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This year has already been a transformative one for the workplace, and skills development and learning initiatives have never been more important. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, managers had to quickly develop the skills necessary to lead remote workers while employees needed to learn new ways to communicate and collaborate remotely. The protests following George Floyd’s murder also sparked change in the workplace, highlighting the many ways that racism still affects work environments. Overcoming this requires a skills development approach as well—albeit a very different one: Businesses are looking to upgrade their D&I initiatives with tools that encourage behavioral changes and more effectively address workforce biases.   

Meanwhile, as the need to gain new knowledge grows, skills gaps are widening across industries. The World Economic Forum estimates that nearly 35% of the top skills needed in jobs today will change by the end of this year. Worse, many companies are still using ineffective, traditional learning formats to address this issue. 

Luckily, alternative and more innovative options have emerged. Many are turning to extended reality (XR) solutions: technologies that use computer graphics and wearables to create altered realities for training purposes. Through simulated interactions and scenarios, employees engage in experiential learning—and so far, this method has been highly effective in providing employees with the skills necessary for the future of work. 

Making the Switch to XR-Based Learning 

Extended reality (XR) refers to all real and virtual combined environments generated by computer technology and wearables, like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). These technologies are an effective mechanism for L&D programs thanks to their use of experiential learning. In fact, today’s businesses and corporations are adopting these capabilities at a rapid rate: In 2018, the enterprise virtual reality (VR) training market generated about $216 million—a number that’s expected to grow to about $6.3 billion by 2022.

Talespin is one such company: This spatial computing company offers XR-based workforce training programs. And over the past decade, Talespin has witnessed the increase in XR use cases and interest. 

By simply putting on a headset, Talespin’s XR technology transports users into simulations where they can practice or learn new skill sets. It can be used to train employees on process-oriented capabilities as well as behavioral ones: For instance, hospitals can use XR to help physicians learn new procedures and develop a better bedside manner. 

Other companies are making the switch to XR because they can no longer afford traditional L&D training methods—especially with today’s widening skills gaps and increasingly volatile business markets. XR is more cost-efficient, requires less time and is more productive than classroom-based seminars or online training modules.   

“VR-based training is more reliable than traditional learning and development in terms of effectiveness because it teaches via experiential learning. This means it teaches through experiences, and those experiences become memories, and those memories stick with us, affect our worldview and help us learn,” said Kyle Jackson, the CEO of Talespin.  

And there’s research to prove it: According to a recent study by PwC, VR-trained employees completed trainings up to four times faster than classroom learners and one and a half times faster than online learners. The same study found that VR learners were 275% more confident to act on what they had learned during training, which leads to better knowledge retention. 

For Soft Skills Training, Use XR Technology  

The advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution has strengthened the case for XR-based learning. Our business world is filled with innovations that are drastically altering societal operations, like artificial intelligence, quantum computing and the internet of things. For instance, how employees communicate and collaborate with one another in the workplace has drastically changed. This new era has also ushered in cultural and societal changes that require a new kind of developmental approach: 

“Organizations today prioritize diversity and inclusion initiatives and employees prefer purpose-driven companies,” said Jackson. “Society has a new minimum viable set of behavioral standards that companies and employees must follow if they want to succeed.” 

For instance, innately human behaviors have become crucial: Companies need their employees to provide what can’t be automated, like emotional intelligence and active listening. These types of soft skills—which are now referred to  as ‘power skills’ by most companies—are also best taught via experiential learning methods. Behavioral changes are more likely to stick when learned through emotional experiences, which XR and VR-based methods create through simulated interactions with virtual characters. 

“Managers can work on their coaching skills through a mock one-on-one with a fake, virtual employee. Throughout the session, we’ll track everything about a users’ behavior, from their posture and tone of voice to their wording, to help us to determine how the fake employee should and would react. It’s our job to make sure the simulations mimic real life so that users not only remember the experience, but all of the human emotions attached to it.” 

Because these skills are less tangible and can be difficult to locate, companies have struggled to measure employees’ development of them. But with XR learning methods, like VR-based training, managers can examine simulation footage to see how employees’ soft skills are progressing, deliver helpful feedback and talk through any roadblocks. 

“If your employee is struggling to learn how to use emotional intelligence in the workplace, managers can use simulation footage to help them along. They can look at the interaction to decide what went well, what didn’t and ask questions like why did you think about that? Or, why was that the way you thought that was the way to deal with that situation?” 

 Not only does VR training promise productive power skills development, but it can reduce learning time as well: Talespin found that the amount of time it took employees to gain new skills was cut in half and the knowledge retention rates were two to three times as long among their users. 

In order to succeed in our new world of work, companies need to make sure their employees are always learning, and they’ll need to prioritize power skills as well. But amid widening skills gaps and increasingly volatile business markets, this is no small feat. Here, XR-based L&D programs can help. They can remove some of the pressure—not only are they more generative when teaching both hard and soft skills, but they’re cost-effective and better at keeping employees engaged. 


Learn more about Cornerstone’s recent partnership with the XR company Talespin here.