Virtual Training and the millennial employee: Start preparing now for your future workforce

Introduction 

A lot has been written about millennials, those born between 1981-1996 approximately.  The hypothesis is often negative and myth based. A lot of the commentary on millennials is not based on fact and is intended to stir up emotions.  However, research shows that Millennials are a distinct demographic of people, and when it comes to their careers, they have very specific expectations, goals and needs.  These can differ substantially from the values of the preceding generation.

Employers need to take into account that by 2025, 75% of the global workforce will be millennials.  Not just that, but by that time, the eldest millennials will be moving into management positions in large numbers.  Workplaces will have to be adapted to accommodate this new cohort of staff, and adopting virtual training as part of employee induction and ongoing upskilling is an excellent way of adapting a company’s systems to meet the needs of a changing workforce. 

The Millennial Workforce 

One of the defining features of the millennials is that they are the first generation of digital natives; they are the first generation to grow up with personal computers, smart phones, and social networks. They have grown up with technology, and they expect to see high tech solutions being applied in the workplace. The Future Workforce Study, a research survey by funded by Dell and Intel found that:

  • 80% of millennials cited workplace tech as a deciding factor for taking a job
  • If workplace technology isn’t up to their standard, 42% would be willing to leave the company
  • More than 50% of the 4,000 employees polled (millennial and otherwise) expect to work in a smart office within five years

These workers will be keen to engage with VR training, not just because the technology is comfortable for them, but also because its adoption shows that a potential employer takes technology seriously and is willing to try new things.  

A 2016 study by Penn Schoen Berland found that 58% of global millennial workers prefer high tech in-office perks, such as VR and AR with 73% of millennials say that virtual sharing tools are extremely important to them.

Millennials as a group are highly educated.  It is a criticism levelled against them that they consider their qualifications to be of a much higher value than the experience of employees who have been in the organisation for a longer time.  They expect to be placed where their qualification entitles them to be, rather than to work from the bottom up in the traditional way. But what is seen by some as an entitled attitude can also be seen as a positive trait.

Millennials are ambitious, and regard career progression as one of the most important things to them in a job. They will be open to using VR training to bring themselves up to speed with the company’s processes, its organisation and so on. Increasingly, VR is being used by organisations not just for teaching technical skills, but also soft skills. The potential uses of immersive technologies are expanding hugely at this time.   

Because millennials have a natural preference for experiential learning instead of traditional, lecture-based training, virtual training is a good fit for them. Companies should  push for their employees to look to practical, hands-on learning experiences to supplement and, in some cases, replace classroom sessions altogether for training. This is why VR training, and all of its advantages of being an immersive experience is the best solution for training the current and future workforce.

In this respect, the preferences of millennials are an accurate reflection of what works. According to the NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Science, the “learning pyramid” shows hands-on learning is at least eight times more effective than lectures in promoting knowledge retention. Meeting demands for increased experiential learning will enhance teaching effectiveness.

How can companies provide hands-on experience without risking the safety or operational efficiency of the operation? Untrained staff, after all, cannot be left unmonitored in a company facility. To meet the needs of a younger workforce, businesses can significantly enhance operations by accelerating learning and boosting productivity through VR training.

According to PWC, losing an employee during the first year of employment costs you up to three times the person’s salary. And people are changing jobs faster than ever with the staff turnover rate being approximately 22% within the first 6 weeks of employment.

It takes approximately 1 to 2 years before an employee is fully productive according to Training Industry Quarterly.  The good news is that with virtual reality training you can shorten the adjustment period.  Employees can train and refresh their training at any time from any location, multiple times over. Employees need time to understand their task and how they align with others, they need to understand where things are and how they fit in,  as well as time spent carrying out their work, before they feel fully comfortable in their new role.

Video is outdated

Video materials are often the most obvious tool for training – film a scenario and let the trainee observe it. However video dates really quickly. Why? Because technological advances in every single field including commerce evolve so quickly, a year old video is already outdated. It is almost impossible to update them without starting from scratch. VR Training can be added to, and subtracted from, in line with compliance, at any stage of the training procedure, republished and distributed all from a single source in a very short turnaround

Lecture Based (Traditional) training is hard to scale

Traditional training is praised for its uniqueness and customisation. With this approach, you can easily access specific topics challenging to new employees. The problem is, it is extremely difficult to address the challenges of each individual leaving the trainers to present the most common scenarios and not actually catering to the individual needs of the trainee. And large scale organisations want uniform messaging  across their global networks. It is also cost intensive. Room hire, equipment hire, travel expenses, training materials, not to mention attendance, can be restrictive or inconvenient to the company’s production or the trainee’s personal life. The scalability of VR Training is unprecedented. An Imperial College of London study found that 83% of surgeons in training who had trained with VR were able to complete surgery in a lab environment with minimal guidance—while 0% who had studied with only traditional training were able to!

VR training study

VR Training

Mersus Technologies’ AVATAR ACADEMY TM  VR Training, targeting high value manufacturing, is engaging immersively and delivers a superior learning experience. AVATAR ACADEMY TM caters to the individuals’  training needs, paced at the individual trainee’s progress, uses predictive analytics that tie a trainee’s performance directly to business data and Is suitable for different learning styles and  simplifies complex problems and situations. Companies need to modify their training strategies and delivery methods to reign in the potential and the learning styles of millennials, that are their workforce. VR training is uniquely synergised to millennials’ active learning styles that are visual, auditory and even kinesthetic. These technology based learning methods also foster team orientation and collaboration for group exercises which connects people across the globe to take up assignments across borders and complete them virtually.

Differences in opinion on the relative respect that should be accorded to experience versus qualifications is one potential source of intergenerational tension in an organisation. Here, VR training can be massively helpful too.  When all employees across the organisation have access to their own profiles in a company VR training and information hub, it will be simple to give a consistent message across all employees and departments.

The technology to make such a VR hub is already in use. While it’s likely that the millennial staff will be comfortable with using this technology, it should not be assumed that older employees will be hostile to it. If they have been in the company for a few years, they will have experienced systems changes before. All employees having access to the same immersive system brings a good opportunity to iron out any problems with how employees see themselves fitting into the larger picture.  

Millennials value flexibility.  Although they expect and are willing to work long hours, they will not remain in a job that doesn’t respect their work/life balance.  The myth goes that millennials are lazy. That is not so, however they dislike boring and repetitive work. VR training addresses both of these characteristics.  VR training can be conducted at any time, and in any place, either with the user logging in alone to complete modules, or joining their fellow employees and a trainer in the virtual space. The time spent in repetitive training will be reduced when an employee has access to their own VR training profile which would log and track their training and skills.  

Another aspect of employees in this age bracket is that they require a lot of feedback in order to feel engaged and valued in their job. This comes from the importance they place on career progression.  VR training tracks a user’s learning in real time, and can be set up to to give feedback at any frequency. The employee will still need regular feedback and collaboration with people, but the VR system could form an important part in the employee’s feeling valued and that they are making progress. 

At least one third of millennials in employment are looking around for new opportunities.   VR training provides an excellent way of showing a clear path to development for the employee, as well as an audit and record of the skills they are gaining.  Staff will be retained if opportunities to grow are presented clearly to them.  

If we want to motivate, engage and retain people, we need to take these facets of the millennial value system seriously, and ensure that our organisations meet these employee’s needs. 

Conclusion

So we can see that the changes currently taking place in the demographics of the workplace present both challenges and opportunities.  Millennials have a somewhat different values system to that of older generations, however they also want to work in companies where they can be hardworking, engaged and valued. Technology is second nature to them and they expect to see high tech solutions in place.  A company that is left behind by advances in technology will struggle to attract and retain millennial employees (and soon, that’s pretty much ALL the employees!) 

The success of the millennials in the workforce is contingent on understanding what makes them tick. Companies need to address how learning mechanisms also need to change to adapt to the millennial’s preferences and styles which allows millennials to control what they learn, and when, where and how they learn. The needs such as instant gratification, success and recognition in the workplace are met by tools like gamification, public leaderboard, social learning and quick feedback mechanisms, all addressed by VR Training.

Adopting VR training and other immersive technologies in the workplace alone will not be enough to get your company ready for the workforce of the near future. There are other aspects to the millennial personality that are outside the scope of this article – their strong social consciousness for example. However, the adoption of VR technologies fits excellently in with several of the defining characteristics of their section of the workforce: 

  • Being comfortable with technology 
  • The need for flexibility 
  • The need for clear, regular feedback 
  • A clear path to development 

There is also the opportunity to use immersive technologies to convey a consistent culture and message across the organisation. That way, organisations can maintain what is important to them, while making the massive changes necessary for adapting to the changing workforce. Change is coming, and organisations would be wise to make the necessary adjustments now in order to stay ahead.  

Mersus Technologies produce virtual training products for a wide variety of industries and organisations.  For more information   please visit https://mersus.io/

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