct report. The recruiter can then decide if the candidate is skilled enough to take up the position.