Effective and efficient training is essential to employee development and the overall success of the organization. Companies are constantly trying to find ways to provide thorough and realistic training while minimizing the cost of that training and the time required to provide it to employees.
Virtual reality (VR) has become a hot topic in this regard because of its potential to effectively simulate real-world situations at a fraction of the time and cost. While this is a relatively new frontier in terms of training, some big employers are starting to take advantage of VR’s potential.
How Walmart Is Using VR for Training
In an article for The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Judith McKenna, President and CEO of Walmart® International, discusses how the retail giant is embracing artificial intelligence in its training programs.
“[W]e set out to reinvent our training programs to support the new way of working and skill development our people would need for their future,” says McKenna. “Our existing online and job-shadowing training programs were replaced with a hands-on classroom experience called Walmart Academy, which has trained approximately 370,000 associates in 200 sites across the country.”
McKenna says Walmart has noticed appreciable improvements in engagement and recall of material using VR as a training tool. This is probably due to a combination of the novelty of the technology, as well as the closer similarities to the real world relative to traditional training materials. She points to a lasting impact on Walmart associates’ overall training experiences. “More than a how-to manual that spells out routine actions and responses, the immersive experience helps build confidence and prepare our people to run great stores.”
As McKenna notes in the WSJ piece, VR will probably never be a complete replacement for real-life experience; however, the ability to increasingly accurately simulate these real-life experiences shows great promise for improving employee training through increased efficiency and effectiveness and reduced costs.
For L&D professionals, educators, and trainers in all types of organizations, VR has the potential to transform how employees learn new skills and immerse themselves into situations that would have been cost- or safety-prohibitive in the past.