Is virtual training better than real-life role-playing?

Discussion
Source: Talespin
Sep 06, 2019
Tom Ryan

Reporters from The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times recently simulated firing a virtual employee to explore how well virtual reality (VR) works as a training tool for employees. 

Both reports related how the tool — for good or bad — taught them nuanced skills, such as being at the same time “polite, optimistic and ultimately unsympathetic” when reviewing the grounds for dismissal with an employee.

“The visuals that trick the brain into feeling like you’ve been transported to another space, the speech recognition software that allows you to speak and be understood, and the compelling character design of Barry himself … all make for a more visceral experience than watching a video on a computer screen,” wrote Sam Dean for the LA Times.

Much like training astronauts, using simulations in virtual worlds can save money from having to recreate real-life scenarios, reduce real-life risks and save time. Walmart has said VR-training avoids in-store disruptions, such as when training an associate at a busy deli counter.

Gamification may also offer effective options for trainers. In 2017, KFC trainees entered an escape room and found a virtual Colonel Sanders providing hints and clues on how to make KFC’s Original Recipe.

Proponents claim being able to practice alone provides a safer environment to fail versus a group setting. Trainees can repeat the program to improve. Finally, the emotional response trainees gain from the hyper-realistic graphics of today’s simulations makes VR more memorable than other training methods.

“The great thing about VR is its ability to make learning experiential,” said Andy Trainor, senior director of Walmart U.S. Academies in a blog last year. “When you watch a module through the headset, your brain feels like you actually experienced a situation.” 

The blog entry coincided with Walmart’s introduction of Oculus VR headsets to all U.S. stores. VR has trained Walmart associates to prepare for Black Friday crowds, train for Pickup Towers before their arrival, and embrace soft skills like empathy and customer service. VR-training on soft skills, such as firing or motivating employees, dealing with an irate customer, or closing a sale, have been receiving greater attention.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is virtual reality more effective than real-life role-playing or other training methods for stores? What advice would you have about using VR-simulations versus real-life scenarios for training purposes?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"VR has a lot of dubious claims, but I think this is an excellent and useful application of the technology."
"VR is a good way train when options are limited, and it certainly beats videos, but nothing can replace real-life role-playing."
"As one who started his career doing management and staff training, I can unequivocally say that virtual role-playing will be light years ahead of physical role-playing."

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9 Comments on "Is virtual training better than real-life role-playing?"


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Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

VR has a lot of dubious claims, but I think this is an excellent and useful application of the technology. Everything is dependent upon how good the execution is, but if the system now, or in the future gets close to a real, real-time experience, it is a great way to “test” and train employees in a number of people-skills areas that is private and safe and allows users to lessen potential embarrassment from making mistakes.

I’m ready to test it out.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

As one who started his career doing management and staff training, I can unequivocally say that virtual role-playing will be light years ahead of physical role-playing. In fact virtual role playing, assuming it is created well, is actually MORE real than real role-playing.

Here’s why. There is usually a problem role and a helping or interventionist role. I learned from my first experience that it is impossible to “win” as the good guy/gal. The problem role-player knows it is their job to thwart the helper in every way possible to the point of acting mentally deranged. So much of role playing is pretty well pointless though I did that sort of thing for years. It’s a game trainers play.

A virtual tool in which a problematic role that is natural, with realistic responses to intervention, will be SO much more effective. And yes, it will save a ton of money and even more time.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

VR is a good way train when options are limited, and it certainly beats videos, but nothing can replace real-life role-playing. Sure role-playing puts you out there but that’s how you learn.

I can tell you first hand that human reactions, especially when being fired, can be intense. Your response IRL will be very different than what it is on a VR tool. Under pressure we humans tend not to follow a script.

RICHARD HERNANDEZ
Guest

Real-life role-playing brings people out of their shells – especially those that are being trained in sales positions. I don’t know about using VR to fire people, it reminds of the scene in movie Up in the Air where they were firing people via Skype — very personal.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

I thought of that movie, too!
In my comment, I am talking about using VR to train managers how to fire people – it won’t be the same in person. Role-playing can help prepare for that.

We hired actors to play about to be dismissed employees in a recent exec training session – some played it calm, others weren’t even close to calm. The improv skills they learned will come in handy someday.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

You make a strong and good point, Georganne. There’s something irreplaceable about being physically in the middle of the blood, sweat and tears of an intense situation. What I was trying to point out is that there is a big difference between actually having an intense experience like getting fired, and pretending to have an intense experience which is itself a form of “virtuality.” The pretenders typically display unrealistic behavior because, well, they’re pretenders. I was thinking that perhaps there could be something close to what you describe in a virtual format.

As an old weathered trainer, the other problem with VR is that it’s not usually a group experience. Nothing is more boring than watching someone in VR goggles.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

I agree, Ian! Aren’t we always talking about the need to get people to put down screens and interact with one another? Someone will figure out a way to merge VR and real life, if it hasn’t been done already.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

For younger generations and those into the latest tech, perhaps this can be effective. You need to maintain a range of tools for effective staff enablement.

Randy Sabourin
Guest
1 month 13 days ago

interesting article – it seems the premise is based on the idea that “role-playing in a group is not safe” which I totally agree with. But why “trick” the brain into thinking the VR is real – why not just have 1:1 real role-play remotely and receive the feedback from a trained role-player? Most virtual role-playing solutions have a role-player at the other end anyway. The costs are the same, there are several case studies to prove it. I love cool tech – but it should have a purpose beyond cool.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"VR has a lot of dubious claims, but I think this is an excellent and useful application of the technology."
"VR is a good way train when options are limited, and it certainly beats videos, but nothing can replace real-life role-playing."
"As one who started his career doing management and staff training, I can unequivocally say that virtual role-playing will be light years ahead of physical role-playing."

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