Justin Parry, COO, Immerse, explains how modern L&D solutions are rapidly transforming the sector.
The words “Learning and Development” (L&D) tend to conjure up images of stuffy conference rooms, endless PowerPoint presentations and multiple choice exercises. If there’s an area that technology — and, specifically, Virtual Reality (VR) — is capable of completely revolutionising, it’s L&D. Companies in the VR space, including Immerse, are now creating engaging, immersive training experiences, ensuring consistent results and creating a wealth of actionable data for employers.
The million dollar question in L&D is, how do you actually engage your employees when it comes to training? For training to be effective, it can’t just be a hoop that employees reluctantly jump through; staff need to be active and willing participants, and take an interest in the results. VR is a complete game changer here, as it’s almost impossible not to engage with a well-designed VR environment.
By its very nature, VR is multi-sensory and immersive, capturing the full attention of participants and removing distractions. Elements like gamification can further increase engagement, encouraging healthy competition and even achieve the Holy Grail of making training enjoyable.
A VR training module created by Immerse for international shipping company DHL Express illustrates this potential. The module challenged trainees to load virtual cargo packages against the clock and against each other while following standard operating procedures. Employees anywhere in the world could come together to train in the same virtual space, and gamification elements included a global leaderboard. Employees actually wanted to repeat the training in an effort to beat their score and move up the leaderboard, with 99% of employees who participated in the training also feeling like it benefited their work performance.
The engagement benefits also reach beyond the training itself. Staff who find their company’s L&D enjoyable show higher levels of engagement with their role and with their company in general. The DHL trial highlighted an opportunity to drive higher levels of staff retention amongst participants , delivering time as well as cost savings in terms of finding and on-boarding new employees in a traditionally high churn industry.
The key to consistency
This technology also has the potential to make training much more consistent, avoiding problems like instructors skipping material or employees switching off. The fact that data is captured and scenarios can be played back means that employers can make sure that all elements have been completed. This is particularly important in high-risk and highly regulated industries, such as healthcare and oil and gas. Employers, auditors and regulators have categorical proof that a user has completed a certain task to a certain level on a certain date.
Safety and emergency response training created by Immerse for oil and gas giant Shell, for example, involved highly detailed, realistic recreations of physical locations, tools and procedures. This use of VR enabled employees to receive important training without the need to travel to a particular location, and reduced both the cost and the risk associated with “real life” fire hazard training, as well as ensuring a level of consistency that wouldn’t be possible with other training methods.
The effectiveness of training programs and the outcomes of L&D have historically been hard to measure, but technology changes this completely. VR training programs capture huge amounts of rich data, helping employers to track progress, measure outcomes, and tailor future training.
The depth and complexity of the data available is ever-increasing, with the potential to use eye-tracking software, biometric technology and even brainwave monitoring in VR training environments.
And as well as collecting aggregated data from everyone who has been through a training program, employers can also extract data at an individual level so that the training experience can be made specific to individual users and their learning styles. L&D suddenly becomes a data-driven endeavour, with highly measurable outcomes and the capacity to minutely personalise experiences.
The new world of L&D
Virtual reality training has the potential to completely revolutionise the way that we learn at work. Immersive environments, gamification elements and real-time data capture make training more enjoyable and engaging for employees, and more measurable and effective for employers. With any luck, lengthy training presentations and multiple choice quizzes may soon be a thing of the past.