From operating an oil rig in the middle of the ocean to active shooter drills, much of the cost, complexity, and danger in training can be reduced or eliminated by incorporating virtual reality (VR) technology. Traditional training methods require classrooms with paid instructors, equipment, learning tools, and occasionally travel expenses. Most companies simply don’t have the budgets or resources to provide continuous on-the-job training. That’s why more companies are adopting VR to meet their training needs.
According to an American Society for Training and Development blog post titled Employee Training Statistics: Cost of Progress in 2023, companies investing in training have a 24% higher profit margin. Employees also value training. Sixty-eight percent of workers consider development opportunities the most important company policy, and 86% of millennials say they would have stayed in a job if their employer offered training.
Mixed Realities Go Mainstream
Augmented reality (AR) and VR technology is becoming commonplace, so it’s logical that it’s increasingly being used for business training. There are already 65.9 million VR users in the United States (approximately 15% of the population) and 110.1 million AR users.
Companies from Meta to Qualcomm to Microsoft have heavily invested in the technology for years. And now, Apple, one of the largest producers of consumer (and business) devices, threw its hat into the mixed reality ring with the introduction of the Vision Pro spatial computer. These multi-billion-dollar investments by leading tech giants make it clear that mixed reality has a future worth betting on.
AR and VR are already used for specialized training. VR enables medical professionals to train without endangering patients. Military personnel use VR to simulate combat situations without tying up expensive equipment. Trade professionals, like electrical workers, can use VR for training without exposure to real-life risks, such as live wires.
VR Is More Effective than Traditional Training
According to The Learning Guild, with conventional training, most employees forget 50% of what they’ve learned within the first hour, 70% within the first day, and 90% within the first week. While those numbers sound dramatic, it’s a common reality. Think back to high school—how much information from classroom lectures did you recall even just a few weeks later?
Traditional training methods face a host of challenges. Too much ambient noise is distracting. A lack of hands-on interaction in the material allows the mind to drift. Often, ideas presented in a lecture are abstract and can’t be applied to real-life situations. VR solves the problem by creating an immersive training environment that commands attention and requires interaction. By contrast, a study by the National Training Laboratory shows that with VR, retention rates were 75% compared with 10% for reading and 5% for lectures.
VR is engaging, allowing users to interact with the virtual world. VR also uses multimodal learning, requiring multiple senses. And VR is repeatable, so critical lessons can be presented again as needed on demand.
The Endless Benefits of VR Training
Not only is VR more effective, but it also provides a host of other benefits. VR reduces or eliminates the costs of classroom instruction, standardizes instruction, and reduces risk in hazardous environments.
Here are just a few benefits to illustrate the value of VR for training:
Improves safety: When training on unfamiliar equipment, there’s always the risk of injury. VR eliminates that problem by enabling comprehensive instruction without actually using the equipment. In the automotive industry, Ford opted to use VR training and reduced production line injuries by 70%. VR training is also used to simulate trauma procedures in hospitals and simulate emergency response procedures in police operations.
Simulates complex scenarios: There are situations in which creating the necessary environment or simulation for effective training is too complicated or cost-prohibitive. VR can create any scenario or situation in a computer-generated world. For example, consider the cost savings of using VR instead of aircraft for pilot training.
Repetitive activities: VR is also helpful in reinforcing training for repetitive activities, such as on a production line. A VR simulation can familiarize workers with a task and allow them to practice without risk or the need for dedicated training equipment.
Eliminates travel costs: VR also enables classroom instruction without the classroom. Using VR for virtual education eliminates travel costs and reduces lost productivity by reducing time away from work.
Improves satisfaction and outcomes: According to the DataProt article “37 Virtual Reality Statistics That Prove the Future is Now,” using VR for training has been shown to improve employee success by 70% and increase employee satisfaction by 30%.
Significant return on investment (ROI): Each scenario requires its own calculation, but VR’s ROI can be enormous. To prove the value of VR training, the U.S. Navy conducted a cost-avoidance study, comparing an 8-hour training session on actual equipment with training using a 3D interactive simulation. The Navy invested $1.28 million in interactive training but saved $4.24 million, demonstrating an ROI of $2.96 million by using simulations to train on one piece of equipment.
VR has become a mainstream technology that’s having an impact everywhere, especially in education. The benefits of VR for employee training are too great to ignore. Expect to see VR training modules for every aspect of business operations. Those companies that fail to recognize the value of VR training will lose out to more progressive organizations using the latest tools to improve employee skills and performance and save costs.
Aaron Franko has spent over 20 years working in different areas of technology and has achieved numerous technical certifications, as well as an MBA from the New York Institute of Technology. He currently leads Saritasa’s Immersive Technology Business Unit, focusing on virtual, augmented, and mixed reality for business.