How Virtual Reality Training Can Help Improve Diversity and Inclusion in the WorkplaceWritten by Madisyn Villamil
Many companies are starting to realize how virtual reality training can help improve diversity and inclusion by fostering empathy, breaking down social barriers, and building an accepting workplace.
Diversity and inclusion have become increasingly critical workplace factors for employees. Two out of three job candidates seek employers with a diverse workforce. Employers with more diverse workforces have also been shown to perform better financially.
As recent research reveals the ineffectiveness of traditional DEI training, companies are turning to virtual reality as a powerful tool to enhance their DEI programs. In this post, we’ll explore the challenges of traditional DEI training and how virtual reality training can help improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Then we’ll dive into our tips for delivering DEI training in VR.
The Challenges of Traditional DEI Training
Difficult to Scale
As a company grows, traditional classroom-style training becomes increasingly challenging to scale. It becomes difficult to accommodate a growing number of employees in a single session and give sensitive and critical topics like DEI the appropriate time and resources. L&D teams are being challenged to find flexible, scalable DEI training solutions that keep learner engagement in mind.
Little Emotional Connection
Traditional classroom-style training and e-learning often fail to foster a strong emotional connection between learners and the training content. When it comes to DEI training, a crucial factor is evoking learner emotions to build empathy.
Classroom settings may not provide a safe and inclusive environment for employees to openly discuss their thoughts and emotions. E-learning, while convenient, often lacks a personalized touch, and many employees simply click their way through online learning modules without being fully engaged in the content.
Solidifies Biases in Some Circumstances
Although DEI training aims to promote inclusivity and break down biases, it can unintentionally solidify biases in some circumstances. When organizations approach DEI training in a self-serving or half-hearted way, employees may become guarded, and biases may be reinforced rather than dismantled.
This can occur when DEI training lacks authenticity, meaningful engagement, and a safe space to practice skills and have open discussions. In these instances, employees may become resentful of DEI training and feel their company is performing it as a “box-ticking” exercise.
Employees May Feel Uncomfortable
Some employees may feel uncomfortable engaging in hands-on learning exercises like skills-practice role plays, for fear of making a mistake or saying the wrong things in front of their colleagues. This fear of failure and judgment can hinder their engagement and participation in the training. Companies should provide a welcoming, inclusive, and psychologically safe environment where employees can express their thoughts, practice their skills, and overcome their fears.
How Virtual Reality Training Can Help Improve Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace
VR training is revolutionizing how organizations deliver engaging and effective DEI training to create real change in the workplace. Immersive learning has emerged as a highly effective way to build soft skills, including those needed to build a team that values diversity and cultivates a culture of inclusivity.
One of the most significant benefits of VR for DEI training is total immersion in the learning environment. When learners put on a VR headset, they are completely shut off from the distractions around them and transported to an entirely new, simulated environment. This total immersion creates an ideal environment for learners to emotionally connect with the learning content and participate in life-like role plays, simulations, 360-degree video, and more.
Total immersion has proven effective in creating an emotional connection to learning content. PwC recently conducted a study on managers across 12 different U.S. locations. The participants completed a training session on inclusive leadership in three modalities: classroom-style learning, e-learning, and VR.
The VR learners were 3.75 times more emotionally connected to the content compared to classroom learners. Three-quarters of the participants surveyed said that during the VR course on diversity and inclusion, they had a “wake-up call” moment and realized they needed to improve their inclusivity.
Virtual reality effectively builds empathy, a critical skill for employees when fostering an inclusive work environment. Simulations and 360-degree videos allow employees to “walk a mile” in someone else’s shoes.
Many people may not understand what it’s like to be on the other side of DEI situations, and that’s where VR comes in. For example, a young employee can go through a simulation as an elderly employee and experience age-based discrimination. By actively participating in the simulation, they experience firsthand some of the emotions those on the other side of DEI situations may feel. This builds empathy, encouraging employees to actively contribute to a more inclusive workplace.
Safe Space for Skills Practice
VR offers a safe environment for employees to practice soft skills that will contribute to a DEI-supportive workplace. In other learning formats, learners may feel they are “put on the spot” and shy away from being authentic due to the social anxieties and fear of judgment.
VR allows learners to explore sensitive topics and practice having challenging conversations. In a VR simulation, an employee can practice responding to conversations or social situations where microaggressions or biases may exist. Simulations can also help learners recognize and practice ways to be an ally to individuals or communities that experience systemic bias in the workplace.
The emotional safety net of VR leads to more authentic responses, making the learning experience more impactful and memorable. By providing a nurturing and inclusive learning environment, VR enables employees to learn by doing. This leads to better learning outcomes and lasting behavioral change.
Edstutia’s VR-enhanced learning module, Propelling Diversity, includes real-time coach-led reflection and safe environments to practice DEI scenarios. This allows learners to analyze pain points and barriers to develop a DEI mindset.
VR creates space for open and empathetic dialogue. This works best in facilitated sessions immediately following VR training, where participants can come together to reflect on their shared experiences in VR. To catalyze discussions, L&D teams and DEI training experts can use 360-degree video, simulations, and other VR tools.
Facilitators can enable these discussions by encouraging participants to share their emotional responses, reflect on their reactions, and exchange insights. This honest and open discussion allows employees to learn from others’ viewpoints and collectively discuss how they can contribute to a more inclusive culture. VR’s ability to promote open dialogue around DEI is a powerful tool for driving lasting change.
Tips for Delivering DEI Training in VR
Organizations can create powerful DEI learning experiences with virtual reality. However, designing and delivering DEI training in VR requires strategic planning, design, and implementation to be effective. Here are our three tips for delivering impactful DEI training in VR.
Partner with a VR Instructional Design Expert
Instructional design is vastly different for VR training compared to other training methods. In order to get the most out of your VR training, learning experiences should leverage the full immersion, sense of space, and learning-by-doing approach that VR offers.
A VR instructional design expert can help you leverage the benefits and tools of VR. They can also help you design learning experiences tailored to your organization’s culture and pain points. Generic DEI training isn’t as impactful and can come off as insincere or disingenuous. By partnering with an expert, you can ensure your VR-enhanced DEI training experiences are designed with actionable, authentic, and engaging content that resonates with learners and allows them to actively apply DEI principles.
Edstutia’s VR-enhanced learning module, Propelling Diversity, takes place in our fully immersive VR campus and was designed by DEI and VR learning experts. Our module helps organizations create a DEI strategy that enables employee empowerment and engagement. Whether you want to improve company profitability and talent retention through DEI initiatives or encourage inclusive and equitable workplace behaviors for the long term, Propelling Diversity can help you achieve best-in-class DEI outcomes.
Ensure Equitable Access
VR training is easy to scale for remote and geographically dispersed employees compared to other training methods. However, you’ll want to ensure your training program complies with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Compliance with WCAG and ADA will help you deliver learning experiences that fit employees’ various physical, cognitive, auditory, and visual needs. Therefore, you can ensure accessibility for all learners and contributes to building an equitable and inclusive learning culture at your organization.
VR is providing new ways to measure learning impact. VR learning metrics can be seamlessly integrated into an instructor’s dashboard. Instructors can measure progress and repetition, eye and body movement, voice analysis, decision-making, and more. These metrics allow instructors to evaluate learner progress and confidence to provide real-time coaching and feedback.
Another way to measure the impact and success of your VR-enhanced DEI training is to survey employees afterwards. Using surveys will help you further measure your training program’s effectiveness and impact. Ultimately, learners must have the confidence to use their DEI-related skills in the workplace.
All the feedback you receive via learning metrics and surveys will allow you to identify areas for improvement. After all, DEI training is not a one-and-done effort. You should always seek to improve the quality and impact of your training.
How Virtual Reality Training Can Help Improve Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace: Wrap-Up
Many organizations are realizing how virtual reality training can help improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Forward-thinking companies are leveraging the benefits of immersive learning to take their DEI training beyond moving the diversity conversation forward and creating actionable skills to move people forward.
Edstutia’s VR-Enhanced Learning Module, Propelling Diversity, builds empathy through hands-on learning experiences and enables learners to develop DEI skills and insights. Contact Edstutia today to learn how we can help you foster an empowering and inclusive workplace with VR training.