Virtual reality can help companies train employees in many areas, and the technology could be particularly beneficial in helping workers learn soft skills.
VR can simulate common scenarios that employees encounter at work. It allows participants to practice their soft skills in a low-stakes environment, allowing them to practice scenarios multiple times if needed. As a result, it offers a number of benefits, including accelerated learning and confidence building.
Here are some of the main benefits that virtual reality can bring to soft skills training programs.
1. VR can accelerate learning
Using VR technology for training can lead to faster course completion.
Participants in the PwC 2020 study “Effectiveness of virtual reality soft skills training in the enterprise” completed VR training up to four times faster than classroom lessons and up to 1.5 times faster than e-learning.
Participants can complete a VR-based learning course more quickly because the learning is completely immersive, said Scott Likens, innovation center and trust technology leader at PwC, a London-based research and consulting firm. Participants cannot look at their cell phones or be disturbed by interruptions during class. Completing training more quickly also saves companies money.
2. VR helps students build more self-confidence
The use of virtual reality in soft skills training also has the advantage of safely building trust.
According to a PwC report, participants were up to 275% more confident in the skills they acquired through VR-based soft skills training.
This student confidence occurs because VR allows employees to repeatedly practice soft skills in a safe and comfortable environment, Likens said. Role playing in the classroom is not as effective as people may feel awkward or embarrassed and usually only go through the scenario once or twice.
Stephen FromkinChief Content Officer, Talespin Reality Labs
This repetition is the key to learning.
The opportunity to practice builds stronger soft skills because repetition allows people to make mistakes, said Stephen Fromkin, director of content at Talespin Reality Labs, a VR platform developer based in Culver City, California.
“The ability to practice in a safe space, fail and learn is important,” he said.
3. VR allows people to learn by doing
VR-based training requires active employee participation, which can lead to better learning overall.
When employees practice soft skills over and over again in a virtual reality environment, they are able to naturally apply them in a real-world scenario, said Sage Krombolz, product manager for Development Dimensions International, a Bridgeville, Pa.-based leadership development consultancy.
According to Krombolz, soft skills simulations that lend themselves well to VR training include the following:
- A manager must provide feedback to a direct report who is performing poorly.
- The manager must have a discussion with the direct supervisor with whom he has a conflict.
- A manager must facilitate a discussion between two direct reports who are in conflict.
- A leader must communicate a major organizational change, which may or may not be popular, to the larger group.
VR can also serve as a good tool for empathy training, Krombolz said. She gave an example where the simulation revealed exclusionary behavior.
“This person, who was previously unaware that this type of exclusion existed in his workplace, left the demo with a much deeper understanding and a much deeper empathy for what his colleagues were experiencing,” Krombolz said. “[He gained] an increased level of awareness that he needs to commit to making changes that will help ensure people don’t have to go through meetings like the one he just experienced in VR.”
4. VR provides HR with feedback on the learning process
Virtual reality simulations can also help participants avoid making the same mistakes in future teaching.
Some platforms allow students to track their performance after a session, which could improve the learning process because students can see their own mistakes, Krombolz said.
Depending on the platform, students may be able to see their facial expressions, hand movements, and other behavioral cues they don’t normally see in an immersive way.