4 Ways Companies Can Leverage VR to Build Staff’s Soft Skills

29 January 2021

Organizations are facing a growing soft skills gap. According to survey data from the Harvard Business Review, 59% of hiring managers and 89% of executives struggle to find candidates with requisite soft skills. Such, including communication, teamwork, and leadership.

4 Ways Companies Can Leverage VR to Build Staff’s Soft SkillsThe worst part is that this shortage is happening when most organizations are digitally transforming – forcefully as part of their strategic growth plans or out of necessity, thanks to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Without access to in-person education and training, businesses may struggle to develop these skills in their employees. Right?

Well, not necessarily.

Owing to the advancements in technology, you can now take your training programs online. Indeed, several organizations already have educational and training material online. 

Employees can log into these repositories and learn. Many organizations also have online video programs and tools, some even offering live sessions to teach soft skills. One such tool that could prove an excellent alternative to in-person training is VR.

As organizations adapt to these innovative approaches, it becomes vital to integrate them into broader initiatives that enhance employee engagement. For instance, leveraging technology for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training can be a transformative step.

Platforms like Workhuman’s DEI training tips, embedded within virtual learning environments, can foster a culture of inclusivity and awareness, thereby aligning professional development with a socially conscious organizational ethos. This amalgamation of technological advancements and strategic training not only addresses skill gaps but also reinforces a sense of connection and commitment among employees.

Why VR to develop soft skills in the workplace

Unlike traditional e-learning solutions, VR offers a truly immersive experience. Learners get the feeling of a realistic virtual environment, such as a classroom, depending on the organization’s needs.

According to Professor Christopher of the Harvard School of Business, who focuses on VR’s application in education, “the future of VR  is being immersed into an environment that blends the physical and digital worlds, allowing users to interact with realistic avatars via headsets, mobile devices, or computers.” This makes the ideal environment for soft skills training.

Unlike conventional digital learning tools that often feel boring and artificial, VR training creates a memorable, impactful experience while eliminating real-world consequences. More importantly, VR tools can reduce both costs and logistical hurdles associated with in-person training.

Remember also that many employees already have mobile devices that they can use to access virtual reality training. This can further reduce the associated costs. 

According to a 2020 PwC study, the VR approach, when implemented at scale, reduces course completion time by 75% compared to traditional in-personal training. VR training is also 1.5 times faster than e-learning programs.  

The PwC study also found that VR training participants leave the training four times more emotionally connected to the content than classroom learners and twice as emotionally connected as e-learners.

4 Considerations for Employees

If you’re getting started with VR as an organization, the following are four ways you can use the innovative technology for soft skills training;

  • Help employees navigate difficult conversations 

Employees can have conversations that feel uncomfortable or even emotional. Examples of such situations include;

  • When managers communicate modifications with a negative impact
  • When employees need to raise conflicting concerns about their manager
  • When a supervisor needs to settle a dispute between colleagues. 
  • Handling angry customers, especially those in the retail industry. 

Managers at most digital-first retail stores are already using VR to practice having these talks with team members. From tardiness to poor customer service practices and shift changes, VR offers repetitions in a safe environment for the learner to make mistakes and try again without adverse effects.

You, too, should adopt this approach to help your employees develop the soft skills necessary to handle different complicated circumstances. VR modules recreate real interactions that have happened, allowing trainees to practice dealing with similar events in a safe, consequence-free environment.

  • Help employees learn about giving proper feedback 

Feedback is a make-or-break moment in any industry. Whether it’s an employee dealing with a customer or a coworker, the type of feedback they offer massively impacts the organization’s health. VR would be an excellent platform to train employees on the right technique for providing feedback.

VR training can be designed to simulate feedback conversations for learning, practicing, and evaluation. Course supervisors can use VR to identify the soft skills lacking in the learners’ responses or how they handle the situation. As a result, supervisors can simulate scenarios to help the employee develop soft skills in such areas.

The best part is that academic research shows that even when people know that a character isn’t real, they are still likely to listen, respond, and build a rapport as if it were a human.

  • Help employees learn empathy 

Empathy is a powerful component of any soft skill package, yet one of the most challenging skills to develop. This partly explains why most organizations prefer to recruit naturally empathetic people rather than trying to train them. 

Still, VR can help you improve your workforce’s empathetic skills to boost customer satisfaction and loyalty.

VR allows trainees to walk in the customer’s shoes (or fellow employees), a concept known as embodiment, allowing learners to experience the world in a new way.

You may decide to simulate content that allows them to walk in the shoes of a frustrated customer or the path of a devastated employee. You can also help management see the world from the perspective of an employee about to lose their job. It’s a very different experience from watching a video of someone who lost their job a few years ago.

  • Use VR to train diversity and inclusion 

Diversity and inclusion are major talking points today as the world seeks to address historical discrimination issues. Issues such as accommodation of beliefs, acceptance and respect, gender equality, and racism are all top of the agenda in most HR departments today.

Teaching inclusive behavior and preparing your teams and managers for tough conversations about diversity and acceptance is the first step to addressing these issues. Unfortunately, current diversity and inclusivity training tend to lack the real-world touch, limiting these programs’ impact.

VR training changes this by immersing the learner in a realistic scenario to observe a colleague experiencing non-inclusive, discriminatory behavior. The learner can then engage in a simulated face-to-face conversation with the victim to discuss the ordeal and discover ways to stand up to and constructively counter biases.

Time to Begin Your Journey

There are several other ways organizations can leverage Virtual Reality (VR) for soft skills training. 

For instance, some organizations are using the technology to train employees on customer service in general, while others use it to help staff sharpen their presentation skills. 

Still on the fence? Contact NIX Solutions to learn how to use VR technology to bridge these and any other soft skills gaps in your organization.