3 Times Your Company Shouldn’t Invest in Virtual Reality

Does Virtual Reality (VR) feel like a hot new business buzzword? Does your gut tell you it’s a fad that will go the same way as other tech-driven answers to a myriad of Human Resource issues, where they seem to have forgotten the human?

It may be time for a gut-check. Training via VR is still in its infancy in many respects, and yet its business use is exploding. The velocity of adoption could quickly leave any organization behind that isn’t currently analyzing a Reality-based training or onboarding strategy.

Enterprise organizations are already engaged. A recent Harvard Business Review survey for Microsoft found that “87% of respondents are already exploring, piloting or deploying mixed reality in their company workflows.” Mid-tier business needs to be onboard to remain competitive.

Yet VR (and its Augmented and Mixed Reality counterparts) is, in reality, simply a tool. It is unlikely it will ever completely replace 1:1 coaching, or even facilitated group learning. To date, VR’s best training use is for memory-related processes, such as safety practices, instructive detail and knowledge transfer. It is gaining ground on other compliance training, like diversity/empathy and anti-harassment.

VR training is a tool with depth and a coolness that appeals and it proves its return in significantly improved learning retention data. In a recent University of Maryland study, 40% of participants scored at least 10% higher on recall tests after watching VR, compared to watching a video from a desktop. Researchers have also shown its immersive experience, and even the non-interrupted focus of being in a headset, better activates the brain’s memory centers.

As with any new technology, there are times when it is the right tool, and times when it is not. Here’s a look at the top three times it is not the right tool:

1. You are comfortable with the opportunity cost without VR. Consider the cost to your business for not getting in on Virtual Reality training. Can your company remain competitive when your competition may already have a VR strategy? How much can you save by getting employees trained faster for recall-related work? What does tomorrow look like for onboarding at your company? Does the cost benefit analysis for sticking with traditional training methods look better? If so, VR may not prove it can deliver the desired return-on-investment you want. But, are you sure?

2. You can accomplish the same KPIs with regular video. Business has a long and ahem, yawn-inducing history with video. It’s been embedded in PowerPoint for the last 25 years. eLearning via video is still an often used alternative to costly in-person training. We understand its Key Performance Indicators and often accept that learning took place by open rates and quiz responses. But check in on learning retention a week later, or even a day later. What does that recall look like? True, there are additional costs to produce training in VR. So, if you can deliver quality video, go for it. If you can make it less boring, do it! But if you need your employees to remember the learning, look into VR.

3. You want to appear cool, especially to attract the new “kids.” That’s never a good reason for business investment, is it? Certainly not without a business case justification. There’s no doubt that VR does have a cool factor. Ask (or watch) anyone who experiences it for the first time. Fact is, your targeted millennial and Gen Z prospects are more likely to respond positively and talk about your organization after visiting your company in VR or experiencing a VR onboarding session. So, the coolness factor just might be a justifiable reason. In context, of course. And today’s tight labor market just might be the context you need to consider.

Want to understand more about Business-In-Reality™? Check out our executive advisory workshop, “What’s Reality Got to Do with It: The Opportunity Cost of Immersive Tech.”

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