Employee training and development have long been top priorities for forward-thinking organizations. As continuously low unemployment rates drive increasingly fierce competition for talent, training and development are only growing even more indispensable.

Given that there are more open roles than unemployed workers, chances are your competitors are actively looking to recruit some of your top workers away. Training and development could be the keys to convincing them not to jump ship. According to a recent report from LinkedIn, 94 percent of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career.

This investment can take many forms — live instruction, massive open online courses, mentorships, etc. — but one method often goes overlooked: virtual reality (VR). However, more companies are beginning to see the power of a technology that allows for immersive training without the costs of travel, large-scale work disruptions, and other price tags often associated with training and development.

Here’s why your company may want to join the ranks of those employers adopting VR:

VR Provides a More Immersive Training Experience

We’re already seeing shifts to more online learning and less instructor-led training. According to LinkedIn, 59 percent of companies have grown their online learning budgets since 2017, compared to only 24 percent of organizations that have grown their instructor-led training budgets.

It’s easy to see why: Online training can provide significant cost savings on travel and instructors. However, the one drawback is that digital training often lacks the level of immersion offered by in-person training.

VR helps close that gap by allowing students to immerse themselves in full, three-dimensional environments without having to leave the office. A simulation-based approach to training can be far more engaging than the typical PowerPoint slides and videos of online training programs — and it can be more effective, too. According to one study, VR training participants retain knew knowledge longer than traditional training participants.

VR Fosters Empathy With Customers and Coworkers

Considered a vital soft skill, empathy can be a powerful factor in driving business success. While the research is still ongoing, early studies suggest VR can be an effective tool for cultivating more empathy. By placing individuals in situations where they get to experience another person’s perspective firsthand, VR allows people to reach a deeper understanding of what others may be going through.

There are a number of situations in which a more empathetic workforce would be beneficial to a company. For example, customer service work often requires a heavy dose of empathy. Simulated interactions with customers in VR — or even simulations of the experience of a customer — can help your workers better understand the needs of the people they serve.

What’s more, VR provides an opportunity for employees to interact with customers without any real stakes. This allows you to train employees without risking unfavorable interactions that could drive real-life customers away. With VR, the employee can practice their interactions many times, perfecting their processes before they ever see their first real customer.

For more expert HR insights, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

VR Builds Deeper Connections Between Remote Workers

The number of remote workers in the US increased 159 percent between 2005 and 2017, and it’s unlikely that growth will slow down any time soon. While remote work can help global enterprises and small startups alike reach a broader pool of talent, it does have its challenges. In particular, companies with dispersed teams may have a difficult time cultivating collaborative, connected cultures that promote innovation and teamwork.

VR can help by giving employees a chance to interact more meaningfully than they could via email, phone, and the occasional video call. Imagine how much more fruitful a brainstorming session could be if it took place in a simulated three-dimensional space where employees really felt like they were in the same room as one another.

VR Can Reduce Cost and Risk

As mentioned earlier, VR can deliver immersive training to employees without the associated costs of travel, hiring instructors, etc. But VR can also help companies save on risk.

In a VR simulation, employees can practice potentially dangerous scenarios and procedures with no risk of harming anyone or causing monetary damage to the company if things go south. Medical training, flight training, and more can be taught, practiced, and perfected in a totally safe environment.

As time goes on, my guess is that we will see VR play an increasingly crucial role in employee training and development. As this powerful medium proves itself cost-effective, safe, and efficient, more and more employers will likely adopt VR in their training programs. By investigating the option now, you position your company to be an early adopter that invests in its people. In a tight talent market, there may be no smarter move.

Greg Kihlström is president and chief experience officer at Cravety and the author of The Center of Experience.

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