For many, it’s hard to envision the role of the metaverse in learning and development (L&D) without having experienced it themselves. However, given the potential, it’s important to understand how organizations are leveraging the metaverse for advantage.
At its most basic, the metaverse is the blending of the physical and digital worlds. It’s an extended reality space that becomes its own digital world through virtual and augmented reality technology. A “ third place ” – beyond work and home. For companies, whether it’s the way they interact with consumers or the way that they train and develop and interact with their people, there’s going to be this third place. A digital environment that is a library of knowledge and provides immersive learning experiences for L&D teams to learn, have new experiences, and connect as well as better position the organization for success in an increasingly on-line, real-time, all-the-time world.
With this, there is a growing awareness that immersive training in the metaverse improves outcomes and saves money in onboarding and upskilling. For example, with a headset on for 20 to 25 minutes and the ability to learn by doing, you’re getting the same outcome as a person watching a video or being in meetings for hours. With a faster time to develop new competencies and the confidence to perform as well as an impressive ROI, it is clear training in the metaverse is an important strategy to attract and retain talent, better manage change, improve business outcomes, etc. as indicated by the following examples –
A. Augmented Reality Glasses in a manufacturing environment provide instructions to a person in the assembly of a product.
B. Instead of putting people in front of 2D videos where they’re answering questions or just clicking boxes, the metaverse shows them what a job is like in advance and enables the employer to gauge employee’s readiness for their new responsibilities.
This is similar to the way flight simulators prepare pilots for flying an aircraft – whereby experience in the metaverse better prepares people for new tasks and opportunities.
The Academy, Bank of America’s onboarding, training, and development organization, was built for its employees with traditional learning experiences and capable expert trainers. Five years ago, when The Academy was still relatively new, program feedback would in many cases indicated – “ We want more practice ” says John Jordan, Managing Director of The Academy. Further, he indicated “ It didn’t matter if it was practice using technology, practice having difficult conversations, or practice opening up an account for a client ”.
With this insight, the B of A started leveraging technology to create a third space for practice environments. Beyond client-facing technology and AI coaches that prepare employees to communicate with clients, the Bank of America was the first financial services firm to launch virtual training programs in its 4,300 retail financial centers.
The VR space “ is where we want to have the most real, immersive learning experience for the most important interactions that we have ” says Jordan. “ Those can be important interactions because they’re high risk or they are sensitive conversations with clients where people want to practice interactions before they happen ”. The Academy has launched about 30 VR learning modules, from conversations with a client or employee to de-escalating situations. “ It creates a level of retention that you just can’t get anywhere else ” Jordan says. “ It makes them feel more confident when they’re having tough situations or conversations that they may not have ever had before ”.
Based on research in medical training, information retention rates can reach 80 % after a full year of training through immersive simulated experiences compared to just 20 % for traditional training. “ People are picking it up faster and are much more comfortable performing their tasks after going through the simulation ” Jordan says. “ It’s incredibly powerful ”.
In situations where you need to practice empathy or deal with more soft skills — that many new employees are lacking (despite increased amounts of education) — “ Those interactive type situations are the ones that I’ve seen to be most effective ” Jordan says.
When they first piloted the program in 2019, 97 % of participants felt more comfortable performing their tasks after VR training. “ It’s the first time you hear people say – I can’t wait to take the new training ’” Jordan says. “ They’re really engaged with it ”.
In addition, offering VR programs from onboarding and follow up training is a great way to increase the retention of new skills and to attract top talent. “ Virtual reality is just the start ” Jordan says. “ As we continue our L&D initiatives, we expect to learn a lot ”.
Jordan says that if anyone’s considering how VR can play a role in their L&D program, he’d encourage them to “ Take the leap and explore slowly integrating how to upskill employees ”. He still vividly remembers the first three-minute lesson he had in the metaverse. “ If I hadn’t done it myself, I don’t think I would have been quite as passionate about it ” Jordan says. “ I was just immediately convinced that there’s a real future here ”.
“ If you’re a leader, you should put your toe in the water to explore how far virtual reality and augmented reality technology has come ” Jordan says. “ It is getting better and faster and more impactful every day ”.
Looking to the future, Jordan says The Academy has a VR headset in every financial center in the U.S. In addition to the current modules, they’re exploring VR programs for mental health, helping people relax, empathy training, diversity and inclusion, etc.
While Jordan says there will always be value in real face-to-face interactions and actual handshakes, he doesn’t want to rule out the possibility of every employee having a VR device as new generations grow up with the technology. The Academy expects to have a million practice sessions over simulated learning experiences by 2023 — Jordan sees it as a million opportunities to get better. “ We’ve created this environment where we have a giant library with a place where you can go practice and hone your skills ” Jordan says. “ It will enable us to better perform for clients, expand personnel opportunities, and have a much more flexible workforce going forward ”.
To summarize, AR and VR technology and the metaverse enable organizations to eXtend Reality (XR) to –
- fast track learning and understanding
- make it easy to “ explore ” and “ Innovate ”
- have more ways to engage, inform, entertain, etc.
- deliver new and better experiences
- make new connections – in the physical and virtual worlds
- improve processes
- expand opportunities
- be a more entrepreneurial , opportunistic, agile organization
- better manage change
- improve outcomes
- reduce risk associated with change and to evolve the organization
- be better positioned to attract and retain top talent