How Changing Places In VR Can Teach Employees Soft Skills

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Can swapping bodies with your employees in VR help you to become a better manager?

More businesses across every industry have come to realize that soft skills attributes that allow you to effectively communicate with others are far from a “nice to have” and are actually essential in order to maintain a well-rounded and creative workforce capable of tackling the complex challenges that come with doing business in the modern digital age.

“For organizations, the ability to turn employees into smart, collaborative and self-directed leaders is often the difference between thriving and surviving,” says Christophe Mallet, co-founder of Somewhere Else, a London-based innovation agency specializing in immersive technologies.

Jamie Duncan, Chief Revenue Officer at Corporate DNA, adds that in training there has traditionally been a focus on knowledge; but when it comes to soft skills, knowledge isn’t necessarily power. “It’s what you can actually do with that knowledge. Your mindset is greater than your skill set, your attitude is far more important than what you learned.”

Using VR technology, you can embody anyone and take part in virtually any simulated social interaction imaginable. This is called virtual embodiment. Virtual embodiment promotes implicit learning, which is not only more easily assimilated, but tends to be deeply retained, engendering longer-lasting and more fundamental behavioral change. Studies by the likes of the University of Barcelona and Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab have shown how embodied VR experiences can affect meaningful behavioral change, from reducing implicit racism bias and priming altruistic behavior, to making domestic abusers less likely to recidivate.

From a Learning & Development perspective, VR combines the scaling potential of e-learning with the experiential impact of face-to-face training. In other words, VR-based soft skills training effectively enables organizations to deliver workforce behavioral change at scale.

Developed by Somewhere Else, BODYSWAPS is a soft skills training platform powered by AI and VR which claims to do just that. The first BODYSWAPS scenario deployed was the ‘David’ Project – a performance management scenario developed with Corporate DNA Consulting, a global leadership firm.

BODYSWAPS works by letting employees practice those skills, acting out a range of high-pressure workplace scenarios with AI-powered virtual humans. You can be a manager giving an employee negative feedback, a CEO pitching an idea to the Board, a young woman in a male-dominated group meeting, etc.

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