Virtual reality for soft skills training
Have you ever considered using virtual reality for soft skills training?
Virtual reality has long been used for hard skills training. You only have to think flight simulators for pilots, which have been used for decades. However, one study by PwC suggests it’s the smart choice for soft skills training too.
Over the course of nine months, PwC studied the use of virtual reality for soft skills training, focusing on diversity and inclusion training for new managers. They analysed the impact that VR training had on learner engagement, learners’ connection with the material, and cost-effectiveness compared to traditional training methods such as classroom-based learning and e-learning.
Their study found that virtual reality training for soft skills showed benefits across the board. Learners found the material more engaging, they learnt more efficiently, and it even led to pivotal wake-up calls. It might not be the obvious choice, but virtual reality for soft skills training outperforms other learning methods.
Here, we dive into five key takeaways from the study and why virtual reality learning and skills training may be something to consider for learning and development teams going forward.
Why use virtual reality for soft skills training?
1. Virtual reality training is four times faster
Being able to upskill your workforce quickly is hugely valuable. The world of work is evolving at pace and some businesses simply can’t keep up with demand, leaving their employees without vital skills they need to do their jobs. Being able to speed up learning and training is, therefore, business critical.
Enter virtual reality learning. Training that took two hours in a classroom environment was delivered in half an hour using the power of VR and immersive learning. And this figure doesn’t even consider the amount of time needed to get learners to the classroom. Employees typically spend 1% of their work week on training and development – VR learning makes the most of that time.
2. Virtual reality learners are more confident
One of the biggest challenges with any kind of strategic learning and development initiative is whether it's effective. Does it help the people using it, the employees, do their job better or is it just a tick box exercise? Confidence is key to any form of training, but it’s particularly important to soft skills, and the good news is that virtual reality learners saw a measurable increase in their confidence.
VR simulations give learners the chance to practise soft skills in a safe and risk-free environment. PwC’s study found that learners who had used virtual reality to train were 35% more confident in the skills they had learnt compared to e-learners, and 40% more confident than classroom learners.
3. Virtual reality learning increases emotional connection
As well as being more confident in the soft skills that they’ve learnt, virtual reality users are more emotionally connected to the training materials. This is critical when it comes to diversity, equality and inclusion training, where learners can experience the world from different perspectives.
VR learners were 3.75 times more connected to virtual reality content than they were to material delivered in the classroom. Additionally, three quarters of virtual reality learners also said that they had a ‘wake-up call’ moment while learning about diversity, equality and inclusion principles using virtual reality – they realised that they weren’t as inclusive as they had previously thought.
4. Virtual reality learners are more focused
Employees’ focus time is constantly being interrupted by notifications from platforms such as Slack and Microsoft Teams. Add distractions from smartphones, impromptu meetings, or last-minute tasks being dropped on workers’ desks and it’s no wonder that e-learning isn’t ideal for soft skills training.
Virtual reality learning is different. There are no notifications, no rolling news feeds, no distractions. VR simulations eliminate distractions completely and immerse learners in their course content, and that’s probably why virtual reality learners are four times more focused on learning content than e-learners. It also takes them less time to get back on track if they do get distracted.
5. Virtual reality training is cost-effective at scale
There’s a higher initial outlay for virtual reality training. VR headsets don’t come cheap and upfront costs are reportedly 48% greater for virtual reality learning than for traditional methods. However, at scale, it’s a different story. Whether it’s using VR to deliver training to large numbers of learners or using the VR equipment again and again, if you increase volume, you increase cost-effectiveness.
PwC found that virtual reality training achieved cost parity with e-learning at 1950 learners. It achieved cost parity with classroom-based training at 375 learners. After that, VR training quickly became more cost-effective, making it a smart proposition for enterprise businesses.
What can we conclude?
The stats don’t lie: using virtual reality for soft skills training is hugely valuable. As we said at the start, it’s probably not the obvious solution that springs to mind for L&D teams. However, the benefits are clear. Virtual reality learning also delivers on both organisational and individual outcomes.
For businesses, it enables them to upskill their people in a way that is quick, cost-efficient, and effective. In a time when we’re all talking about the global skills gap, this is significant. And for the workforce themselves, it’s not just a box-ticking exercise. Virtual reality learning minimizes disruption and time away from their real job, while maximising what they get out of it in terms of outcomes.
In an age where we’re all busier than ever, virtual reality for soft skills training unlocks a lot of value. With in-person and e-learning initiatives not delivering as effectively as they need to, maybe it’s time to take your organisation into the future using the power of virtual reality learning?
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