Is virtual training better than real-life role-playing?
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.
- Barry sobbed as he begged me not to fire him. I canned him anyway, over and over – Los Angeles Times
- Walmart Turns to VR to Pick Middle Managers – The Wall Street Journal
- Will virtual reality become the ultimate retail training tool? – RetailWire
- Businesses tap virtual reality to train workers – Marketplace.org
- KFC Creates Virtual World To Train Its Real-World Cooks “The Hard Way” – KFC
- How VR is Transforming the Way We Train Associates – Walmart
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?