Empathy Training with Virtual Technology

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As companies evolve, so do their training programs. The influx of global and virtually-run organizations has created a need for comprehensive virtual training options. In addition, this decrease in social peer-to-peer interactions can decrease empathy between employees and those throughout the organization. Virtual technology offers a solution through training programs designed to teach empathy within an organization despite distance or occupational differences.

How Do We Show Empathy?

Empathy is described as the ability to share an emotion with an observed individual without mixing it with one’s own direct experience. The person showing empathy can sense and respond to another’s feelings without taking on the other’s emotions. This process has been shown to create a greater sense of connection to peers and generate social bonding, as well as allow an individual to feel and demonstrate compassion.

What Role Does Empathy Have in the Workplace?

Empathy tactics can include multiple skills that relate to interpersonal as well as introspective abilities. These include perspective taking, affective empathy, empathic distress, empathic concern and altruism. These concepts, all centered around the idea of helping another individual, are crucial for successful interactions and can make navigating a hectic and complex work environment that much easier.

In addition, being able to empathize with others allows an individual to better understand another person, learn from their actions and provide help. This can greatly increase relationships between employees and management, as well as between the company and the consumer. A greater sense of collaboration also inherently increases motivation and work satisfaction among staff.

When Can Empathy Do More Harm Than Good?

There can be healthy and unhealthy empathic responses. A healthy empathic response becomes a guideline as to the behaviors, moral and cultural beliefs that the greater community want to maintain as the basis for an individual’s rights. An unhealthy response can create personal distress for individuals, generate antisocial behavior—meaning avoidance—and unfairness toward people who individuals do not consider to be within the same group as themselves. These tendencies can form negative relationships and seriously damage company culture.

Since we tend to develop empathic responses at a faster rate with people we view as similar or within our “group”, it is important to be aware of any negative responses within the company’s culture. There are many ways of addressing and training employees to identify issues and create a better, more inclusive company culture. A new approach to handling empathy in the workplace is with virtual reality (VR) training programs.

Using VR to Teach Empathy

There are two new ways VR has emerged in the workplace. The first is through non-immersive VR, which involves the use of two-dimensional visual interfaces—think of this as technologies that are common in your company, such as computers and projectors—to allow users to experience a virtual space. The other, more recent and less common, is immersive VR, which aims to transport the user into an entirely different environment using VR headsets and other devices. For companies looking to enhance their training program, non-immersive VR has been proven to be the most successful.

So what does VR really have to offer? VR allows users to shift from their own perspective to a new one in different scenarios. Using simulations that depict users as “avatars” or to create a space that separates them from their own identity affects how people respond to situations and what feelings they produce. For example, if a user’s avatar is taller, the user tends to be more confident in simulated negotiations. This is because an individual generates attitudes and internal processes based on observations from external cues. This same concept holds true when a user is given the task of dealing with situations that would require empathic responses.

Empathy training can be integrated into your company using VR tools, but first you must assess what it is that is needed within your organization’s culture to increase empathic processes. Some important things to look at are how interactions are handled between groups and peers and whether they are positive, the overall awareness of peers and others, the awareness of self within employees and whether your company puts an emphasis on empathic concern and altruistic behavior.

Why Should Your Company Use Virtual Instructor-Led Training?

Virtual instructor-led training (vILT) utilizes the benefits of both VR and in-person connections. This process of having online training sessions reaches many segments of the organization’s population that might not have been reached with prior training and creates a larger company culture among all employees. It allows employees who are remote or virtual to receive the same training as employees in an office, creating standardization across career platforms. In addition, vILT provides a lower cost of training, as well as higher workforce engagement. Interactive elements are proven to retain attention while also improve learner retention rate. This is where VR plays a crucial role. VR can provide learners with a way to interact with the material being presented to them. Greater levels of engagement mean that the user can learn more skills, such as empathic responses. VR tools such as visual, audio and interactive elements create the transportation of the learner into a new situation that promotes learning and growth.

Interested in integrating virtual instructor-led training into your company’s training program? Learn more about how CoreAxis can help your company grow>>

About CoreAxis

CoreAxis is a business performance consulting company that offers training solutions to businesses in a variety of industries, such as financial, life sciences, retail and technology. Each of these solutions can be fully customized to meet the needs of the individual client. We build collaborative relationships, becoming a trusted resource and ensuring our clients’ organizational success.

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