In our rapidly evolving landscape of remote work, leaders are challenged to foster effective communication, collaboration and engagement among geographically dispersed teams. One way to face this challenge is by using extended reality (XR), the combined use of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR).
VR technology: Bridging the gap with presence and play
Remote work enables companies to hire from a greater talent pool. Unfortunately, a remote staff often leads to isolation and disconnection. According to a 2022 Gartner study, only 25 percent of remote or hybrid workers feel connected to their company’s culture.
Leadership professor Benjamin Laker stated the following in a Forbes article: “Remote leaders may miss out on informal conversations and interactions that can help build relationships when everyone is situated in the same physical workspace. After all, communication over video calls can be arduous and less effective than face-to-face communication.”
VR technology creates a sense of presence by immersing team members in virtual environments. Once everyone is in one room, they can collaborate as if they were in the same physical location. Team members can make a physical connection — shake hands, create 3D objects and share observations.
Another compelling reason to use VR is its unique ability to foster “play.” Meeting as avatars can have a liberating effect and open doors to conversations about identity, belonging and community.
VR creates a level playing field as different generations and hierarchy levels mingle, explore and create memories together. As an Edstutia learner stated, you might not remember which square a colleague occupied on a virtual call, but you will remember who was running across the lawn towards the final scavenger hunt clue and cherish these team bonding memories.
VR and work-based learning
VR breaks down geographical barriers and facilitates a stronger remote team through its phygital nature, allowing physical interaction while affording all the conveniences of digital participation. This feature also enables an outstanding new learning modality.
If you oversaw developing the skills of a remote team, you used to have only two options. The first was to do in-person training in a central location. This costly option requires paying for flights, hotels, meals, training space and any additional team building activities.
The other was e-learning. While a good way to bring costs down, e-learning sessions lack engagement and hands-on experiences. Employees who are not engaged simply don’t learn the material.
VR brings a third option that bridges the gap between in-person and e-learning experiences. Through virtual simulations, interactive training modules and realistic scenarios, VR enables remote employees to acquire and retain knowledge effectively. Learning occurs by doing what you are taught rather than passively listening to directions.
The best application of VR in learning is through work-based scenarios. Edstutia’s Managing People training programs create realistic, immersive workplace simulations that are a safe space for making mistakes and building managerial muscle. Facing a challenge, receiving a learning intervention, reviewing performance with a facilitator or coach and seeing measurable performance improvement during VR-enhanced learning makes it a win-win for organizations as well as employees.
You may wonder how VR learning metrics stack up against in-person and online learning. According to PwC, VR learners train faster, are more focused during training, feel more emotionally connected to the content, and are more confident to use what they’ve learned.
Integrating VR: Tips for talent leaders
For talent leaders interested in leveraging VR technology within their organizations, there are several key considerations to keep in mind:
Assess organizational readiness: Understand the technological capabilities, resources and infrastructure needed to support VR implementation. Ensure the organization is ready to embrace the potential of VR technology and invest in the necessary equipment. Without company buy-in, training can be avoided or seen as a chore.
Is your company known for innovating internally? Your employees may be better prepared for updates to the training program. If you’ve been using the same training program and style for a long time, you may have to make gradual changes. Does your IT department include somebody who understands immersive technology? If not, you may need to add that person to your team so you are prepared to handle any technical problems that may arise.
Choose suitable VR tools and platforms: Explore different VR tools and platforms available in the market and select those that align with the organization’s goals, budget and remote team requirements. The main expense a company sees is the headset purchase for all employees. With the benefits of scale, convenience, employee engagement and retention, many companies are embracing VR headsets as a must-have while onboarding new employees along with their standard company-issued phones and laptops.
The next step is to figure out the software. You’ll need a platform for your employees to gather. You can build your own or sign up to a service like Edstutia. Service providers will come with their own simulations, live workshops and other offerings. Be sure to consider factors such as ease of use, compatibility and support for collaboration features. Also consider where your organization needs support in deploying VR – is it for design, development, delivery or all the above?
Blend VR with existing L&D initiatives: While VR is exciting, it’s new and different. Even when you have agreement to add VR, it doesn’t mean all training must shift to 100 percent in an VR environment. Integrate VR experiences into existing L&D programs to create a blended learning approach. Your sessions could begin on a traditional virtual conference platform like Zoom, where you explain the focus of the lesson and introduce learning concepts or frameworks that will be practiced in VR. To cement the concept, you can then move the lesson to VR for a prepared simulation or predetermined live instructor-led training activity. Combining virtual experiences with traditional training methods offers a comprehensive and engaging learning environment for remote team members.
Address challenges: Understand the potential challenges that may arise during VR implementation, such as technical issues, user adoption and accessibility. Develop strategies to overcome these challenges and provide necessary training and support to remote team members.
Be mindful of differences and limitations of emerging technologies in being inclusive. Meta has introduced Virtual Reality Checks, which is a good starting point for accessibility. At Edstutia, our accessibility audit led to a recent ADA and 508 accessibility-compliant platform update. VR has immense potential in terms of inclusive learning across multiple intelligences- visual, auditory, spatial, and interpersonal. It behooves us as talent leaders to make sure this emerging technology serves the purpose of opening doors.
By leveraging immersive experiences, VR enables remote team members to connect on a deeper level, fostering a sense of presence and shared experiences. Through virtual simulations and interactive training, VR also revolutionizes remote team L&D initiatives, providing experiential learning opportunities at scale. By embracing VR technology, talent leaders can build connected, productive and engaged remote teams in the digital age.