More than your products or your services, the difference that gives your organization your competitive edge is your people. An internal culture that emphasizes leadership training, fosters communication and personal growth, and improves appreciation of the customer experience is key to your success.
Organizations in retail, hospitality, sales training training, and other sectors are increasingly finding that applying virtual reality tools for training helps employees strengthen “soft skills”: managing colleagues’ performances and customer experiences. VR can even boost employees’ well-being, as one European automaker does by offering immersive VR exercises that workers can practice in various workplace scenarios.
VR learning helps employees train more efficiently and effectively than classroom or e-learning methods. And in today’s predominantly remote-work environments, its immersive nature can help offset employees’ unusual challenges of working together when they can’t meet face-to-face with customers, coworkers, partners, or clients.
Uncovering Issues Early
Organizations use VR to train employees to know their products and services inside out so they can better envision and share promising opportunities.
For Nestlé Purina PetCare’s sales staff, VR opened a window onto the product, taking employees on a 360-degree tour “inside” a pet food factory: an event that could have been expensive to arrange in person. The salespeople got to know their product better through an experience far safer, cost-effective, and focused than a live tour could offer.
Even better, these employees are now comfortable enough with VR that they use it with retail customers to plan in-store product displays. Instead of presenting spreadsheet data, they can now offer 3D in-store experiences that show their customers physical arrangements.
Purina’s training manager believes these innovations will help the company attract technically advanced job candidates.
A Tool for Building Empathy
In the hotel industry, the ability to see the world through customers’ eyes is critical.
Hilton uses VR to vividly re–create the customer experience, building its team members’ empathy for their guests. In a low-pressure, risk-free virtual environment, trainees use VR headsets to experience a positive guest interaction —or a challenging one. “If team members understand what guests are feeling, they will be better equipped to manage guests’ expectations and work to exceed them,” says Blaire Bhojwani, Hilton’s senior director of learning innovation.
VR also helps trainees extend that empathy to their own coworkers. Team members learn the skills and care that go into such complex in-person tasks as managing a front desk, rapidly setting up multiple room-service trays, and the 60-step process for cleaning every guest room.
Adopting VR may bring your organization short- and long-term economic benefits.
In a recent PwC study, employees who had taken VR training said they felt 40% more confident to act on their training than classroom learners and 35% more confident than e-learners. These VR trainees also felt four times more focused than e-learners—and completed their programs 1.5 times faster.
VR training achieves cost parity with classroom learning at 375 users and with e-learning at 1,950 users, PwC found.
For Hilton, VR has proven to be both efficient, cutting a four-hour class session to 20 minutes, and effective, leading 87% of trainees to change their behaviors. At Purina PetCare, shifting 10 employees a month to VR training saved $100,000 annually on travel and lost productivity.
And while VR is highly effective in providing immersive experiences to train employees for physical work on location, it’s also become an essential tool for high-pressure human interactions—practice for onstage presentations and role-playing for appraisals, interviews, and difficult conversations—that may now be costing your organization far more to re–create than they otherwise might.
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