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Use VR in onboarding and set your new hires for success

Explore how, as an HR professional, you can utilize virtual reality (VR) to improve your onboarding process and learn about some real-life examples along the way. Ultimately, grow new hire engagement, information retention and job performance through immersive learning and realistic job simulations.

Keith MacKenzie
Keith MacKenzie

Passionate about human resources, employment, and business management, and an expert at sharing that expertise.

vr in onboarding

Imagine: you’ve just gotten word that Miriam is excited to accept your job offer for a high-intensity customer-facing role in your company. Next up is her onboarding – which you know from experience factors hugely in the overall employee engagement and performance.

And, of course, your hiring team is leaning on you to ensure the onboarding and orientation process goes absolutely perfectly.

But, there’s a but: Miriam is one of two dozen new hires starting that week because you’re scaling operations as a company. That puts you in a bit of a pickle. You just don’t have the bandwidth to ensure a smooth onboarding for Miriam and all her new colleagues – so you’re looking at potential problems in the future: Miriam gets thrown to the wolves in her first week on the job, gets disgruntled and frazzled, and starts tuning out pretty quickly afterwards.

Next? She turns to Glassdoor and starts looking again – and even gripes anonymously about the poor experience she had when she was initially pumped about her new job. And that goes for many of the other new hires as well.

Cue frustrated hiring managers, understaffed teams, and an overall stressful working environment for your existing employees who then hit burnout at a time when it could have been avoided.

How do you avoid all that? As an HR professional, you’re always searching for innovative ways to improve the onboarding process. With all the new technology out there, have you considered adding virtual reality to the mix?

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Virtual onboarding

VR is no longer the stuff of science fiction and it hasn’t been for a long time. Also referred to as “immersion technology”, VR can be a real boon to your onboarding process. Think about it – rather than plunk Miriam in front of a laptop and telling her she needs to watch a series of videos, you’re putting her in a virtual working environment to get her familiarized with the job before she’s actually doing it.

Those interactive experiences help new hires like Miriam feel welcomed and better informed about the work they’re going to do for you.

The power of information retention

Those first few weeks for a new hire can be overwhelming. As a new hire, you can be bombarded with all kinds of information – you’re meeting new people, learning new systems and entering a new culture. You’ve having meetings one after the next, training with different teams, and reading up on numerous policies and best practices.

This can lead to information overload at a crucial time where you want to ensure new employees retain all that information if they’re going to succeed. That’s where VR can be useful. Immersive learning has been found to be more efficient in terms of memory retention – a University of Maryland study found that VR learners demonstrated an 8.8% higher recall accuracy compared to those using a two-dimensional platform.

Improved retention also means better job performance. A PwC study revealed that employees trained with VR were up to 275% more confident in applying learned skills, and were four times faster in completing training than those in the traditional classroom setting.

A holodeck for training purposes

Star Trek’s holodeck is a perfect example of how immersive technology can be used to train new hires – in Star Trek, it’s used as a safe environment for combat training and scientific simulation. The same thinking applies to VR’s capabilities to create realistic job simulations for your new employees.

And while Star Trek is science fiction, there are real-life examples of this. For instance, retail giant Walmart has embraced VR to train over one million employees across its stores.

Andy Trainor, Walmart’s Senior Director of Walmart U.S. Academies, is a fan of virtual onboarding. “The great thing about VR,” he says, “is its ability to make learning experiential. When you watch a module through the headset, your brain feels like you actually experienced a situation.”

You’ve probably heard about Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States. It’s an intense time for customer support representatives, especially newer, inexperienced ones. To counter the challenge, Walmart has a VR training scenario simulating that environment to prep new and existing employees ahead of time.

That controlled and risk-free environment helps employees practice customer service, problem-solving and safety procedures without fear of consequence, ultimately making them better at the job when the time comes.

Likewise, Farmers Insurance developed a VR training program for their claims adjusters. The program immerses trainees in a virtual environment simulating real-world situations, such as inspecting damaged properties.

This approach to training has enabled Farmers Insurance to accelerate the learning process, improve knowledge retention, and better prepare their claims adjusters for the challenges they’ll face on the job. By leveraging the capabilities of immersive learning solutions, your organization can also unlock the full potential of VR technology in onboarding and orientation.

Being the ‘new kid’ isn’t easy

Working is often collaborative. Consequently, it’s a priority for many hiring teams to build strong working relationships from the get-go.

But for the new hire like Miriam, being introduced to all those unfamiliar names and faces (and roles) can become overwhelming during an already stressful first few weeks on the job. Couple that with the drive to make a strong impression, and it can be a highly anxious time.

VR can address that even before the first day on the job. Immersing the new hire in a virtual working environment which includes ‘introductions’ to their new colleagues helps a new hire familiarize themselves ahead of time. Ice is broken, new connections are built, and new relationships start forming even before they physically arrive for work on the first day.

It’s a virtual solution

As an HR professional, incorporating VR tech into your onboarding and orientation processes can boost the new employee experience.

By offering immersive learning, realistic job simulators and connectivity boosters, you’re priming your new hires such as Miriam to hit the ground running more quickly. That’s more valuable especially in sectors where you’re onboarding in large batches or hiring for higher-stress working environments.

There’s just one caveat – don’t let VR do all the work. There are two balances to bear in mind: first, as with all technologies, you still should maintain the all-important human touch as you scale your tech stack. Second, keep your tech evolution in tandem with your organization’s specific needs and objectives. Don’t let one get ahead of the other.

With the right approach, virtual reality can transform the way you welcome and integrate new employees into your team, creating a more engaged, connected and confident workforce. Newly hired prodigies like Miriam will realize their full potential quicker than before – and your company will reap the benefits.

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