Companies go to great lengths to make their corporate training days interesting. They make them interactive, hire an outgoing trainer, and incorporate games. Companies really try, otherwise they wouldn’t be spending upwards of $87 billion annually on corporate training in the US alone. But despite all the money thrown at it, most employees dread corporate training and see it as an unavoidable box that needs to be checked every once in a while.
One of the ways to make training more effective is by changing the medium. Companies already know this; many incorporate video into their training to increase employee engagement and retention. But there is another medium that’s increasingly shown to be far more effective than anything else to train employees. Of course, we’re talking about virtual reality.
Why should you use VR to train your employees? That’s the question we will answer in this article. We will leave aside the fact that a company like Walmart already uses VR to train (and promote!) their employees. Instead, we will focus on a few scientific studies that explain why VR seems to be a great way to train employees.
The Benefits of an Immersive Environment
A virtual learning environment touches many more senses than a traditional learning environment. It combines seeing, hearing, participating, doing, and even feeling (if the VR controllers vibrate). Virtual reality tricks your brain that it’s somewhere else, and it does this better than any other medium.
Because of the above, VR is quite a visceral experience. Researchers Tyng et al. demonstrated through brain scans that emotion has a substantial positive influence on memory retention and recall. The more you feel, the better you recall. While this in itself doesn’t necessarily mean that VR will have the same positive influence, it’s enough evidence to theorize that it could – as the authors say themselves at the bottom of the abstract.
And theorize researchers did. Krokos, Plaisant, and Varshney demonstrated in their 2018 paper that someone who created a memory palace using a VR display remembers information much better than someone who created the same memory palace using a traditional desktop monitor. A virtual environment is much more memorable.
Of course, not many people use a memory palace to remember certain things. So let’s turn to a study that might hit a little closer to home. Leary et al. demonstrated in 2019 that a mobile VR platform for CPR training – part of every corporate first aid training – significantly improved trainee responses after the training. Trainees were much more likely to call 911 and ask for an automated external defibrillator when they were trained through the VR platform.
Let’s take it even a step further. Back in 2010 already, Maagaard et al. showed that people who were taught how to perform laparoscopic surgery in VR retained their skills until well after six months – despite not having performed any laparoscopic surgery since the VR training.
While many studies have focused on healthcare, similar results are seen across many different industries. Roldan et al. wrote a paper in 2019 where they trained participants on how to use an industrial operator either in a virtual environment or with its equivalent paper guide. Participants who were trained in VR performed equally well or better than the paper guide. VR is at the very least competitive against conventional alternatives.
We can go on. Countless observational studies demonstrate the efficacy of virtual reality over traditional learning environments. Mind you, this doesn’t mean you should entirely replace traditional learning environments. But VR is at the very least a suitable addition to not only improve your training, but make them more enjoyable too.
Type of Training
While evidence is mounting that virtual reality improves memory recall and retention, there are other reasons for choosing VR as one of the primary means for training and educating your employees. Much of it will depend on the type of training.
For example, say you’re a manufacturing company that needs to train a new hire on how to operate a machine. Ideally, you want your new hire to spend some time on the actual machine. But that machine might not always be available.
You might need to take it out of operation for a while to train the new hire. Or you might need to wait until the machine is down, creating a perverse dynamic where you’re waiting for a machine to fail before you can train someone on it.
Virtual reality can remove this problem altogether. The machine can be modeled perfectly in VR. No longer do you need to wait until a machine frees up. Additionally, you can train new hires whenever you want or wherever you want – whether that’s at HQ or not. It speeds up the process and takes the training burden away from your machines.
This is only one example, but there are many more. The benefits of VR will vary based on how you train your employees. But there’s little denying that the benefits are there. If you’d like to know more about how VR can improve how you train your employees, please feel free to contact us. We’ve helped countless companies with their VR training. Let’s have a non-committal chat to better understand how VR could benefit you too.