Virtual reality (VR) is seemingly all the rage these days. But even with all the attention, is virtual reality for HR something HR leaders should get excited about? Although early widespread adoption will start off with gaming, it won't be long before VR spreads to business applications that include anything from training new employees to creating and improving crisis management plans.

VR in Business

Businesses are target customers of VR products like Facebook's Oculus Rift and Microsoft HoloLens, and for good reason. According to Bloomberg, businesses spend $2 trillion each year on technology and some of that budget is already being spent on virtual reality. Sales of virtual reality equipment are expected to grow to $21 billion by 2020, Bloomberg reports.

But what does the proliferation of virtual reality technology really mean to HR? To even begin to answer this, it's important to first understand what VR is. Virtual reality is an immersive, computer-generated simulation that allows users to "enter" the digital world they perceive by wearing goggles that project the simulated world. For a game, that could mean feeling like you're sitting in the driver's seat of a race car when you're really sitting on a chair at home. For new employees, it could mean learning a new job by being immersed in the environment where the job takes place.

VR for Employee Training

According to Venturebeat, VR technology is changing the way both the health care and energy industries train employees. Oil companies are using VR to train rig workers on safety issues in simulated working environments, replacing PowerPoint presentations as the method for delivering safety training. Hospitals are using VR to guide medical staff through simulated procedures before working on patients.

Global organizations can completely change how new employees are onboarded into the company culture. VR makes it possible for HR departments to onboard global employees without the need for international travel by creating an environment in which new hires can feel immersed in a global classroom with peers from all over the world.

In a VR-powered new hire class, employees from any office in the world can feel like they are in the corporate headquarters learning about the company vision, value, and culture directly from senior leadership. Not only will this allow new employees to build a strong bond with the organization, but C-suite executives no longer have to contend with the feeling that they cannot be everywhere at once.

Because now they can.

HR could even use VR in the war for talent. ComputerWeekly reports that Deutsche Bahn, the formerly state-owned railway company in Germany, needs to replace as many as 8,000 retiring employees in the next four years. The company is using VR to "give potential employees the chance to 'experience' different jobs" before they apply.

VR for Crisis Management

The promise of virtual reality for HR goes beyond simulated training. VR could be used to create and test crisis management plans. If the promise of virtual reality is to perceive being in another environment, then a crisis management team could simulate a location where a crisis could occur and walk through scenarios.

What if a crisis management team, during an organization's conference planning, could immerse itself in the area surrounding the conference venue to better understand the location? That team could run through scenarios to provide plans for evacuations if an emergency was to occur, or they could scout nearby locations ideal for a command center setup. With VR, a crisis management team is able to create smarter, more effective plans.

The applications of virtual reality for HR are numerous. Whether used for employee training or crisis management, the possibilities should excite HR leaders who want to grow their impact on the organizations they serve.

Tags: innovation Crisis Management