Virtual Reality Could Help Develop Soft Skills

CLOs can use virtual reality broadly and strategically for employee development, including training for soft skills.
Multiethnic Business team using virtual reality headset in night office meeting Developers meeting with virtual reality simulator around table in creative office.

Virtual reality in its current form has been proved to work well in industries where special technical training is needed. It’s beginning to flourish in industries such as construction, manufacturing, health care, retail and the military. But as this emerging technology becomes more ingrained in our lives, it’s an ideal time to consider how it can be used more broadly and strategically for employee development.

One tantalizing possibility for the future of virtual reality training is in the area of soft skills. Anders Gronstedt of digital training consultancy The Gronstedt Group said VR not only allows people to step into another world but also lets them walk a mile in the shoes of another person.

“VR has been hailed as the ultimate empathy machine,” he said. “Softer skills training just requires a bit more thoughtfulness and creativity in how to apply it.”

Gronstedt said while it’s not being used in this kind of training so far, there has been extensive research proving it’s a powerful way to teach empathy for others.

At Deloitte, Principal and General Manager of ConnectMe Michael Gretczko said their studies of the future of work point to the increasing need for interpersonal skills. “This idea of sensitizing people to biases, to the way that we interpret an inclusive environment, the way we interact with others who may have different skills in the multigenerational workforce — those skills are pervasive and stand the test of time.”

He said VR and AR can help build those core capabilities and create a more inclusive and engaged workforce. Much diversity and inclusion training in its current form has little to no effect and can in fact be counterproductive, added Gronstedt, but adding VR to the mix just might help.

Ave Rio is a Chief Learning Officer associate editor. Comment below or email editor@CLOmedia.com

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