CASH­ING IN ON VIR­TUAL SKILLS

The Sunday Times - - BUSINESS WEEKLY - JENNE BRAM­MER

Vir­tual re­al­ity — whereby you put on a head­set and im­merse your­self in a par­tic­u­lar sce­nario — is set to be the fu­ture of staff train­ing, and a Perth-based start-up is lead­ing the charge.

Diver­si­fly was started by Lu­cie Ham­mond two years ago as a train­ing com­pany spe­cial­is­ing in di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion and peo­ple per­for­mance. More re­cently, that work­place di­ver­sity con­tent has been trans­lated into a pro­to­type mod­ule that de­liv­ers mem­o­rable and en­gag­ing hands-on learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences via vir­tual re­al­ity.

Users of the VR train­ing mod­ule play the role of a woman who joins a team meet­ing to dis­cuss a prob­lem pre­sented by the chief ex­ec­u­tive.

“The user re­sponds and in­ter­acts, by tap­ping a but­ton on the head­set at points when they feel un­con­scious bias is present,” Ms Ham­mond said. “At the end of the ses­sion, the user re­ceives a rat­ing via a neu­tral, happy, or beam­ing face emoji.”

Less than 15 min­utes long, users can com­plete the snack-sized train­ing be­tween meet­ings, at home, or at any other place when con­ve­nient.

Ms Ham­mond said the di­ver­sity pro­to­type com­ple­mented tra­di­tional train­ing but within a year it could pro­vide a stand­alone pro­gram which would in­clude a vir­tual coach of­fer­ing in­stant feed­back to­wards the end of the ses­sion.

Although early days, big cor­po­rates Aus­tralia-wide are show­ing in­ter­est in the con­cept. Among them, EY is start­ing a VR train­ing pi­lot pro­gram and RSM is look­ing at how Diver­si­fly’s VR train­ing could be in­cor­po­rated into its tra­di­tional train­ing.

Diver­si­fly ul­ti­mately plans to build on the di­ver­sity mod­ule to of­fer a full li­brary of hu­man-cen­tric per­for­mance skills rel­e­vant to the work­place which could be ac­cessed by cor­po­rates on a sub­scrip­tion ba­sis. Ms Ham­mond said Diver­si­fly aimed to raise $250,000 to make that hap­pen.

The prod­uct would even­tu­ally be mar­keted Aus­tralia-wide and in­ter­na­tion­ally, said Ms Ham­mond, who is sup­ported by learn­ing and de­vel­op­ment ex­pert Anna Pit­man, and per­for­mance spe­cial­ist Ryan Ng.

Mr Ng has re­cently lo­cated to Mel­bourne to give the com­pany an Eastern States pres­ence.

Ms Ham­mond said she ex­pected greater up­take of VR train­ing by or­gan­i­sa­tions.

“I ex­pect many large cor­po­rates will adopt VR train­ing in the fu­ture, ap­pre­ci­at­ing it’s far more ef­fec­tive and mem­o­rable than tra­di­tional forms of train­ing,” she said.

Head­set: Or­gan­i­sa­tions are get­ting their heads around vir­tual re­al­ity train­ing thanks to Lu­cie Ham­mond, Pic­ture: Si­mon Santi

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