Using VR to enhance your DEI training

Using VR to enhance your DEI training

VR training can provide you and your employees with the flexibility necessary to achieve your organization’s DEI goals.

by Scott Stachiw

May 13, 2022

As diversity, equity and inclusion training becomes a more integrated part of employee learning and development programs, it is critical for L&D professionals to determine the most effective way to provide that training to their employees. It must be provided in a manner that keeps employees engaged and excited about what they are learning, and encourages them to use what they learn in real-world situations. Nowadays, more organizations are turning towards virtual reality training.

Benefits of immersive learning

VR training can provide you and your employees with the flexibility necessary to achieve your organization’s DEI goals. With access to training through headsets, cardboard headsets, desktops and mobile phones, employees are no longer required to gather in a single location to receive important training. It allows businesses to reach more employees at one time with the same message.

When used within a blended training program, VR is a great tool to immerse employees in a learning experience and provide them with an opportunity to practice the learning objectives within realistic scenarios. It also allows learners to experience situations from someone else’s point of view and provides them with immediate feedback on how their interactions might affect others, whether they are real actors used in 360˚ VR or computer-generated characters and elements in the full VR experience.

Addressing specific DEI Issues with VR training

VR provides a vehicle with which several specific DEI issues can be dealt in particularly enlightening ways, such as:

  • Unconscious bias. Unconscious bias can be defined as an unfair belief about a group of people that you are not aware of and that affects your behavior and decisions. Biases are not always easily identified and may occur without awareness. VR training gives the learner the opportunity to see first-hand how unconscious bias affects employees – especially Black employees and employees of color – and practice the proper steps to overcome bias and build authentic connections.
  • Microaggressions. Through an effective use of VR DEI training, employees can gain a better understanding of what a microaggression is and learn how to respond more appropriately. For example, you can replicate a traditional role-playing activity and give learners the opportunity to practice tough conversations, allowing them the freedom to learn how their tone and chosen words can affect a direct report.
  • Showing empathy. VR can offer an opportunity to build empathy in your teams by teaching employees the importance of respecting different perspectives, which can lead to stronger teams where all members are appreciated. VR opens a new way of training by giving learners the opportunity to view the world from another perspective. You can put your learners in the shoes of employees from different backgrounds and let them see how their colleagues are treated on a daily basis. From there, the lessons are easily translatable to real-world situations and can build a more empathetic office environment.
  • Acting as an ally. By immersing employees in potentially fraught scenarios, it allows them to learn how to be an ally to an underrepresented group and use their own position of power to help guide the team toward being a more cohesive unit. For example, VR can place the learner in a situation where a team leader makes a discriminatory remark about a colleague and teach them how to respond appropriately. Practicing such behavior in a virtual setting provides employees with the tools they will need to address these issues in the real world.

How to get started

Just like any training program, your DEI training will rely on strong instructional design, and future learning technologies can enhance your DEI training initiatives. Having a formal DEI trainer involved in creating your program is essential to making it work, which does not have to be a person on your in-house staff. Partnering with outside vendors can provide the necessary experience without the additional cost of hiring someone to your own team.

By choosing an organization that can offer the right guidance in developing a VR DEI training program, your team can develop the soft skills they need to operate in an ever-evolving work environment.

Scott Stachiw is director of immersive learning for Roundtable Learning, a Chagrin Falls, Ohio-based immersive education company.