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How Virtual Reality Tools Are Helping with Soft Skills Training Part 1: Benefits of VR

VR may be the future of training for on-the-job skills, but it may also benefit soft skills. Learn more about how virtual reality is changing the job-training game.

Virtual reality (VR) is gradually becoming more and more commonplace in business training. Many organizations have been using VR for training employees in hard skills like operating specialized vehicles or machinery for quite a while now. However, VR training tools can also simulate workplace scenarios that require employees to demonstrate soft skills. Leveraging virtual reality technology for soft skills training can allow learners to practice these skills in low-pressure environments where it’s safe to make mistakes, reset and try again. 

What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are less tangible than hard skills, which typically involve the ability to perform a specific task like operating a commercial vehicle, writing code or interpreting data. However, soft skills are just as essential as hard skills for a productive business. Skills like leadership, adaptability and strong communication are typical examples of soft skills that many employers look for in their employees.

Just like hard skills, soft skills are developed through practice. However, training for traits like responsibility and leadership tends to be less knowledge and procedure-based than training for hard skills, like using software or learning procedures. Instead, soft skills training involves group role play and coaching sessions with supervisors or senior coworkers. Employees may also practice these skills through e-learning courses in which they complete exercises based on example scenarios.

Given the scenario-based nature of soft skills training, it makes perfect sense to use VR to enable employees to practice soft skills in simulated environments that are immersive and low-stakes. VR training tools have numerous advantages over traditional methods of soft skills training, like e-learning modules or classroom sessions, which we’ll cover in detail below.

Benefits of VR for Soft Skills Training

Here are a few of the most exciting advantages of using VR to help with soft skills training.

1. Accelerate learning. A study from PwC found that learners develop skills approximately four times faster in VR environments than in traditional classroom environments. Onboarding professionals can use virtual reality to create a more realistic and engaging learning experience, allowing learners to interact with their environment in ways that would otherwise not be possible. By providing a simulated environment, learners can practice skills and apply their knowledge the same way they would in an actual situation. This accelerates the learning process by allowing for immediate feedback and faster reinforcement of concepts.

Additionally, virtual reality can provide a deeper level of immersion than traditional methods, allowing learners to explore complex topics in greater detail. With its ability to simulate real-world scenarios, virtual reality provides an ideal platform for experiential learning that is both engaging and effective.

2. Build confidence. VR can also help improve employees' confidence by providing a safe and controlled environment to practice their soft skills. PwC’s study also found that VR learners were significantly more confident than e-learners and classroom learners both when discussing and acting on the information they learned.

In traditional soft skill role plays with coworkers, some employees may feel uncomfortable exploring and practicing the skill multiple times fully. However, using VR training tools, learners can take risks and try new strategies without fear of failure or embarrassment, allowing them to build confidence in their skills before applying them in real-world scenarios. This can help employees develop the confidence they need to tackle challenging tasks and difficult conversations in the workplace.

Additionally, VR allows employers to simulate scenarios that would otherwise be too costly or dangerous to recreate in real life, such as customer service interactions or emergency response drills. By providing a safe space for employees to practice these skills, employers can ensure that their staff is well prepared for any situation they may encounter on the job.

3. Improve focus. VR has the unique ability to immerse learners in a simulated environment completely. This immersive nature helps keep them engaged and focused on the task at hand, as they are entirely surrounded by the virtual world created by technology. This allows them to completely concentrate on honing their soft skills without being interrupted by external distractions such as incoming messages or other people in their immediate vicinity. PwC’s study found that employees trained using VR are distracted less frequently and can refocus themselves faster than employees trained using e-learning courses or traditional classroom courses.

VR also provides an interactive experience that is more engaging than traditional learning methods, allowing learners to explore different scenarios and gain valuable knowledge and understanding of concepts in a more hands-on way.

4. Increase empathy. Using VR training tools for soft skills training can also increase empathy in the workplace by helping employees recognize their own biases and prejudices. Virtual reality soft skills training offers a unique opportunity for learners to appreciate different points of view by putting them in someone else's shoes.

By immersing trainees in simulated scenarios involving diverse perspectives and people from varied backgrounds, they can acquire a better understanding of the impact their words and actions have on others. Approximately three-quarters of VR learners surveyed by PwC said they had a “wake-up call moment” regarding diversity and inclusion during their training.

Additionally, VR soft skills training can allow employees to practice active listening and other communication techniques essential for successful collaboration at any type of business. This training can help employees learn how to navigate interactions with customers and coworkers better.

5. Reduce training expenses. Even though VR may sound like an expensive investment initially, it can help businesses save on training costs at scale. VR provides a cost-effective way of delivering soft skills training as there is no need for physical resources such as classrooms, printed handouts or other learning materials which would otherwise be required for traditional training methods. Implementing VR for soft skills training can also reduce travel costs associated with bringing in trainers or having employees attend offsite training seminars.

Not to mention that faster, more efficient training methods like VR mean fewer resources overall need to be invested into training efforts. For example, an employee can practice a soft skill as often as they need to use VR training tools. In contrast, it might require setting up multiple traditional training sessions to provide the same number of opportunities.

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