A reality check for organisational training – unlocking the power of VR/AR

by Louise Liu VR/AR specialist


+44 7701 297247

Transformation is a fact of daily life for business and organisations, not just a buzzword. It's triggered by sudden crises, new competition, technological change, global opportunities, or simply the recognition that the world is rapidly changing around them - and they risk being left behind. These major change initiatives can be complex, cumbersome and costly. But they don't have to be that way - they can create new spaces for possibility—in markets, in operating models, and in employees’ hearts and minds – that yields profitable growth and breakthrough-level improvements.

 This is the first in a series of blogs we’ll be writing over the next few months, shining a light on the multitude of enterprise applications of virtual reality (VR)/augmented reality (AR). I’m part of a dedicated VR/AR team at PwC which focuses on helping our clients discover and unlock the benefits of these emerging technologies across their organisations. You may be thinking what a lot of our clients say when we tell them about our VR/AR capabilities: We didn’t know you did that! We see this a lot and not only do we have the expertise, we also have two dedicated VR/AR labs in London where we help clients discover the technology and devise their business cases. And we can help your organisation too.

I recently attended the HTC Vive developer mixer day in London and it was encouraging to hear that the VR community is seeing more and more organisations grasp the potential of VR/AR to solve a wide range of their problems. This in turn is fuelling more investment.  

I want to focus this blog on one of the most prevalent enterprise applications: organisational training. From health and safety to medical and behavioural training we are helping more and more of our clients explore and apply immersive VR/AR technology to energise and improve their people’s learning and development. And it can be applied to all industries.

But to understand why VR/AR is so useful to organisational training, let’s take a step back and remind ourselves of what they do.

Virtual reality and augmented reality connect and engage people at deeper, more meaningful levels and the technology creates entirely new ways for people to experience the world around them. More specifically:

  • Virtual reality immerses users in a computer-generated 3D environment where spatial data, such as the data that produces a rendering of a building or a product design, becomes more real and actionable.
  • Augmented reality presents aspects of reality that can be enhanced and explained with virtual content. The result is a digital overlay on the physical world to present information in context with that environment.

Most of us are aware of the 70:20:10 learning and development model which states that 70% of what people learn comes from challenging assignments, 20% from developmental relationships and 10% from coursework and training. VR/AR really plays in the 70% space because it gives us the ability to simulate challenging situations where team members can learn from mistakes, watch others’ reactions and fail in a safe environment. VR/AR offers us four key benefits when applied to organisational training:


More memorable

When we look at the goals of organisational training - to prepare people for unexpected or dangerous situations and to change behaviours - memory and recall are important factors. Research shows that memory and recall are improved when there is increased multisensory and emotional input. When people are in a VR experience they feel like something is actually happening to them and they are forced to engage and react. It’s more powerful and meaningful than video because people are immersed in the actual situation. For example, VR can place people in a work situation and allow them to observe other people’s thoughts and reactions to that particular situation. By putting themselves in other people’s shoes, the viewers gain a richer experience which increases empathy, and ultimately memory and recall.


Increased engagement

Virtual reality allows users to be fully immersed in the training, without any distractions. In face-to-face or video-based training, users can talk to colleagues, stare out the window or check their phones (and often do) which distracts them from the learning experience. A virtual reality headset prevents outside distractions and as long as the user is comfortable, they will stay engaged and most likely remember more of the key elements. Additionally our emotional response to stimuli in virtual reality is much closer to what we would experience in real life situations and it’s a whole lot of fun. We see dramatically increased levels of engagement when teams go through our VR experience. Participants are transported to the year 2030 and walk through the city of the future where they experience a range of disruptions which could be everyday normality by this time.


Reduced risk

VR offers a safe and effective environment to conduct stressful or dangerous training, allowing trainees to safely make mistakes and gain experience which is close to real life. This is extremely valuable in jobs where exposure to dangerous situations is a daily occurrence. For example the UK Army uses VR to help train soldiers for environments that are expensive, dangerous or complex to simulate in other ways, such as parachute jumps and bomb disposals. Medical students are using VR/AR to participate in operations and apply learned information without putting patients at risk. And VR is also being applied to help people overcome their phobias by slowly exposing them to the anxieties underlying their phobias. In fact, any stressful situation can be turned into a safe VR experience - from seeing a spider to dealing with heights or a difficult customer.


Lower costs

VR can negate the need to bring large groups together for face-to-face offsite training events or investments in complex or expensive training centres. Participants can even perform the learning from their own desks. For example, consider a virtual oil refinery allowing engineers to practice carrying out procedures without spending time and money on travel or losing revenue if part of the operation needs to be closed for training. From the perspective of on-the-job training, AR headsets and mobile devices can be used to enable senior personnel to see through the eyes of operational staff. They can guide them through procedures more effectively by highlighting items in the real world environment through a digital overlay and therefore reduce the cost of complex training which would otherwise have to be performed outside of commercial projects. This means more time can be spent on projects that offer value.

It’s clear that VR/AR offers the potential to revolutionise organisation training. It offers a cost-effective way to provide better learning outcomes than traditional training methods. Participants can get closer to real-life experiences and hone techniques for managing difficult or dangerous situations.

Getting started is less difficult than you may think. Start by discovering your training requirements and goals, then devise your business case and finally develop and deploy your solution. And we can help you get started on your journey.

by Louise Liu VR/AR specialist


+44 7701 297247