Put on a virtual reality (VR) headset and you can explore space, fight monsters or travel back in time. But VR isn’t always about occurrences that are fantastical or out of reach. It can be used to enter a virtual world that looks very much like our own, where we can try high-risk tasks without any real-life risks, experiment with new processes, and even collaborate with colleagues in different locations.
Enterprise VR for training is part of a new generation of technology that is transforming Learning & Development (L&D). As VR hardware becomes more flexible and software solutions become more sophisticated, an increasing number of businesses are realizing its potential. In addition to changing how training is delivered, VR can also overhaul the way training is analyzed, helping companies demonstrate the ROI of programmes and improve them through iteration. Beyond L&D, it has the potential to be used in areas such as onboarding, cultural change and recruitment.
I had a conversation with James Watson, Chief Marketing Officer and Justin Parry, COO and co-founder at Immerse as well as Nate Hurto, Global Vice President for Learning Sales & Strategy at SAP SuccessFactors, about the benefits of virtual reality, its importance for learning, and how they are working with SAP SuccessFactors Learning customers.
What does Immerse do?
James: Immerse has created a Virtual Enterprise Platform (VEP) that enables companies to create, scale and measure virtual reality (VR) training. By implementing VR to simulate highly specialized real-world environments for training purposes, companies can craft experiences that are far more efficient and engaging than traditional training methods.
Why should companies be looking at VR for L&D?
Justin: Every company should be focused on improving its workforce and the employee experience. This is the central premise of the Immerse platform. VR training enables companies to grow through continuous learning, while also enhancing the knowledge and skills of individual employees to help them progress in their own careers. It also increases levels of employee engagement, which is beneficial to both organisations and individuals.
James: Ultimately, VR enables the recreation of real-world training scenarios without any reliance on the real world, meaning no physical space constraints, no challenges with trainer availability, and no need to waste time on travel and logistics.
Once a VR training program has been created, it can be used by employees based in any part of the world. Employees no longer have to travel to a particular location to receive training, and geographically dispersed teams can train together in the same environment.
Furthermore, training for new employees can be rolled out gradually as new staff settle into their roles – as opposed to mandating it in their first few days. Learning becomes an ongoing process, allowing employees to revisit the virtual training scenarios to refresh themselves on particular processes or to improve their skills.
Are there proven benefits to using VR in training or L&D?
Justin: Studies conducted by Dr. Thomas Bohné’s team at the University of Cambridge’s Cyber-Human Lab have found that VR training methods can result in 55 percent faster task completion times than non-VR methods, and significantly better outcomes in terms of quality of work and learning retention. The team also found that using a traditional paper manual training process resulted in up to 200 percent more mistakes in subsequent on-the-job performances compared to a customised VR training process.
What is an example of how VR is being used for training in enterprises?
James: Sometimes it is just not practical to provide face-to-face training, particularly in high-risk industries and situations, or when access to equipment is limited. For example, Immerse worked with oil and gas company Shell to create a VR simulation of a storage tanker overspill, so that staff could be trained in safety and emergency response procedures without being exposed to any real danger.
How is Immerse working with SAP SuccessFactors?
Nate: Immerse is a partner in the SAP PartnerEdge ® program. The Immerse VEP integrates directly with SAP SuccessFactors Learning – so employees can go directly from SuccessFactors Learning into a VR session. Meanwhile, key learner data is then passed back to SuccessFactors Learning once the VR training session is complete.
Through the simple integration with SAP SuccessFactors, VR training can be handled in the same way as other learning content. Training can be assigned as mandatory or recommended for a job role via the Learning Management System and the data captured from the VR training can then be used to show competence or compliance.
Once set up, entry to the platform is governed by rule-based access control and sign-up systems that can integrate with existing enterprise log-ins. Functionality can be tailored to an organisation’s individual needs: it can be single or multi-user, entirely VR or also web-based (for desktop access), and available offline as well as online.
Why is data so important when it comes to these VR training programs?
Justin: Within the VR training environment, every action is tracked, with 30 data points captured per second per user. The data provides valuable proof that training has been completed to a certain standard, generates rich information for continuously improving the training program, and may even shed light on an organisational or structural issue in the business at large. It also arms L&D leaders with a suite of valuable metrics that can help to demonstrate the ROI of training programmes.
How can Immerse help SAP SuccessFactors customers?
Nate: VR is top of mind for most of our customers but solutions to date have not been focused on enterprise training as the core business. Customers are asking for ways to extend their investment in a traditional system of record to include immersive experiences which are managed alongside traditional interventions such as operating procedures and policy training.
The Immerse integration with SAP SuccessFactors provides a scalable way of introducing the next generation of learning tech, giving businesses the opportunity to extend their existing training in ways that weren’t previously possible.
And with our just announced partnership with Immerse customers will even more benefit from that tight collaboration between Immerse and SAP SuccessFactors.