Why virtual reality is the future of employee training and onboarding

Article highlights

  • The way many organizations train employees today is outdated
  • Recent studies show that training employees in VR is faster
  • Using VR training greatly reduces the need for travel
  • VR training lets you get close to moving parts without injury
  • Companies are facing a major knowledge transfer problem
  • Getting started with VR training is easier than you might think

Training and onboarding employees in VR not only lets you train people faster, cheaper and safer, but they’re also more likely to remember what they learned.

In a fast-paced age of innovation, it’s alarming that many organizations haven’t changed the way they train, onboard, and upskill employees for several hundred years. Sure, we’ve seen our share of screens, projectors, and personal computers, but our approach to workplace learning and education – by and large – remains pretty much unchanged. 

The classroom style, one-way learning where one person does all the talking and others listen and absorb (or at least try to) pretty much describes what training, onboarding, and upskilling at many organizations look like today. It’s lecture-centric, monotonous, and largely based on physical attendance and memorization. Sure, there’s also e-learning, the digital cousin of classroom learning that we’ve grown to love and hate. And while it’s been a huge boon to the training experience, it too has faced many challenges.

In a fast-paced age of innovation, it’s alarming that many organizations haven’t changed the way they train, onboard, and upskill employees for several hundred years.

Both approaches come with several limitations. Chief among them is that they’re costly, slow, and relatively ineffective. Worse is the risk that employees won’t master the skills or instructions they need to perform their jobs, which could significantly impact overall organizational performance.

It’s a faster, more immersive way to learn

We need a new way to train that can involve and engage employees. Virtual Reality (VR), which has developed rapidly in recent years, represents a better way to improve employee onboarding, upskilling, re-skilling and so much more. 

But don’t just take our word for it. A recent study of how VR can be applied to learning shows that employees who trained in VR were able to learn four times faster than classroom training. Even more impressive is that they were four times more focused than their e-learning counterparts (apparently it’s hard to focus on just one screen these days).

4x

faster than
classroom training

4x

more focused
than e-learning

Training employees in VR not only lets you train people faster since it’s a more immersive and engaging experience, but people are also more likely to remember what they learned. That’s thanks to this thing called the pictorial superiority effect, which states that the more visual the content, the more likely it is to be recognized—and recalled. In other words, it’s easier to remember a picture of a red apple than the word “red apple”. 

This isn’t anything new, mind you, in fact we’ve known about it for more than 100 years. But we’ve also known this adage: Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. It’s this last part – the involvement part – that makes VR training stand head and shoulders above other forms of employee training.

What it boils down to is that most people are visual learners and learn through visual stories and experiences. This is why VR technology is a tremendous advantage since communicating in 3D is already changing how companies communicate.

“VR gives us the ability to finally harness the power of visual, immersive storytelling. And the key component here is 3D. Today, 3D content is much easier to create than ever before, and when it’s combined with an immersive and interactive experience, you’re able to tell a story and help employees understand in a powerful way,” says Mads Troelsgaard, CEO and Co-Founder of SynergyXR

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.

With the potential to add 1.5 trillion dollars to the global economy by 2030, extended reality (XR) technologies like VR, AR, and MR will be a huge game-changer in terms of how organizations train employees. And with XR headset shipments expected to grow 10 times to cross 100 million units by 2025, we expect to see more companies move away from 2D learning experiences and embrace the promising potential in VR technology.

It’s a part of a sustainable business strategy

In addition to accelerating training times and increasing retention, integrating VR training into your training program can be a boon to your sustainable business strategy. A few decades have passed since things like The Balanced Scorecard (1992) or the term Triple Bottom Line (TBL) were introduced (1994), but the principles are still relevant – especially regarding the latter. In short, TBL suggests companies measure their three P’s: people, profit, and planet. Here, a company’s financial performance is considered alongside its environmental and social responsibility performance.

Integrating VR training into your training program can be a boon to your sustainable business strategy.

VR training is a major enabler of all three P’s. By reducing the amount of travel required for training, the company not only saves big on travel related costs (i.e. profit), but reduces their carbon footprint (i.e. planet). Moreover, they reduce the employee workload (traveling can be daunting), increase wellbeing and work life balance by letting them train from anywhere and often on their own schedule (i.e. people).

See how Grundfos saved more than $25K on just one training session using VR

Discover how the world’s largest pump manufacturer uses the SynergyXR platform to onboard and teach employees from around the world about the magical journey of how water flows from the ground to the house.

There’s no risk of injury and you get unlimited
do-overs

Let’s face it, work and workplaces can be dangerous, so on-the-job training for many functions simply isn’t possible. Whether it’s learning how an active wind turbine engine works at 200 meters or how to operate a machine that costs millions (and even more in downtime if you break it), companies need a more effective and scalable way to train employees.

VR training is the perfect solution for a number of reasons. It creates realistic, context-based training scenarios that mimic real-world situations and give employees the feeling of actually being present. It lets employees get close and see things from a new perspective without risking injuries. Lastly, you can make as many mistakes as needed because in VR, you can’t break anything, and you can start over as many times as it takes to learn a new skill.

VR training lets employees get close and see things from a new perspective without risking injuries.

We’re facing a major generation shift

On a global scale, the aging workforce, also dubbed the “Silver Tsunami” by some, is causing a lot of concern. Companies have to start preparing for how they will transfer knowledge as the most experienced employees transition to retirement. Knowledge has to be shared more effectively, and knowledge sharing at scale is the essence of what VR training can offer.

Addressing the great knowledge swap is one thing, giving younger employees a more modern learning experience is another. Those entering the workforce now are the first generation who’re completely “digital natives”. They grew up in a digital world and probably held an iPhone in their hands when they were four or five years old. They’re comfortable with and fluent in technology and expect the same from their employer. Moreover, many are now working remotely – and will continue to do so – which makes training in the office or on location no longer a viable option.

Addressing the great knowledge swap is one thing, giving younger employees a more modern learning experience is another

So the typical onboarding for a big company, like bringing everybody to the company headquarters to see the company and feel the DNA, isn’t feasible going forward. Companies must now address that challenge and create new virtual onboarding sessions to convey the rich history of the company. 

This is where visual, compelling storytelling helps impart the company’s story and core values. It’s also where companies have an opportunity to make a big impression on the next generation by showing that they’re prepared for the future of work.

“Organizations have to wake up and realize they’re facing one of the biggest generational shifts of all time and that this new cohort of workers have a completely different view on how, why, and where we work,” says Thomas Fenger, CXO and Co-Founder of SynergyXR.

Before you start, there’s something you should know

VR and other immersive technologies can break the limitations of traditional training by making people feel present and involved in the same virtual space, regardless of physical distance. This is key when sharing knowledge at a global scale in a modern organization. But only if it’s done right. Here are a few things to remember before kickstarting your VR training program. 

We see many VR training solutions that try to replicate the norms and conventions we know from the physical world. These solutions fail to tap into the true potential of VR when the focus deviates from creating the best interactive learning environment and prerequisites for sharing knowledge.
At SynergyXR, we believe in a more human-centric approach. For instance, it’s fun to host a training session on Mars, but it doesn’t add any real value and often distracts us from what really matters: the subject matter.
Another consideration is information and experience overload. For many, it’s too much to handle if they’ve never experienced VR and can leave people feeling sensory overload or worse, motion sickness.
Knowing that VR is a more effective learning method, you should focus on the content – namely 3D models of your complex products and services alongside any images, videos or presentations you’re already using in your training programs.

With VR, we're suddenly able to simulate products, try things with zero risk of injury, and get as many do-overs as we want.

Sune Wolff  |  CTO and Co-Founder of SynergyXR

Getting started on VR

VR holds great potential to make nearly every organization’s training more efficient. Anytime you want to bring a new employee onboard or upskill existing employees, VR training can be used. Yes, there are obviously varying degrees of how much VR training will help. Where we see the most potential is with companies who have complex products and services and need a better, faster, and more effective way to communicate those with their stakeholders.

We know how challenging it can be to kickstart your XR training solution. That’s why we developed a 7-step plan to guide you through every step of the journey. We seamlessly integrate the SynergyXR platform with strategic guidance, expert content, and implementation services to help achieve your training goals.