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How virtual reality can benefit soft skills training

Virtual reality can help companies train employees in multiple areas, and the technology can be particularly useful in helping employees learn soft skills.

VR can simulate common scenarios encountered by employees at work. It allows participants to practice their soft skills in a low-stakes setting, allowing them to practice scenarios multiple times as needed. Therefore, it offers a number of benefits, including accelerated learning and confidence building.

Here are some of the key benefits that virtual reality can bring to soft skills training programs.

1. VR can accelerate learning

Using VR technology for training can lead to faster class completion rates.

Participants in PwC’s 2020 study, “The Effectiveness of Virtual Reality Soft Skills Training in the Enterprise”, completed training with VR up to four times faster than classroom sessions and up to 1.5 times faster than e-learning.

Scott Likens

Participants can complete a virtual reality-based learning course faster because the learning experience is completely immersive, says Scott Likens, innovation hub and trust technology leader at PwC, a research and consulting firm headquartered in London. Participants cannot look at their cell phones during class or be distracted by interruptions. Faster completion of training also saves companies money.

2. VR helps students build more self-confidence

Using virtual reality in soft skills training also has the benefit of safely building trust.

Stephen FromkinStephen Fromkin

The participants were up 275% more self-confidence in the skills they’ve developed through VR-based soft skills training, according to the PwC report.

This learner confidence arises because VR allows workers to practice soft skills repeatedly in a safe, comfortable environment, Likens said. Classroom role plays aren’t as effective because people may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed, and they usually only go through a scenario once or twice.

The ability to practice, fail and learn in a safe space is important.

Stephen FromkinChief content officer, Talespin Reality Labs

That repetition is the key to learning.

The opportunity to practice builds stronger soft skills because repetition allows people to make mistakes, said Stephen Fromkin, chief content officer at Talespin Reality Labs, a VR platform developer in Culver City, California.

“The ability to practice, fail and learn in a safe space is important,” he said.

3. VR enables people to learn by doing

VR based training required active participation of employees, which can lead to better learning overall.

Sage KrombolzSage Krombolz

When employees practice soft skills over and over again in a virtual reality environment, they are better able to apply them naturally in a real-world scenario, says Sage Krombolz, product manager at Development Dimensions International, a leadership development consultancy in the United States. Bridgeville, Pennsylvania.

According to Krombolz, soft skills simulations that are well suited for VR training include:

  • A manager must provide feedback to a subordinate who is performing poorly.
  • A manager must lead a conversation with a direct report with whom he has a conflict.
  • A manager must facilitate a conversation between two direct reports who are in conflict with each other.
  • A leader must announce a major organizational change, whether popular or not, to a larger group.

VR can also serve as a good empathy training tool, Krombolz said. She cited an example where a simulation revealed exclusionary behaviour.

“This person who was previously unaware that this kind of exclusion exists in his workplace left the demo with a much deeper understanding and a much deeper empathy for what his colleagues were experiencing,” Krombolz said. “[He gained] a greater awareness that he needs to commit to making changes to make sure people don’t have to go through meetings like the ones he just went through in VR.

4. VR gives HR feedback on the learning process

Virtual reality simulations can also help participants avoid making the same mistakes in a future learning session.

Some platforms allow students to view their performance after the session, which could improve learning because students can see their own mistakes, Krombolz said.

Depending on the platform, students can immerse themselves in viewing their facial expressions, hand movements, and other behavioral traits they normally don’t see.

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