Virtual reality (VR) has been around for years, and while many see the technology as a novelty best suited for video-game junkies, many companies are starting to find applications for VR in training programs for employees.
As training and development pros well know, on-the-job training is often the most effective form of training for employees. Unfortunately, it can be both expensive and disruptive, sometimes having a negative impact on productivity—and it can lead to costly errors.
Virtual reality can help, says Ave Rio, in a CLO Media piece: “The ideal situation is to put employees to work right away but minimize the risk of mistakes. Virtual reality training programs are beginning to make that possibility a reality.” Rio notes that the applicability and efficacy of VR depend largely on the industry in question.
Here are some examples of companies experimenting with the technology.
Writing in June 2017 for Business Insider, Richard Feloni reported that Walmart would be rolling out a VR training program for employees across the United States by the end of 2017. Walmart will be using STRIVR technology—which provides an immersive VR experience—to bring the training to 31 of its training academies. Based on the success of these initial efforts, Walmart will roll out the VR training to its 200 training academies by year-end. Walmart has used VR to help entry-level employees train for things like holiday rush crowds and cleaning up spills in aisles.
KFC is also using VR to train its fast-food staff. Writing for the food website Eater, Whitney Filloon recently covered fast-food chicken giant KFC’s recent foray into VR training. KFC is using Oculus Rift headsets to literally show employees how KFC’s Original Recipe fried chicken is made. The training is paired with gamification. Filloon explains: “In order to get out of the virtual escape room, employees will have to play as a pair of disembodied hands to demonstrate (virtual) mastery of the five-step cooking process — inspecting, rinsing, breading, racking, and pressure-frying — all the while being cajoled by a cackling Colonel.”
While this seems like a somewhat strange application, the company did note that the VR exercise takes less than half the time (10 versus 25 minutes) to take employees through the cooking process but also says that hands-on training isn’t going away.
Next up: A look at how UPS and law enforcement are using virtual reality training.