Reality check: Your employee trainings are boring. While there is no consensus on how long our attention spans really are, we do know we retain little information from lectures, presentations, and video trainings. Even when we do pay attention we forget 50 percent of the information we received within the hour.

But despite those obstacles, you still have to train your employees. Keeping up with new technologies, processes, and onboarding new employees are all imperative to your business’ success. In field service, where work can sometimes be unsafe or mistakes can be costly, good training is especially important.

So how can your business effectively train its employees? As it turns out, people learn best by doing. Virtual reality (VR) allows for a low risk way to do so. A University of Maryland study showed an almost 10% improvement in memory recall for those using VR. And Gartner reports cost reductions (research available to clients) of between 40% to 90% of the cost of the original training.

Why use VR for training field workers?

VR creates the feeling of “being there” and enabling complete engagement in the learning process. According to Kristi Rawlinson, Strivr’s head of marketing communications, “Compared to traditional methods, extensive research shows people are more engaged with VR and they receive immediate feedback as they apply the skills they are learning. For example, 70% of Walmart employees who used Stvir’s VR training did better on their learning evaluation exams versus the group that did not use Strivr.”

Perhaps more importantly, trainees have the freedom to experiment, make mistakes, and repeat exercises and scenarios in a safe environment. The benefits for field service can be reduced to three main areas:

Safety

Some field service jobs are dangerous. Construction, for example, has the highest rate of fatal injury compared to other industries, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics. A novice field service worker training with VR may be at risk for dizziness, rather than a more serious injury out in the field.

Emergency responders work in high stress situations. Being able to experience the pressure of a crisis and respond accordingly in a safe setting will lead to better safety the day of a high-stress event.

Empathy

As customer service skills become increasingly important for field service techs, being able to experience service from the customer point of view will go a long way in building empathy. Understanding the customer, their needs, and expectations is essential to providing outstanding service and VR can create real-life scenarios in which to practice those skills.

Scalability

With VR enabled devices your business can “take” many employees in different locations to visit a site all at once—without having to move at all. As Rawlinson puts it:

“Immersive learning is not only effective, but also more scalable and cost-effective. Instead of flying people out or interrupting business to train employees, VR training can be done anywhere and at anytime.”

What are my options?

Personal mobile devices: tablets, smartphones

The benefit of this option is reduced costs: Not having to purchase additional hardware means most employees will have access to training modules.

Case study: PG&E, a gas and electric company, performs routine maintenance and rebuilds. Error rate was high and training was difficult given the complexity of its parts and components. The company began using a 3D interactive maintenance simulation to allow field service representatives to practice the procedure step by step. The result was decreased truck rolls, travel costs, and overpressure events.



PG&E VR re-build (Source)

AR/VR glasses

An increasing number of companies are beginning to develop new VR glasses and headsets at a fraction of their former costs. VR laptops are available for $1000 or less and Google even offers a cardboard headset (at $15) that uses smart phones to function as a display. With the reduced cost of purchasing headsets and the added benefit of being able to use them hands-free, this option could be worth it for some businesses.

Case study: BAE, an electric propulsion system manufacturer, was looking for a solution that was scalable and had decreasing costs over time. It now uses HoloLens to help train its employees on assembly procedures. The system proved to be 30-40% more efficient than traditional training methods.


BAE HoloLens application (Source)

VR-equipped Rooms

VR-equipped rooms may just involve headsets and corresponding tracking systems, or could mean placing screens around the room to create the sensation of immersion without using headsets. This type of VR training is ideal for trainings that require real-life simulations—especially when movement is involved and headsets would detract from the experience.

Case study: Morris County Public Safety Training Academy began using VirTra, a 300-degree immersive virtual reality program that allows deputies to hone their decision making skills and test their unconscious biases by simulating real scenarios that can occur out in the field.

This setup didn’t involve headsets, but rather 300 degrees of screens and infrared laser weapons designed to look and feel like the real ones.

How to get started with VR training

VR can be an incredible asset to your business by offering safe, scalable, engaging training. But training is only as effective as the material you use and how it is deployed to meet your end goal. Here are a few points to consider before you dive in:

Plan..a lot: Spend time identifying the most useful training use cases. To get the most benefit from VR, these trainings should be easily scalable and applicable to as many employees as possible. Spend time developing training that delivers the skills and experience you need the most before you invest in VR.

Don’t start out with expensive hardware: Consider deploying on smartphones first—these are widely available and inexpensive compared to VR/AR headsets. You can continue to increase the degree of immersion of your training by upgrading to headsets and room equipment later.

Want to learn more about technology and training?:

If you’re interested in learning more about technology like VR and how it can be used to improve your business, check out these articles from GetApp:

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