VR could be the future of employee training, and businesses are beginning to take notice.
It’s no secret that an increasing number of businesses have begun turning to virtual and augmented reality for their employee training needs. One of the primary reasons companies have doubled-down on their use of this immersive technology is its unarguable cost-effectiveness. According to a 2014 report from the Association for Talent Development (ADP), businesses with at least 100 employees spent roughly $1,200 on training exercises per employee. The Society for Human Research Management also identifies “hidden costs” during the course of training, including supervisor and employee time, as well as instruction material and equipment costs.
VR lowers, or in some cases even outright erases, these hidden expenses by enabling employees to practice for hours without the need for expensive costs deriving from necessary physical equipment or instructional supervisors.
STRIVR is one of the leading US-based startups dedicated to the development of VR training apps having worked for such companies as Walmart, Chipotle and Tyson. Now in its third year, the company has attracted roughly 50 clients, training more than 200,000 employees in the process. Danny Belch, VP of marketing at STRIVR, told VRScout that businesses can use VR to “completely eliminate some of the hidden costs of employee training.”
Walmart started using STRIVR to train more than 140,000 employees last year, which included preparing them for the chaos of Black Friday. The app put workers in a virtual Walmart store where they squared off with demanding shoppers as well as various emergency situations. Another STRIVR client, United Rentals, instructs its outside sales reps how to rent construction equipment by placing them in virtual construction sites. STRIVR claims United Rentals “increased in effectiveness while reducing time spent in that training by 40 percent.”
“Gone are the days of lectures, PowerPoints, manuals,” spoke Belch. “Now we have the ability to put you in the exact situation in which you will be performing, and you can practice.”
Of course it isn’t just US companies embracing VR, however. Volkswagen Group became one of the first major multinationals to train more than 10,000 employees in VR this year, with contributing companies including Audi, SEAT, ŠKODA and VW. Workers at the German automaker are currently wearing VR headsets to learn everything from logistics and transport, to packaging and vehicle production.
Dennis Abmeier, IT Lead at VW’s Digital Reality Hub, told VRScout that VR reduces costs around travel, facilities and time spent for training.
“After introducing VR technology in production and logistics one year ago, more than 100 people are currently already using VR applications regularly,” said Abmerier. “That means the virtual reality applications are so far well accepted by the colleagues. Instead of complex and expensive training centers, all this training and preparation can take place in virtual reality.”
Abmeier claims VW sees “big potential” for VR and is building future systems that train employees in a “short timeframe.”
As admirable as these efforts may be, Microsoft remains the biggest name in the development of VR and AR, or “mixed reality,” software and hardware for training. The Redmond-based company has convinced dozens of major companies to incorporate their intuitive AR headset, the Microsoft HoloLens, into their various training processes.
Greg Sullivan, director of communications at Microsoft Mixed Reality, said the HoloLens can erase “the often-considerable production cost of physical training materials to eliminating travel expenditure by connecting trainees to remote experts within a shared mixed-reality space.”
Airbus and JAL are two airlines taking advantage of this fact in order to train their teams of engineers and cabin crews. The headset allows trainees to work with life-sized virtual representations of aircraft engines and equipment from anywhere in the world.
“The benefits are demonstrable today across a multitude of industries and scenarios,” continues Sullivan, “and we’re seeing increasing interest from the commercial space on that basis.”
Sullivan claims Microsoft’s goal is to bring its holographic mixed reality technology into all aspects of the computing world, but believes the technology is already gaining its footing in industry.
“It’s not uncommon for transformative technologies to show early traction in the commercial and enterprise space before seeing widespread, mainstream adoption as technology improves and prices decrease,” Sullivan adds. “We’ve seen this before with the very first computers, the internet and mobile phones.”
With high levels of committment from such well-stablished brands on the rise, there’s no doubt commercial industries are already well-aware of the many benefits VR & AR-based employee training can bring. Whether you’re looking to bring the classroom to remote parts of the world for quality training no matter the location, or a cost-effective way to train large amounts of employees on expensive, hard-to-access machinery, it appears as though VR & AR have an answer for any situation.
Image Credit: VW / STRIVR / Microsoft