Say Goodbye to Role Play : VR Is Reinventing Practice In The Workplace

An effective training program relies on two basic components: great content and authentic practice opportunities. Learning + Doing = Remembering. The most comprehensive, well-written training program isn’t complete until trainees have the opportunity to practice critical on-the-job skills, and this is especially true for frontline workers in hands-on, customer-facing roles.

To date, this practice has taken the form of role playing and job shadowing. While these methods can be quite beneficial, they are labor-intensive, hard to schedule and scale, inconsistent across trainers and locations, and require a significant investment in paid time from existing employees to lead the role play or shadowing.

To put it simply, there’s a deficit between the value of practice in the learning process and opportunities for such practice. The challenge of offering impactful, authentic practice experiences contributes directly to the fact that half of frontline workers in the US believe their current training is ineffective at providing the tools they need to succeed at their job. It also helps explain why 20% of frontline workers claim to forget most of their training shortly after a session.

So how do organizations correct this imbalance? Many L&D organizations are looking toward interactive VR training experiences, which circumvent many of the major obstacles related to traditional role play and job shadowing. On top of mitigating obstacles, VR also introduces a number of unique opportunities to enhance learning beyond what’s possible in the physical world. Let’s take a closer look at how VR overcomes some of these shortcomings and offers a new, better approach to role play and job shadowing.

First is the critical fact that VR removes some of the major barriers that stop employees from receiving impactful practice opportunities. Rather than coordinating schedules with a training manager and pulling team members away from their regular duties, VR allows trainees to access consistently compelling experiences on their own, from anywhere, anytime. 

L&D leaders can release these self-directed VR experiences to new hires with confidence because of the consistency they offer. Traditional role play and job shadowing depend on so many uncontrollable factors: did the training manager get enough sleep the night before? do they have a good rapport with the new hire(s)? do they follow the curriculum or show their “workarounds”? do they approach training in a consistent way to the morning shift lead? Training leaders can’t always guarantee consistent quality or monitor role-playing among new hires. VR, on the other hand, guarantees that trainees are learning from the best employee on their very best day, each and every time. 

Of course, impactful practice is a two-way street: trainees have to commit to the practice, too. Live-action role-play doesn’t feel authentic and can put learners on the spot — it’s common for new hires to disengage from a role-play exercise because it feels cheesy or because they feel like they might receive judgment from their fellow coworkers. In VR, trainees are in a safe, personalized, and authentic environment that empowers them to try, fail, try again, and ultimately succeed. 

This repetition — the ability to practice a scenario or revisit a lesson multiple times — is a key part of VR’s value as a practice tool. Even when in-person job shadowing and role play are successful, they are a one-and-done experience. VR experiences, on the other hand, are just as easy to launch the hundredth time as the first time. Trainees have unrestricted access to multiple scripted role plays and can repeatedly learn from the very best rather than just shadowing the person who happens to be there for their first shift(s). As new hires continue to navigate VR training programs, their managers are able to collect detailed data about their experience and performance over time, including the time spent in experience, heatmaps that show the viewer’s gaze, and the choices they made. This data represents a rich picture of the learner’s progress and provides great launching-off points for trainer/trainee feedback and constructive criticism.

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Not only does VR offer an ideal landscape for impactful practice, but it’s also affordable, especially at scale. VR reduces the amount of paid hours existing employees need to commit to new hires, which can be a considerable dollar-saving factor for large organizations. Multi-location offices can also forego the headache of coordinating schedules, paying for travel costs, training each location’s training managers, and more. Also, training employees in an immersive training environment and allowing for personalized practice has shown to reduce training times by 40-60%, thereby shortening how long it takes to onboard new employees and get them across the threshold of productivity. 

Leveraging VR for frontline training allows organizations to create scalable, authentic, consistent, safe, and self-directed practice opportunities. VR can reduce or even eliminate reliance on role play and job shadowing, saving both time and money while producing workers who are more capable and confident on the job. 

Interested in learning more about introducing VR experiences into your training curriculum? Get in touch with one of our XR experts today.

 

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