Soft Skills Training: Why Virtual Reality Immersion is the Best MethodWritten by JC Gonzalez
Soft skills training is now recognized among the most important programs companies can offer their employees. Businesses today say the top qualities they look for in new hires are related to soft skills. And as technology becomes more adept at the “hard skills,” work is shifting to focus on the human characteristics. A Deloitte report forecasts that soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030.
Work Is Changing
Machines Are Handling More “Hard Skills”
Computers have been evolving since their early days and today, even the theory of doubling memory and processor speed per year is no longer true. Artificial intelligence is learning at such a rapid rate today that growth occurs much faster.
In offices, machines do all the number crunching without command. Employees can then interpret data at any time. Even Excel, the most common spreadsheet program in use across the world, is now capable of interpreting what you enter in a cell and make recommendations that apply to the entire sheet. It does this by understanding not only your patterns but how they relate to the patterns of others.
In manufacturing, robots have been in use for decades. Processes become more automated and result in higher output, fewer mistakes, and less human personnel.
In some areas, the best human jobs are technicians in charge of keeping automation working as intended. So it doesn’t necessarily mean that more people are out of jobs. The job functions just shift to who builds and monitors these machines, and thus the need for a strong technical skill set.
Even tasks often attributed to creative minds are being assigned to artificial intelligence, but it’s debatable whether this is ethical or not. These are only a few examples:
Putting words to paper has always been considered part of what makes us human. Long before computers existed, human beings taught younger generations through stories told by elders. Professional writing came later with the ability to print and duplicate written works. As the business world rose, came marketing and with it, copywriting. Today, applications like Jasper and CopyAI create ad copy, social copy, even short blog posts.
Photoshop, Illustrator, and the other visual graphics applications that are part of the Adobe Creative Suite are considered the top applications for graphic professionals. Many now use services like Canva because they have a shorter learning curve. Then, there are AI design tools like DesignsAI and Tailor Brands that can design logos and other designs – even create videos.
Machines Can’t Handle Soft Skills
If machines are strongest with “hard skills,” human beings continue to be the best solution for soft skills. A computer does not have empathy. It can’t listen to another employee’s reason for not coming in to work. Artificial intelligence cannot determine the best course of action during a customer complaint based on that customer’s mood.
Employers today realize the importance of soft skills when hiring. 63% of employers say they would be willing to hire someone with transferable soft skills and train them on the technical aspects of the job.
Soft skills include but are not limited to:
- Making decisions
- Time management
Jobs with soft skills at their core include:
- Customer service agent
- Child care provider
- Human resource specialist
- Learning & development specialist
Are These Skills Actually “Soft”?
With so much emphasis on soft skills, it’s time to work out a way of removing the stigma attached to them.
The assumption for years was that soft skills were somehow less important than hard skills. Hard skills were associated with the skills businesses needed because they were directly associated with measurable business results (i.e., sales). This belief is flawed.
If your top sales person is a superb conversationalist who never makes customers feel pressured to buy but instead becomes the person they want to do business with, is he not most reliant on soft skills for the sale?
What about a chief financial officer who, when faced with tight cash flow, identifies areas of the business that can afford a budget cut with little negative effect internally or externally. Their creative problem-solving saves the company money and affords them the ability to make payroll.
Because of this negative connotation, along with how important the skills are when working in combination with what we believe to be hard skills, industry expert, Josh Bersin, coined the term “power skills” in an effort to fix the way we see soft skills.
“I hope we can throw away the idea of ‘soft skills’ and come to accept that developing Power Skills is hard, takes investment, and is now key to the future. Yes we need lots of engineers and scientists to succeed, but they need Power Skills too.“– Josh Bersin
Marketing guru and ultimate entrepreneur Seth Godin chooses to call them “real skills.” This is what he said on his own website regarding the topic:
“Let’s call them real skills, not soft… Real because even if you’ve got the vocational skills, you’re no help to us without these human skills, the things that we can’t write down, or program a computer to do.”– Seth Godin
Soft Skills Are Human
Here at Edstutia, we emphasize power skills across all of our corporate training. If “hard skills” are moving toward artificial intelligence, leaving human beings to focus on “soft skills,” then power skills can accurately be defined as human skills.
Let’s not stigmatize human skills. Instead, let’s focus on them and develop employees who can better understand other human beings. The question is then, how do we accomplish this?
Soft Skills Training Is Best in VR
A virtual reality environment is the best solution for soft skills training. Second to training under hazardous situations, soft skills training is the most common form of training requested in VR. Here are some of the reasons why immersive learning is so effective with soft skills training.
Drawbacks of Other Methods
For generations, this was the only way to conduct any training. You gather people in a classroom to discuss the topic, and give them the lesson. The benefit of meeting in a physical space is the ability to socialize and to hear others go through the same thought processes as you.
Of course, by training in-person, you need to hire trainers in multiple locations to teach people across geographical areas. The other option is to bear the costs of bringing everyone together. Even then, it may take several sessions due to scheduling conflicts.
As we moved corporate training to desktop computer environments, education became more one-sided. The interactivity of in-person training was lost in favor of watching professionally acted situations where people showed you what difficult conversations looked like or walked through proper communication procedures.
The flaw with this approach is that it uses modern technology while relying on an old-fashioned teaching model. Under this method, learners are only engaged enough to hear what is being said. They may need to memorize the information long enough to take a quiz at the end of the lesson.
Another online option is to get on Zoom or another online meeting platform. You could do this in small classes and create breakout rooms or you can hold a webinar to get the lesson across to everyone at once. At this point, we’ve all felt some level of Zoom fatigue in our professional lives and audience engagement may be low using this method.
Immersion Becomes Reality
Once inside a carefully crafted immersive experience, you leave your physical space behind emotionally.
Because a VR headset removes you from your physical space, your brain can disassociate itself and embrace the new world it’s now experiencing. Interactions with other participants become natural and you behave and communicate as if you were in the same room.
And in the case of soft skills training, your interactions with simulated characters become equally natural. Upset customers come right up to you. Problem-solving scenarios become more engaging than when presented via a computer screen. You can even deliver bad news to a lackluster employee and react to their emotions.
The Metaverse is a Safe Space to Make Mistakes
Because VR soft skills training occurs in a controlled metaverse, you have the ability to make mistakes without fear of repercussion or guilt. You can give the wrong answer to a simulated customer or make an insensitive comment during a difficult employee conversation training session. The only consequences are that you learn and try again.
More Efficient Training
Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience theory shows people retain only about 20% of what they read or hear. Traditional organizations tend to use repetition in their programs to get the point across. Virtual reality eliminates the concept of learning through repetitive reading and replaces it with interactive tasks. You are learning not by being told how to do something but rather by actually doing it.
Experiential learning, this “learn by doing” approach, has proven to be the key to why virtual reality immersion is the best method of soft skills training. Under this learning method, we retain up to 90% of the concepts we practice.
Better Learning Experience
The combination of these VR benefits – the feel of immersion, a space free of judgment, and more efficient training sessions – lead to employees walking away with a positive learning experience. Think back to any honest feedback you’ve received on training sessions and you’re likely to think of comments about the content being dry, long, or plain boring.
On the other hand, after going through immersive training, employees are excited about the process and confident about the skills they learned. A PWC survey found employees feel 275% more confident to put their skills to use after experiential training sessions in VR.
As trainers and business owners, this satisfaction in employees is what we should strive to achieve. Happy employees will represent your company best and lead to growth through the skills they’ve learned.
Expense Drops as You Grow
As with any new endeavor requiring hardware, you are going to have an expense on your hands. Some companies don’t upgrade their training because they fear this expense. It’s important you look at the whole project when reviewing ROI.
First, think of the money you’re saving by cutting training time by more than 50%. This may be a conservative number. Wal-Mart has publicly boasted how they cut down a training course from eight hours to only 15 minutes using VR.
Let’s address the actual purchase of headsets and other hardware you may need. The cost of headsets continues to drop. A single Oculus Quest headset will run $300 for a consumer. If you need 100 headsets to cover several employees and training facilities, that will be part of your initial expense.
Edstutia offers a headset rental program for potential corporate clients. This cuts down your research costs as you begin to experience the possibilities of VR yourself.
As your company grows and your training program scales, your investment will continue to pay off and new purchases will cost you less. Play for the long-term and you’ll find the expense is worthwhile, especially as you grow.
If your company is large enough to roll out at a bigger scale, you’ll see a better initial return on your investment when compared to classroom learning. VR training achieves cost parity with classroom learning at 375 learners, per PWC. Your program is 52% more cost-effective at 3,000 learners.
Soft Skills Training Wrap-Up
We cannot deny the importance of soft skills training today. Companies exist to solve human problems and employees have to work with other people to succeed. VR is the best way to offer soft skills training because of the many benefits of immersive learning.
Edstutia’s VR training solutions are designed around your needs. Training sessions can occur in our fully virtual campus – one of the first in the country – or in unique environments and experiences designed specifically for you and your team. Learn about our enterprise solutions and how Edstutia can improve your training program.