Increasingly, businesses are adopting virtual reality (VR) technology in areas including: marketing, training and product development. Whilst the majority of early stage use is in specialised learning and training, the signs of broader immersion in VR across businesses are clear. So how could VR transform the future of work?
VR is very much a new tool in the workplace. Its early adoption has been in specialised fields and for ad-hoc projects for most sectors – for now. As the consumerisation of VR takes place with the likes of Facebook and Google investing huge sums in bringing VR to the masses, VR is set to become a staple of the everyday technology stack over the coming years. For HR, this means, understanding the technology, the benefits of it on employee productivity, engagement and wellbeing, and consequently, on employee recruitment, training and retaining.
How is VR currently used in businesses?
Recruitment and product development
The most prevalent use of VR has been in the defence sector where VR has been used to train military on costly equipment, simulate high-risk scenarios for decision-making and train military medics. And two years ago, the British Army used VR as part of a recruitment drive. Over in the corporate world, product design and development is the primary area of use for VR in the manufacturing sector according to research by PwC:
VR in organisational learning and training is where some the biggest demand is coming from – notably in sectors where health and safety risks are high, where complex machinery or costly equipment training is required and where learning by doing simulations offer better retention rates. The more immersive the training experience in these cases, the safer, more skilled and more productive the workforce is.
Marketing and customer engagement
We’re also seeing early uses of VR in marketing with VR being used by staff to showcase products to customers. Car dealerships were early pioneers of this use, but other sectors are adopting the use of VR in this way. Foxtons, the estate agents, launched a VR property viewing service in one of its branches last year. Employees will have been not only the first to try the service, but also crucial to the design of the experience. Expect to see a lot more sectors recognise the power of employees showcasing products in this way.
VR for HR departments
The British Army is not the only employer using VR to attract candidates. Companies looking to recruit candidates from across the globe, have recognised the benefit of VR in their recruitment process. US ecommerce company, Jet, uses VR to illustrate its office environment. German rail and transport logistics firm, Deutsche Bahn, was one of the first in Germany to use VR to give potential employees the chance to experience different jobs, before applying.
Beyond recruitment, Australian company MYOB (above), has used VR to transform its employee onboarding process: “We have called our new onboarding process ‘Immersion’, and what could be more immersive than a VR experience? It turns a passive experience into an active one, and this has a strong impact on the individual who has had that experience. It really is a powerful way to get some of our key messages across,” Alla Keogh, Head of People and Performance at MYOB. Read more about MYOB’s programme here.
Time to get immersive
Clearly, as an emerging technology, the use of VR will evolve and affect the workplace and employee lives in varying ways. The first step for HR teams should be to familiarise themselves with the technology, its uses and benefits. There are a wealth of VR articles and knowledge hubs on the web. Equally, if VR is being used in your company, reach out to your L&D, innovation, R&D, Product and marketing teams and be part of the VR adoption culture.
If you’re in HR and want to learn more about VR in learning, feel free to get in touch with us – we’d be delighted to share our experiences.