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The modern workplace presents a number of challenges, but human resources (HR) managers now have more tools at their disposal to support employees. Artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) are just two of those tools, with 88% of companies worldwide using some form of AI in their HR practices, according to Mercer’s Global Talent Trends 2019. Kyle Jackson, CEO of Talespin, says his company uses VR to train workers, helping them develop empathy skills. “Our virtual human technology puts users in a VR environment where they can practice challenging workplace conversations with emotionally realistic AI characters,” he explains. “The characters convey emotions, use speech recognition and natural language processing to listen and converse, and feature thousands of unique conversation paths for users to navigate.” The goal is to help workers practice their soft skills, including communication, and achieve measurable results and actionable feedback. For instance, Talespin uses VR to simulate instances when managers will have to fire an employee. “Our goal with this technology is to give people a safe place to fail and practice conversations that are normally difficult to simulate and, in turn, give them a baseline of confidence and experience to help them prepare for real workplace conversations,” says Jackson. He also indicates that job training is more effective when an element of gamification is included, especially in the firm’s highly digital, highly connected world, where workers’ attention is difficult to hold. A recent SuperData study found that companies adopting augmented reality and VR-based training could save up to $13.5 billion in costs incurred by traditional training across multiple industries. Jackson predicts that VR specifically will help limit friction in the workplace, especially since, for the first time ever, five generations are now rubbing shoulders day-to-day. “This new model will facilitate more efficient and effective skill development, which helps people as they move between teams, encounter more diversity, shift departments or projects, and deal with organizational and technological change,” he concludes.

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