You’ve probably read about VR training in the press, and heard about its potential for changing the way students and employees learn. It looks innovative and interesting on the surface—but what is it actually being used for?
In this blog, we'll seek to answer that question by taking a look at the companies using VR for training. We’ll examine the ways these companies are leveraging VR training for use cases ranging from customer experience training to upskilling business leaders and developing soft skills across their teams, offices, and workforces.
Immersive learning use cases covered in this blog post:
Traditionally, training salespeople often meant internal employees role playing during large group sessions, having new trainees tag along on customer calls, and eventually letting these fresh employees try their hand with these conversations, to ultimately learn from observation and trial and error.
After seeing that VR experiences are up to 70 percent more effective than web-based training, Ergo, a network of insurance companies based in Germany, decided to dive headfirst into Immersive Learning.
"After a short time, you get the impression that the virtual environment is real and that you are in a real conversation," said Olaf Reckzeh, an ERGO Academy trainee.
Using a no-code VR training content creation tool they developed a custom VR training module in their Ergo Academy and Ergo Innovation Lab that helps salespeople and/or agents interact with a range of virtual customers—each with their own unique set of problems and moods. Trainees get the chance to encounter a range of situations and environments—from a car accident, to a broken television, to an elderly woman who lives alone and fell in her apartment.
"The fact is that we have gathered a lot of know-how in one year - and can draw our conclusions from it," said Paul Schön, Innovation Manager at ERGO Innovation Lab.
Individuals are able to learn at their own pace, in a tailored environment, rather than a group setting, and gain more experiential learning, faster. An added benefit is that trainees are fully immersed with a headset on—not distracted by smartphone alerts, another likely reason why companies are seeing greater knowledge retention and improved focus among VR-trained learners.
As a result of this immersive learning program, ERGO Group was nominated for the 2021 EFMA-Accenture Awards in the category of "Workforce Transformation."
Claims adjusters are critical to any insurance company. Simply put, they make assessments in the field on the damage and liability for the insurer - looking at everything from car accidents to water damage in a basement. They also work with customers and vendors to negotiate claims and ensure all parties find a satisfactory outcome.
Farmers Insurance started using VR training as early as 2017 as a way to train claims adjusters – simulating the many complex, evolving conditions that their claims adjusters will face in the field. Immersive learning recreates a range of situations that adjusters will encounter, letting the trainee go through many different investigation scenarios and processes virtually.
For example, in a water damage case, the trainee uses VR to mark areas that are water-damaged and determine the source of the leak. Or in a soft skills training module claims employees can practice discussing claims with virtual human characters representative of customers—this gives them practice repetitions for critical customer conversations.
"It would take you years to go through what we're able to do with virtual reality," said Tim Murray, senior vice president and head of claims shared services at Farmers Insurance.
The benefits speak for themselves: accelerated adjuster readiness, reduced costs since adjusters in training do not have to visit offices, and the ability for adjusters to train on demand. To-date Farmers has invested in several VR training programs, and used Talespin to teach soft skills – such as active listening and being empathetic – which promotes positive customer experiences, while also building employee confidence.
The results from this immersive learning program have meant reduced training costs for Farmers, accelerated training, and represent another example of the company’s investment in its customer experiences.
The pandemic created a few certainties in the world of education: that traditional learning would be disrupted, and innovation has accelerated. Unfortunately, many of the inequities that already existed in our education system have been exacerbated due to Covid-19.
Jobs for the Future (JFF), a national nonprofit that strives to improve the American workforce and education system, partnered with SAP to introduce immersive learning into classrooms. Called the Skill Immersion Lab, the program debuted in classrooms in Louisiana to St. Paul to Queens, New York.
These programs take place over four to six weeks and feature a VR training curriculum from Talespin that empowers learners to take part in interactive role-play exercises and bolster their interpersonal skills in virtual settings. These skills are all the more important since many students have been interacting with their peers and teachers via video conferencing during the pandemic.
These soft skills are an area that has been long overlooked in traditional schooling, but are often key to success for young learners after graduation.
"We want to give them the language to think about things differently — and understand that they have a place within any environment, whether it’s a corporate setting or a community one," says Katie Booth, who leads the SAP Corporate Social Responsibility team in North America. "These deep communication skills will help them succeed.”
Students noted that the program helped them see the importance of communicating clearly. The results have been impressive: 79% of students that took part in the curriculum said that what they learned would help them achieve their goals.
Tower Hill Insurance is a premier residential property insurance company headquartered in Florida. In-person training has long been a pillar of the company's learning and development initiatives, but was inevitably disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and move toward remote work.
To supplement its training programs, the company implemented an immersive learning program to better attract, retain, upskill, and reskill employees – both those who had just come onboard and those with longer tenures at the company.
In the insurance sector, there's a need to understand the insurance claim procedure (a hard skill), while active listening, problem solving, and empathy are vital to customer conversations (soft skills). Tower Hill leveraged Talespin's off-the-shelf content library to help employees with leadership and communication skills development.
“Immersive learning provided an opportunity for us to easily deliver effective training content to our learners, regardless of their location. The Talespin team and platform allowed for simple on-boarding, with advanced insights into training content and learner performance to influence learning and development needs.” - Steven Gregory, Vice President Claims at Tower Hill Insurance”
Tower Hill experienced numerous benefits from the Talespin platform. They were able to cut down on travel costs, as learners just needed a headset to start their Immersive Learning curriculum. Due to the on-demand nature of VR training, employees could learn at their own pace and at the best time, creating a more engaged workforce.
"You speak to the character in VR and although you are reading a script with the best answer, saying the appropriate response aloud helped me mentally remember better approaches to resolving difficult scenarios,” said one Tower Hill Insurance employee.
Finally, Tower Hill saw a great deal of progress in their employees' skills development. The L&D team tracked how learners performed over time and reviewed skills analytics to understand how skills were being developed – and which were still in need – throughout their workforce.
As a global leader in management training, consulting, and coaching, for 40 years Ken Blanchard Companies has helped leaders improve their workforce and deliver bottom-line results.
As a leader in this industry for decades, Ken Blanchard Companies knows how vital trust is to businesses and leaders. In fact, Blanchard found that 82% of people say they don't trust their boss to tell the truth and 45% of employees say lack of trust in leadership is the biggest issue impacting their work performance.
That's why Blanchard created its Building Trust VR Simulation, a series of two VR training modules that allow employees to turn their knowledge into skills by practicing in real-life conversations with a virtual human in an immersive environment.
"Skill acquisition and habit building will occur only when individuals apply the knowledge. These scenarios allow for that person to practice, learn from the outcome in the module, and increase their likelihood of having more trustworthy conversations with people at work,” said Britney Cole, vice president of solutions architecture and innovation strategy at Ken Blanchard Companies.
In recent years, companies have faced many challenges. Among them is the complex task of employee onboarding – as companies looked to hire numerous employees during the Great Resignation, but had to do so in a remote world due to the pandemic. In an uber competitive job market, companies needed to instill their values to new employees, make them feel like they are a true part of the team and culture – even if they had never met a single teammate and worked hundreds of miles from the nearest company office.
Accenture has been a leader in creating an effective, collaborative onboarding experience for its new employees. The company has created One Accenture Park in the Metaverse, which provides a team bonding experience, gets new hires up to speed on training, while ensuring they build tangible connections with colleagues and feel like they are a part of the global Accenture team. They also learn more about Accenture's history, its mission, purpose, and culture.
Another aspect of Accenture’s employee onboarding program is using VR training content to immerse employees in simulations where they practice fundamental leadership and communication skills. Accenture has been prolific in terms of the scale of their VR adoption, including buying 60,000 VR headsets to distribute to their workforce. Among the onboarding content Accenture has provided to their employees is content from Talespin’s off-the-shelf VR training content library.
This sample from one of Education Design Lab’s VR assessment modules assesses the user’s ability to speak with clarity and precision.
While this next use case is technically not a training use case, it does represent an innovative use of VR technology for a critical aspect of skills development: assessing and validating skills.
In 2021, with unemployment still high as the pandemic raged on, Education Design Lab launched a new experience credit - "XCredit" —helping those unemployed or underemployed showcase their valuable real-world experience and credentials to potential employers.
For example, military veterans transitioning into the workforce may have a great deal of valuable experience, but it may not be immediately clear for recruiters to see how that experience could translate to a potential employer. The XCredit program is designed to help bridge that gap.
The XCredit program created VR skills assessment modules to enable people to demonstrate and validate their skills. The assessment modules put users in simulations that task them with applying “21st century skills” that are relevant to today’s largest employers. One example is a VR simulation in which an individual is tasked with applying skills like active listening, asking clarifying questions, and reflecting concerns in a scenario where they are diffusing a tense customer service scenario.
The Education Design Lab developed several performance-based assessments and digital credentials using VR– allowing for job seekers to showcase their 21st century skills and competencies.
The result is that users seeking better career outcomes will be able to leverage the skills they already have, identify where they need to improve, and present their skills to employers. The program is currently developing a Minimally Viable Product (MVP) that over time can scale to help millions of workers seek higher wages and a meaningful career.
Immersive learning refers to a type of learning experience that fully engages the learner and creates a sense of presence in a virtual or physical environment. Immersive learning involves the use of technology or simulations in the real world to create realistic and interactive learning experiences that mimic real-life situations.
Immersive learning in the physical world is exemplified by training methodologies like role play for communication skills, or a controlled burn used for training firefighters. Immersive learning using technology is exemplified by VR training modules that palace learners in virtual environments where they engage in realistic scenario-based learning.
An example of immersive learning is a “Virtual Leadership” VR training module in which learners practice applying communication skills in a remote work environment. This particular immersive learning scenario features virtual human role play partners representative of colleagues, a virtual 3D home office environment, and a narrative design focused on learning objectives related to virtual leadership skills—all key components that make up a VR training module.
To implement immersive learning, you need to have the right technology, tools and resources that allow you to create an interactive and engaging learning experience. The high level components of implementing immersive learning are:
Immersive scenarios are realistic and interactive situations that are created to mimic real-life experiences. They are designed to engage the learner and create a sense of presence in the virtual or physical environment.
Immersive scenarios can be used in a variety of industries, including education, healthcare, and corporate training, to provide learners with the opportunity to practice and apply skills. Examples of immersive scenarios include virtual simulations, role-playing, and problem-based learning activities.
Across sectors from insurance to education to financial services and beyond, companies are harnessing the power of immersive learning – leading to optimized training and skills development, better employee engagement, and a higher return on investment for their L&D initiatives.
With those benefits in mind, we hope the examples of companies using VR training in the workplace that we covered in this blog post will inspire your own adoption of VR.