In an increasingly automated world, it’s the skills that make us uniquely human that are becoming ever-more important. Amongst others, these skills include communication, social skills, teamwork and leadership traits – otherwise collectively known as ‘soft skills’. Or, as Josh Bersin, has suggested calling them: power skills.
Soft skills have historically been difficult to train people in for a number of reasons, including the difficulty in quantifying progress, the need for repeated effort, and the false narrative that soft skills cannot be taught. Because soft skills are often shaped by someone’s habits and life experiences, it takes commitment and consistent effort to lead to real behavioral change.
Just like any other skill, practice makes perfect and immersive learning is opening up new opportunities to practice soft skills and develop confidence and skills in a short period of time.
Immersive learning provides an easily accessible opportunity to practice communication skills on-demand. Here’s our pick of 5 of the best uses of VR for soft skills training.
Talespin – Leading Through Uncertainty
This VR learning series focuses on empowering modern leaders to tackle workplace challenges and business disruptions, such as a global pandemic.
The 5-part learning series, ‘Leading Through Uncertainty,’ provides business managers with opportunities to better understand and apply fundamental communication and interpersonal skills.
The modules within the platform are based within a fictional company undergoing dramatic change. Using immersive conversations, learners are tasked with applying their knowledge to likely scenarios that can arise from a global health crisis,such as decreased morale, uncertainty, and finances within an organisation.
The learner must then use their new-found skills to demonstrate how they would use emotionally intelligent leadership to support their team.
Being able to put their new learning into action using VR enables leaders to gain greater confidence and commitment to apply their skills in the ‘real world’.
The immersive scenarios in this training enable learners to demonstrate and practice a range of skills, including:
- Active listening
- Speaking succinctly
- Psychological safety
- Problem solving
- Purposeful inquiry
- Productive disagreement
Strivr and Walmart: customer service training
Walmart’s partnership with Strivr to implement VR training in their 200 Academies has yielded remarkable results and has subsequently been expanded to all nearly 4,700 stores nationwide.
The pilot program showcased significant benefits, with associates using VR reporting a 30% higher employee satisfaction, scoring higher on tests 70% of the time, and achieving a 10 to 15% higher rate of knowledge retention compared to traditional training methods.
The impact of VR training is evident in various aspects. For example, prior to VR implementation, training for pickup tower launch coaches involved day-long sessions at each new location.
However, with VR, training time has been reduced to approximately 15 minutes, and the need for launch coaches to travel to store sites has been eliminated. This reduction in training time and enhanced efficiency demonstrates the effectiveness of VR in streamlining training processes.
Immersive Learning through VR prepares employees for both day-to-day tasks and high-pressure situations, fostering critical customer service skills such as empathy, inclusion, and diversity.
Store-level productivity is strong, due in part to the training we are providing our associates. As the nature of work continues to change, we’re innovating to empower associates to better serve customers as they develop new skills, thriving in their jobs and growing their careers.
– Doug McMillon, CEO, Walmart
VirtualSpeech: presentation skills with Vodafone
An essential part of training is measurable positive outcomes. In this example, VirtualSpeech provided a VR public speaking example which utilises AI for quantifiable feedback to measure and track learner performance.
Vodafone’s aim with training partner, VirtualSpeech, was to provide effective presentations skills training for their employees and make the training effective, engaging and memorable.
The brief was to recreate The Pavilion – a training facility many employees were familiar with and therefore providing a realistic practice scenario for them to perfect their communication skills. Learners would also have access to VirtualSpeech’s off-the-shelf public speaking VR content, which provides speaking training and additional VR environments to practice and learn in.
An important element of the project was to provide insightful feedback on learner progress; quantitatively and qualitatively, and to be able to demonstrate the ROI of VR for soft skills training.
Features used by VirtualSpeech to provide such feedback include real-time and post-performance speech analysis on attributes such as eye contact, pace, volume, tone, use of hesitation words, and listenability. Learners were also able to upload their own slides, notes and custom questions into the VR experience for the most effective practice available.
The successful outcomes included:
- Strong employee satisfaction, leading to 91% of learners keen to benefit from more VR training.
- Design success, meaning 93% of employees reported they would recommend VirtualSpeech to a colleague.
- VR soft skills app usage levels showing employees are engaging well – especially in the Pavilion room, and VirtualSpeech’s VR meeting and presentation rooms.
- The ability to identify skill gaps or employees’ needs to further develop power skills in their workforce.
Vantage Point and IKEA: DE&I Perspectives
IKEA US, in collaboration with Vantage Point, undertook a comprehensive three-tiered deployment of virtual reality (VR) training across 62 locations throughout the United States.
The deployment aimed to foster inclusive workplace practices by providing immersive experiences that facilitate empathy, recognition of bias and discrimination, and the development of crucial skills.
By immersing trainees in these experiences, VR training facilitates embedded memory formation and awareness building, leading to behavioral change.
While acknowledging that the full range of life experiences cannot be replicated, Vantage Point’s programs offered an opportunity to expose participants to different perspectives, fostering deeper empathy and self-awareness while imparting crucial business skills.
Mursion: leadership training with Coca-Cola
This final example comes from the global brand Coca-Cola and VR partner, Mursion. This project was designed to deliver leadership training and practice to 1,300 managers on Coca-Cola’s HIPO leadership programme.
The primary aim was to supplement and advance the traditional role-play scenarios used to enhance leadership skills.
One of the reasons why VR was the ideal training method for this is that it could provide consistent and measurable scenarios for all managers to use, regardless of their geographic location.
It also provided an authentic way to engage in high-stake conversations, with both the company and the learner gaining invaluable feedback on their performance and improvement markers.
As with all the examples outlined, the success of the VR leadership training platform was tangible. Coca-Cola reported that it was able to triple learning engagement over a nine-month period, and that skill upturn was self-paced and long-lasting.
Learn more about this use case