Insights EDU

Examining the Relationship between VR, Soft Skills Training and KPI’s

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Bobby Carlton | Journalist & Consultant | VR Scout

31 May 2019 | 8 min read

Researchers at Stanford Research Center, the Harvard Foundation, and the Carnegie Foundation found that you are able to measure the success of a job by looking into 2 areas; Hard Skills and Soft Skills.

Hard Skills (domain knowledge) is how well you know the details and information about your job and your overall expertise in the subject matter. It’s the actual job that you perform every day at work.

Soft Skills (abstract skills) are that parts of the job that deals with communication, time management, ability to work under pressure, relating to other people, conflict negotiation, self-awareness – basically, people skills.

What researchers discovered is that the success of your job and your ability to grow within the job is based on 15% hard skills and 85% soft skills, with additional research showing that 80% of people who were terminated or failed at their job was because of a lack of soft skills (or lack of soft skills training, if you wish).

office space

LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner recently talked about the results of a LinkedIn 2018 Skills Gap survey, saying:

“Interpersonal skills are where we are seeing the biggest imbalance, communication is the number one skills gap.”

This puts things into perspective. Soft skills are incredibly important for employee development and the overall success of an organization. The more you can develop skills such as critical thinking, communication, and navigating through difficult situations, the more you will understand your own behavior to improve interactions with others throughout the workforce and ultimately, the more success you and your organization will see.

So, why aren’t we using better methods to develop soft skills?

Virtual Reality Can Change the Landscape of Soft Skills Training

There is a more efficient way to approach soft skills training using virtual reality (VR), that can yield better results by giving the learner the ability to explore more options and be more engaged. While on the flip side, the organization will see improved KPI’s, get a huge return on data, and see a big boost to their ROI.

If the technology is approached correctly, VR can be easily blended into your current training strategy including soft skills training without disrupting your learning culture or alienating employees and this could lead to organic growth within your LMS.

Two people during a VR soft skills training perhaps during a roleplay

One of the best methods to develop soft skills is through role playing. This exercise allows employees to practice how to handle different scenarios to improve skills such as communication, being a leader, or navigating conflict. It also lets you practice these scenarios repeatedly to be better at understanding how to listen to people, or read body language and tone of voice.

Don Bader, co-founder of Osiris Labs, explains this further:

“Virtual reality is a more powerful way to train for soft skills and values because it creates empathy and an openness to learning. People care about the subject matter because they are placed in the middle of a story that is believable, allowing them to experience things from new and different perspectives.”

Bader continues, “Because outside distractions literally disappear, VR truly captures attention and creates multisensory learning in a way that webinars or PowerPoint presentations cannot match. Learners can also actually train on soft skills by repeating scenarios and playing different roles until successful in a non-threatening, non-judgmental environment.”

Role playing can build this skill to prepare a new, or even a seasoned, manager for the hard conversation. It’s that belief that the more you do it, the better you become at it. Since soft and foundational skills are transitional and transferable, they are crucial for employee development throughout their career with the organization.

Using VR to help employees develop their soft skills allows them to be able to practice and fail without real-world consequences.

Removing Boundaries

When you look at tradition role playing methods, the problem with this activity is that individuals can get embarrassed or it might feel silly for them, because of this the participants are not likely to be engaged in the activity and with this, the results of your soft skills training can be questionable.

Using VR, the learner is transported into scenario that feels real. Within this context, their responses are based on real reactions and real decision making. Plus, because it’s through VR, you are removing boundaries of the real-world that might come with role playing exercises such as hesitation to participate, or feeling silly during the role-playing exercise, and you will have more realistic results for improved return in data.

Repetition Is the Key

Soft skills training through VR gives people a unique training experience that allows for the exploration of choices through repetition. It’s through that immersive repetition experience that gives the trainee an opportunity to navigate through an experience, explore options, and even watch themselves from multiple perspectives, this will help develop the skills necessary to be successful in those situations.

A team meeting

An employee who is better at decision making, communication, leadership, and handling conflict, could mean a more engaged workforce, reduced employee turnover, and an increased ability to attract brand new talent.

Benefits of VR Soft Skill Training

  • It’s scalable and can be distributed globally.
  • The training is easily repeatable.
  • Explore different options.
  • Provides performance data and a whole new level of behavioral data that up to this point, wasn’t available through traditional training.
  • It takes the learner out of the classroom or textbook, and puts them into a full 360 learning environment.
  • Offer a large range of training experiences.
  • Able to place learners into incredibly difficult situations without real-word consequences.
  • Experience situations from other perspectives, known as “In Your Shoes”.

Creating a VR Training for Soft Skills

Developing a VR training application for soft skills is all about creating scenarios. The idea is to capture the real-world and make it digital in an immersive format.  This can be done through 360 videos or photos, by gamifiying already available VR experiences, or even creating your own custom VR experience.

If you are creating your own experience, put emphasis on emotions, empathy and building emotional intelligence while crafting your VR scenario. Think about the way that someone on the other end of a situation is affecting you, or maybe a manger comes in and changes the atmosphere of the room.

  • How do you navigate those situations?
  • What are the options?
  • What emotions are involved?

What Does the Employee Get Through VR Soft Skill Training?

  • The learner is able to direct the experience.
  • Decisions are based on emotional response.
  • Able to practice without boundaries.
  • Able to explore multiple options.
  • The exercise is repeatable.

What Is Holding Back Companies from Using VR to Develop Soft Skills?

Some organizations see the potential of using VR exercises to develop soft skills, but are hesitant to make that leap. The reason for this is because VR is a technology that still feels very foreign to organizations. They just don’t know what to make of it, or even how to use it. There is also the issue of not understanding the benefits of the technology and the way in which the technology works, it becomes difficult to embrace the technology while it remains alien, it also becomes more difficult to measure whether VR technology will yield ROI.

We can educate organizations on the benefits of VR, the ways VR can be delivered, and what organizations can expect from VR training. It’s the ROI that can play a role in whether an organization is willing to adopt the technology.

Katya London, an Associate VR Talent Management Leader for an NY based engineering firm explains:

“Corporate environments are tied to old traditions, so there needs to be strong evidence in retention, engagement, and their ROI.” London continues, “If they can see direct tangible evidence showing that there is a ROI, then they are more willing to consider making the investment.”

Innovation is more likely to be embraced if it can show a positive return on investment. Data shows that VR can reduce the amount of time to train an employee, and shows improved data retention from the training.

A man probably doing some sort of VR soft skills training or some other VR training

Getting your organization on board for VR training will require more than focusing on the benefits to the employee in the exercise, but it also means showing the organization the financial benefits of training employees using virtual reality.

Financials benefits include:

  • Reduced time in training.
  • Better retention of information.
  • Can be deployed globally with ease.
  • Participants can train on their own time.

Virtual reality can be used to develop soft skills such as communicating difficult news to a large group of people, and teaching you the skills to prepare you in managing people emotions during a difficult situation and help them through processes.

Its benefits can even reach areas that you wouldn’t expect, such as developing the ability to craft an email meant to deliver difficult news, and even manage sorting through a wall of emails that might be a result of that email.

VR for Soft Skills Training

Soft skills are a huge part of an employee’s success.  Developing them can strengthen the relationship you have with colleagues and employees, which can have a huge impact on the organization.  It’s about understanding emotions and learning how to manage them to create a positive environment that can encourage employee evangelism, and build a passionate work environment.

In the end, a successful employee means a successful business, and using VR for soft skills training is the key to that success.  In a closing statement from Bader, All this adds up to a powerful new way for an entire workforce to learn skills that are hard to acquire in other ways and to turn training into a positive experience that people actually look forward to.”



To read more about adoption of VR for education and training, click here to head down to our Insights Education section.

About the author:

Bobby is a journalist at VR Scout as well as an independent consultant. Providing expert information focused on new technology for K-12, higher education, and corporate learning environments for education and marketing. Bobby is an expert on employee and consumer engagement that stretches beyond the traditional strategies.

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