Building empathy between staff could make policies less abrasive. Source: Shutterstock

Hilton turns to VR to build empathy between its hotel teams

Virtual reality (VR) has opened doors to so many enterprise training possibilities. By immersing employees into simulated scenarios, the tool can help workers prep for physically demanding roles in high-risk industries, without posing any danger or loss of company expenses.

VR’s training potential doesn’t stop there – it can also help employees navigate complex social scenarios; dealing with upset customers, for example, or even laying someone off.

As digitization and automation begins to take over industries, VR is expected to boost the process of reskilling the workforce and getting them better acquainted with new operating systems or machinery.

According to a PwC report, VR is fast proving itself an effective solution, providing a “unique and engaging way to develop skills without large investments to produce positive results — efficiency is increased and costs are minimized.”

Prominent use cases have served as a testament to how beneficial the tool can be. For example, restaurants are now using VR to train workers in the service industry in a bid to boost retention rate and job satisfaction.

Additionally, to make health and safety training more effective, more organizations are entrusting VR to provide their employees with an immersive ‘escape the building’ simulations that account for all unexpected scenarios that may occur in real-life.

Hilton, a household name in the hospitality industry, has adopted the advanced technology to ingrain empathy among its corporate employees.

A selection of the hotel firm’s corporate employees will go through simulations training where they will be performing the tasks of those on the hotel floors day to day, like doing visitors’ laundry, serving food and beverages, servicing boiler rooms, and pitching sales proposals to clients.

“We want them to understand the physicality and complexity of hotel operations so they can better feel what it’s like to be in the shoes of a room service attendant,” explained Hilton’s senior director of learning innovation Blaire Bhojwani.

With 360-degree video and 3-dimensional computer graphics, employees will be put in the shoes of housekeeping staff or the front desk clerk, and experience what it’s like to clean guest rooms and prepare room service trays.

One of the biggest drives for this initiative is the fact that Hilton wants to make sure that empathy and understanding factors in when deciding on new hotel policies. It is important that those who are not on the service floors thoroughly understand how corporate decisions can impact the workloads of the staff.

“Our learners are shocked when they really experience how much housekeepers need to accomplish.” said Bhojwani.

Hilton has also deployed VR-based training to improve the performance of hotel employees, helping them better understand issues that guests face and the reasons behind their frustrations like poorly set-up meeting rooms, faulty digital keys, drawn-out checkout processes, long waiting time at restaurants and broken coffee machines.

Senior executives of the company have been waiting for a solution that can enhance the authenticity of in-the-field training sessions. The US-based company worked together with SweetRush, a training firm, to materialize the project.

While such an initiative isn’t common, Hilton could definitely reap the benefits when hotel staff retention rates improve and more holistic work culture is cultivated as they move forward.