Why Virtual Reality Is The Future Of Warehousing Training
Read Time: 8 minutes
Imagine walking into a warehouse for the very first time. It’s jarring! The fast-paced, hectic working environment can be nerve-wracking. When it comes to warehouse training, it’s important to make new hires feel supported from the start.
Without effective training, new hires slow down warehouse production and become walking liabilities. Putting unprepared people to work on the warehouse floor can demolish the company budget, and your existing workforce won’t appreciate it either.
Prone to injury and turnover, warehouse employees aren’t afraid to cut ties. We know you’ve seen it time and time again – the new hire walks out mid-shift and becomes another statistic. With other competition just down the street, it’s easy to jump ship. It’s time for warehousing organizations to think about what sets them apart.
Warehouses are all challenged by the same organizational issue – keeping enough skilled people to manage the flow of products. Warehouse employees are met with today’s thriving e-commerce world that challenges the industry with a new level of demand. However, warehouses aren’t sitting around waiting for automation alone to speed up production – they are investing in the future workforce.
According to the PwC 2022 US Metaverse Survey, 82% of executives expect the metaverse to be part of their business plans within three years as a new approach to business sustainability. For warehouses, all future signs point to VR. They also mention that 42% of businesses plan to use immersive technology to provide onboarding and training. And this is only the beginning!
What will be the impact of integrating more technology into the warehouse space? Rather than replacing workers, immersive technology is being used to upskill and onboard employees, all while making their safety a priority. Virtual reality (VR) training delivers immersive learning experiences that familiarize learners with the warehouse environment and allow them to practice new skills in a life-like simulation.
VR and the Future of Warehouse Training
As the youngest workforce enters the warehousing industry, organizations are beginning to recognize them as digital natives. Not only has their education been centered around digital learning, but technology has influenced their entire lives. Because technology is their learning preference, VR training attracts the Gen-Z workforce. Plus, VR is a fun and engaging way to onboard new employees and improve their retention.
The opportunity to learn through extended reality (XR) training sends a clear message that there’s been a true investment in employee skills. In VR, immersive warehouse simulations improve things like spatial awareness and technical skills. For example, learning how to locate products or rehearsing safe lifting practices in a VR headset prepares hires to walk onto the warehouse floor with confidence and competence. The development of these abilities through modern training is pushing the manufacturing industry forward.
The demands in warehousing have seen a big shift since the lightning growth of e-commerce. It seems as though an Amazon warehouse is popping up in every neighborhood, and our favorite stores are offering new convenient ways to purchase products. With the increase in consumer spending, warehouse efficiency means something entirely different today. The surge in products and the necessity to move them faster centers around customer satisfaction.
Thanks to the pandemic-driven boom in online shopping, the country's fulfillment and distribution centers continued to staff up at a furious pace. Today they employ 1.8 million Americans — up 37% since January 2020 and up 183% from January 2010.
While big-box stores are giving us exactly what we want during this season of change, keeping up with the high demand of our fast-paced lives comes with a huge learning curve. With a booming warehouse industry, employers have a laser focus on retention. How will they ever keep up with demand if they don’t have a dependable workforce?
Here’s an easy formula to help explain. There are three aspects that every warehousing operations team should examine with a fine-tooth comb when solving for retention:
- Turnover: Is my team happy with their work enough to stay?
- Safety: Am I providing a healthy environment for my team?
- Skills: Does my team have the desire and capacity to learn and grow with us?
It all points back to you. Did you set your team up for success on day one? Are you fostering a safe environment? Do you provide a clear career path for each team member? Let’s see.
The onboarding process can make or break an employee’s work habits. There’s a lot of information to take in, and depending on who they’ve been trained by – a new warehouse employee could start their first day with skills guided by years or just a few weeks’ worth of experience. VR eliminates inconsistent training and provides an opportunity to:
- Familiarize themselves with day-to-day tasks and how to navigate the warehouse environment.
- Undergo identical training experiences that ensure company-wide standards for work.
- Get new hires up to speed so production doesn’t fall behind.
- Empower employees to feel confident in their work so they can perform tasks to their best ability.
Turnover is a huge pain point for organizations in any industry, but in warehousing – turnover rates are exhaustingly high.
- The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that 232,000 workers left the transportation, warehousing, and utilities industries in January 2023 alone.
- 20 % of turnover happens in the first 45 days of employment
- Yearly turnover costs businesses an astounding $57-$100k on average
How does this tie to VR? All the learning benefits of VR onboarding increase retention. VR programs allow employees to earn their sea legs through an accessible, tactile training experience. By closing the training gaps and reinforcing standard work practices, new hires begin their employment at the same starting point and benefit from the security of having the right knowledge to perform their jobs.
Any worksite, especially those where manual labor is involved, must ensure a safe environment and safety procedures. VR training allows warehouse employees to learn by doing before they ever enter a real warehouse.
- Occupational Health and Safety says VR is among the top technologies to train for safety and revealed that the use of VR led people to remember information better than a traditional computer program.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that from 2011 to 2017, 614 workers lost their lives in forklift-related incidents and more than 7,000 nonfatal injuries resulting in temporary leave occurred every year.
No one wants people or equipment damaged while building new skills. Warehouse VR training prevents future incidents while providing a safe space for workers to identify hazards and practice mitigating risk while on the job.
Upskilling is becoming a top priority for warehouse employees as the landscape of manufacturing evolves, which is a huge benefit to organizations. The more people looking for opportunities with upskilling and longevity, the greater the opportunity for organizational growth and retention.
- Forbes cites The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, reporting that because of the growing uptake of technology and automation, half of all employees will need reskilling by 2025.
- Amazon and Gallup’s Upskilling Report highlights that 48% of American workers would switch jobs for upskilling opportunities. For workers aged 18-24, upskilling was more important than other benefits like paid vacation and life insurance.
High turnover, safety incidents, and skill gaps that continue to plague the warehouse make it clear that training and onboarding practices must cater to the evolving demands of the industry while empowering the people behind the production.
Easy Ways to Get Started
It’s no surprise that VR has made a business case for itself has being the safest and most effective training modality for different learning experiences across the board, so what’s next? As the Fortune 100 continue to pave the way for smaller organizations to adopt virtual reality into their business strategies, the future of learning offers options for companies of all shapes and sizes.
If you're looking for a way to get your employees up to speed quickly and safely, custom virtual reality is an excellent option. With custom VR, organizations play a key part in the creation process of training content, which is best used for training programs that require learners to adopt a highly specific set of skills. By creating an exact replica of a unique warehouse floor or a complex piece of equipment, custom VR can recreate any environment to allow learners to practice in a safe space.
Developing a custom VR program alongside a dedicated team of expert instructional designers and developers will help you outline your specific learning objectives and identify the key metrics you want to measure. This framework ensures that your custom VR training will be tailored to the needs of your organization.
Benefits of Custom VR:
Addresses specific business challenges of your organization
Maximizes (ROI) return on investment
Enhances employee performance
Closes skill gaps faster
Off The Self VR
Off-the-shelf VR content is a great option for organizations that are looking to streamline the basics. Many organizations offer pre-built training modules for warehousing, making it easy for mid-sized organizations to adapt to the growing presence of XR training.
These modules have been developed by industry experts, ensuring that they're both relevant and up-to-date. As a result, you can focus on implementing effective training programs rather than investing in the development of custom content.
The scalability of off-the-shelf VR content also makes it an attractive option for organizations aiming to streamline their training programs for new hires or to expand existing programs to cover additional skills and knowledge areas.
Benefits of Off-The-Shelf VR:
Ready-made training content
Looking Towards the Future
It’s no surprise that warehouse employees are in high demand. In order to streamline efficiency, you have to meet people where they’re at. There’s an amazing opportunity to do that with VR training.
VR warehouse training allows onboarding to rehearse their roles in a safe environment to reduce injuries in the real world. Immersive learning gets new employees where they need to be at a faster rate by providing experiential learning that transforms performance.