While virtual reality technology has yet to find a market as a mainstream consumer product, it has begun to catch on as an enterprise learning tool, the Wall Street Journal’s Betsy Morris reported last week. According to the Journal, “businesses are taking to it for training in industries from construction to medicine to sports,” with executives saying custom VR software can offer a cheaper, safer, and more effective way to train new employees by immersing them in real-life work scenarios.
One major company going all-in on this technology is Walmart, which the Journal reports is planning to expand VR training to all 200 of its training centers this year after a successful pilot project. Tom Ward, a Walmart vice president, tells Morris that the retail giant is using VR to let trainees practice spotting problems in digital recreations of real stores, for example, or to give them a preview of what a holiday rush looks like.
At CEB (now Gartner), we have also found that learning and development professionals are increasingly seeing the potential of VR as a training vehicle. Our latest research on learning technology finds that it is the top learning channel where L&D professionals plan to invest most in the future (compared to 13 other learning channels such as e-learning modules, mobile learning, and learning portals). This data is particularly interesting since L&D professionals ranked VR lowest on adoption compared to other learning channels. CEB Learning & Development Leadership Council members can read the full research in our 2016 L&D Innovations Bullseye.
At Chief Learning Officer, Broadway producer, author, and learning technology expert Elliot Masie discusses the ways in which learners’ attitudes are changing. “Some of your learners,” Masie writes, “… may be showing new behaviors that look more like online dating”:
Your learners look at a learning offer and:
- Quickly give it a swipe left or a swipe right — keep it or let it go.
- Want to know, “Did other employees like this? Is it worth my time?”
- Say, “Hey, give me the good stuff; skip the fluff.”
Your learners are better guardians of your wage time than you. Set up a 75-minute webinar for every regional manager, and their attitude kicks in:
- “Is there really 75 minutes of new and valuable stuff?”
- “Could I watch the archived version, and skip to the few minutes of important info?”
- “Ah, let me order my lunch, check my emails, and have a side telephone call during this very long webinar.” …
Your learners have attitude because times are changing, and choices are getting more complex[.]
Masie’s observations align with something we at CEB found last year in our study on the Digital Learner, which CEB Learning and Development Leadership Council members can read here. Our research showed that while the making learning more fun and engaging does increase employees’ satisfaction with learning offerings, it does not always help them retain and apply what they learn. What the best L&D functions do is make the learning experience as effortless as possible: They make learning materials easy to find and readily applicable to employees’ day-to-day jobs as well as their future careers.
At the LSE Business Review, Ken Fireman stresses the increasing importance of global skills for leaders at multinational organizations:
As the world becomes ever smaller and more interconnected, the ability to train and manage an international workforce has become a key requirement for corporate success. But finding sufficient talent to handle this challenge can be a daunting task, one that requires careful planning and a significant commitment of resources. And it is not clear that business schools at U.S. universities are doing enough to meet the challenge by preparing the next generation of managers for life in this globalised environment.
The changing landscape is reflected in the sheer numbers of multinational corporations. There are now more than 100,000, up from 40,000 two decades ago, and they employ tens of millions around the globe. Some of the world’s best-known brands, such as Nestle and Honda, now have most of their operations and workforce outside their home country, which means more employees than ever are being sent on international assignments. Many multinationals are finding their greatest growth opportunities in countries outside the developed world, such as India, China and Brazil. …
But finding talent that meets this standard can be difficult, and the stakes are substantial. A survey of more than 800 U.S. companies in 2014 found that 86 percent said their overall business would grow if they had more staff with international experience, and 43 percent said it would increase a great deal.
A few years ago, CEB did some in-depth research into the qualities of effective global leadership. One of the most important findings of that study (which CEB Corporate Leadership Council members can read here) was that although not having intercultural skills can derail the success of global leaders, the competencies that make a global leader great are actually many of the same skills that make all leaders great. Influence skills were found to be the most important for great global leaders, followed by skills such as vision, decision making, and resource allocation.
In other words, while “global” competencies definitely matter, if organizations are overly focused on finding and developing talent with international backgrounds, language skills, interest in travel, etc., they run the risk of not getting the talent who will really succeed in global leadership positions in the long term.