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Study: VR is the key for teaching soft skills like leadership, resilience and managing through change

Posted by Neha De

May 20, 2022    |     4-minute read (795 words)

Businesses, now more than ever, need employees with the right mix of skills, including soft skills such as leadership and resilience. So how do they deal with the problem? 

One possible solution to this training challenge is virtual reality, according to new research by PwC

While VR is said to be an effective tool for teaching hard skills and for job skills simulations, such as a flight simulator for training pilots, today’s workers are also required to learn soft skills including leadership, resilience and managing through change.

In its report, PwC tries to answer the question: “How does VR measure up as a training tool for these and other soft skills?” by studying VR as a soft skills training tool. The training was specifically designed to address inclusive leadership and consisted of three modes of learning, namely, classroom, e-learn and v-learn (that is, VR).

PwC found that VR was successfully able to help business leaders upskill their staff members faster, even when training budgets were at a minimum and in-person training was not feasible due to social distancing still being maintained in certain situations. 

Here are the five top findings about the value of VR in soft skills training:  

1. Employees can be trained up to four times faster using VR

Workers in the US typically spend about 1% of their workweek on training and development, so employers need to be able to use that time productively. And this is where VR can help. 

What used to take two hours to learn in a classroom could possibly be learned in half an hour using VR. This is despite the extra time required for first-time V-learners who need to review, be fitted for and be taught to use the VR headset. This figure does not account for the extra time required to travel to the classroom.

2. Trainees are a lot more confident in applying what they are taught with VR 

Confidence is a critical factor of success when learning soft skills. In challenging situations, such as having to give negative feedback to a worker, some managers prefer to practice handling the situation in a safe environment. And with VR, they can. 

VR-based training results in higher levels of confidence and increased capabilities for applying the learning on the job because it provides the ability to practice in a low-stress environment. In fact, according to the study, “learners trained with VR were up to 275% more confident to act on what they learned after training — a 40% improvement over classroom and 35% improvement over e-learn training.”

3. Workers are more emotionally connected to VR content

When emotions are involved, humans connect, understand and remember things better. Learning through VR simulations gives people the sense of having had a meaningful experience. 

The research showed, “V-learners felt 3.75 times more emotionally connected to the content than classroom learners and 2.3 times more connected than e-learners.” Additionally, three-quarters of the v-learners said, that “during the VR course on diversity and inclusion, they had a wake-up-call moment and realized that they were not as inclusive as they thought they were.” 

4. VR trainees are more attentive

Learners today are impatient, distant and often inundated with information. Smartphones are a leading cause of distraction and interruption.

However, when learning through VR, they are notably less distracted. This is because VR headsets allow individuals to experience simulations and immersive experiences. Multitasking is not an option and there is no interruption. 

During the PwC study, VR-trainees were “up to four times more focused during training than their e-learning peers and 1.5 times more focused than their classroom colleagues.” 

5. VR learning can be quite cost-effective when used at scale

In the past, VR was complicated, expensive and tough to deploy for the general public. Currently, the cost of an enterprise headset ecosystem is less than $1,000 (a one-time fee), and the headsets are simple to use and can be used to deliver training time after time. Content developers are creating compelling content using VR, whereas vendors are building software to enable non-VR developers to come up with their own content in a cost-effective manner. In fact, some learning management system players are also enabling VR content that can be easily integrated into their platforms.

The PwC study found that, “when delivered to enough learners, VR training is estimated to be more cost-effective at scale than classroom or e-learning. Because VR content initially requires up to a 48% greater investment than similar classroom or e-learn courses, it’s essential to have enough learners to help make this approach cost-effective… The more people you train, the higher your return will likely be in terms of employee time saved during training, as well as course facilitation and other out-of-pocket cost savings.” 

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