It’s no secret that the first few days in a new role can be daunting for employees. This stress, compounded by traditional onboarding methods that are often uninteresting and unengaging, can negatively affect an organization’s staff retention. In fact, according to Work Institute, over one-third (37.9%) of employees leave within the first year, and of those, two out of three leave within the first six months. This costs organizations thousands of dollars in lost time and re-hiring expenditures.

Think back to the last time your new employees had to sit through long presentations or peruse hefty manuals. As much as these methods have been tried and tested, they often lead to information overload and diminished engagement, which is hardly the welcome anyone would wish for.

Instead, imagine a future where new hires have a virtual reality (VR) headset. They’re instantly transported to a virtual office where they can engage with their new role in a more interactive and interesting manner. This is not science fiction but a tangible reality that many forward-thinking organizations are already embracing. For example, last year, 150,000 new hires at Accenture worked from the metaverse on their first day.

The Shortcomings of Traditional Onboarding

Before diving into the realm of immersive technologies, let’s take a closer look at the limitations of traditional onboarding methods:

  • Passive learning. Traditional onboarding often relies on passive learning methods, such as reading articles, blogs, documents or attending presentations. This approach can result in information overload and limited retention among new hires.
  • Lack of engagement. Companies with high levels of employee engagement are 23% more profitable than those with low levels of engagement. Static presentations during lengthy web conference calls fail to engage new employees. Without an immersive and interactive experience, individuals may struggle to grasp complex concepts or feel disconnected from the company’s culture.
  • Inconsistent training. Learning instructors and/or facilitators are typically responsible for delivering onboarding sessions, resulting in variations in the quality and consistency of training across different teams or locations.
  • Cost and scalability. Traditional onboarding methods can be expensive and time-consuming, particularly for organizations with a large number of new hires or those with distributed teams. The need for physical resources and instructors can limit scalability and hinder cost efficiency.

Unlocking the Benefits of Immersive Technologies

Immersive technologies, including VR, augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR), can provide unique opportunities for interactive and immersive onboarding experiences.

Let’s delve into why this technological shift is poised to transform traditional onboarding practices and yield improved business outcomes.

  1. Increased engagement and retention.

VR-based onboarding offers an interactive and immersive experience, making the learning process more engaging. Immersive onboarding can turn what is traditionally seen as a laborious task into an exciting and memorable experience. When an employee is engaged, they’re more likely to retain the information presented, making them more efficient and effective in their new roles sooner.

  1. Realistic job previews.

Virtual environments can simulate actual job situations, providing new hires with a realistic job preview. This can give them a better understanding of their roles and expectations, reducing the likelihood of job dissatisfaction and early attrition.

  1. Safe environment for trial and error.

Immersive technologies provide a safe environment for new hires to make mistakes and learn from them without any real-world consequences. In a study, PwC found that learners were four times more focused during VR training than their eLearning peers. This approach can significantly speed up the learning process, as it encourages active participation and exploration.

  1. Customizable and scalable.

Unlike traditional methods, immersive technologies can be easily customized and scaled to suit the unique needs of each organization. This makes them a versatile tool that can be used in a wide range of industries and company sizes.

  1. Reduced training costs.

While the initial investment may seem substantial, immersive technologies can lead to significant cost savings in the long run. Reduction in travel expenses, on-site training costs and material costs can contribute to these savings.

  1. Improving employee performance.

According to a report by Workable, 73% of respondents listed employee engagement and motivation as major concerns for a remote work environment. Immersive technologies can help boost employee engagement and motivate learners to take charge of their learning and development (L&D). This can result in better performance and business outcomes.

Immersive Technologies in Action

Now that we’ve seen the reasons why immersive technologies make for an exciting onboarding experience, let’s evaluate a few of examples of how they can improve onboarding processes.

Consider this hypothetical example:

A new hire begins work at a manufacturing company. Traditionally, the onboarding process might involve theoretical training followed by supervised hands-on training. But what if they could practice assembling a machine multiple times in a virtual environment before ever touching the actual equipment? It’s not only a safer and more cost-effective solution, but it’s also more engaging for the new hire.

And this real-world example:

New hires at UPS who are joining the ranks of its 10,000 drivers have access to dedicated virtual driving schools. Drivers can practice delivery before they ever get into a real vehicle. Having these safe, repeatable experiences can enable safe driving and work experiences.

In another hypothetical scenario, a new employee at a multinational company can take a virtual tour of the global offices, interact with virtual avatars of their global teammates, and even sit in on a virtual meeting. This can bring remote teams closer together and provide a comprehensive understanding of the company’s operations, culture and values.

The evidence is becoming increasingly hard to ignore: The future of onboarding lies in immersive technologies. They’re poised to change the face of onboarding from a mundane, one-sided process to a dynamic, interactive and engaging experience.

The Future of Learning Is Immersive

Immersive learning technologies promise to improve retention rates and speed up the time to productivity for new hires. They also offer tangible business benefits in terms of cost savings and scalability. For example, a recent survey Virti conducted of learning and development (L&D) professionals found 44% said VR provides better quality training — while 42% said it’s more cost-effective in the long run.

It’s clear that as we continue to navigate an increasingly digital world, continuing the status quo of traditional onboarding methods might not be the best strategy for ensuring the success of new hires. Forward-thinking organizations are already embracing these new technologies and ushering in an era of immersive, engaging and effective onboarding. It’s not just about keeping up with the times — it’s about paving the way for a brighter, more prosperous future. The world of immersive onboarding awaits. Will your organization rise to the challenge?