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How can virtual reality improve workplace training?

Virtual and augmented reality technologies in the workplace are currently a topic of much debate in the business community, with many wondering precisely how they will be used and what benefits they may bring. 

While new releases, such as the incredibly popular Pokemon Go and the much hyped Oculus Rift VR headset, have thrust the technology into the limelight and encouraged Deloitte to predict 2016 will be virtual reality’s first $1 billion year , questions still remain as to what function they will have for businesses. 

One of the many roles they could fulfil is in training a workforce. In some cases, such as NASA’s training program, virtual reality (VR) is already used to provide more realistic insights into life in outer space, allowing trainee astronauts to hone their skills before they’ve even lifted off. With this in mind, we take a look at some of the ways virtual reality could improve workplace training.     

Potentially dangerous situations


The biggest advantage of virtual reality is to those training in fields that are potentially dangerous or where the line between success and failure is fine and the repercussions often a matter of life and death. This has meant that the technology is considered as a useful tool by sectors as divergent as the medicine, aerospace, military and construction industries. 

Whereas training programmes would previously have been largely hypothetical, trainees in such fields can now take a hands on approach to their learning, experiencing various situations – such as complex surgery, flying or bomb disposal – without placing themselves in danger. Such benefits may be why, in a recent survey by Mintel, 66% of respondents said they believe that VR has the potential to change our lives for the better.      

Greater reality

Though VR’s utility in training those involved in potentially dangerous jobs is not in doubt, the fact remains that the vast majority of employees don’t work in roles that involve such risks. So what practical application does VR have in their training? First and foremost, VR could be used to create more realistic training scenarios for those involved in customer service or who interact with clients on a regular basis. By creating training programs that feel more real and life-like, businesses can prepare their employees for any situation and reinforce the idea that communication is a subtle and complex skill that needs to be studied and practiced. 

Engagement

Making the move from hypothetical or theoretical training programmes, (many of which will be book and ‘classroom’ based) towards a more engaging and informative training experience, will increase the efficiency of the training, ensure more is absorbed and encourage further learning in the future. If businesses can foster a sense of fun and enjoyment in their training, employees will be more prepared to develop their skills.

Lower costs

Finally, virtual reality could also prove a cost-saving device that limits waste and minimises training expenses. Take a trainee welder, for example. If VR allows them to hone their skills in a virtual setting, the business does not have to pay for training materials and need not concern itself with wastage, dedicated training space or the possibility of injuries. As recruiting and training new employees is widely regarded as one of the biggest expenditures a business makes, VR may be an extremely useful cost-cutting device.   

Read our related article: How gamification is aiding recruiters 
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