How to Measure Training Effectiveness of Virtual Reality

Hard hats stacked in a cage

It’s been estimated that poor training costs companies nearly $13.5 million per year for every 1,000 employees. To make matters even worse, a study by Microsoft in 2015 found that the average person loses concentration after eight seconds—a full second less than a goldfish.

For companies looking to improve their employees’ effectiveness, those numbers aren’t exactly encouraging. In order to avoid losing money, customers or worse, it’s important to be able to measure the effectiveness of your training program.

How to Measure the Effectiveness of Your Corporate Training

The Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model was created and published by Professor Donald Kirkpatrick in 1959, with a follow-up book in 1994. This method has become one of the most successful and widely used ways of determining if a training regimen is successful. There are four steps to this model:

  1. Reaction: How the participants felt about the training program.
  2. Learning: How much knowledge or skills the participants gained.
  3. Behavior: The degree to which participants applied what they learned.
  4. Results: The benefits the business sees as a result of the training.

Let’s take a look at these steps one at a time.

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One of the biggest challenges for a business is to adopt and utilize a training program that employees respond to. All too often, employees view training programs as a waste of time, an inconvenience, or an exercise in boredom. For a training program to pass the first step of the Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model, it must elicit a favorable reaction from your employees. They need to find the training engaging and relevant.

This is one of the greatest benefits of implementing virtual reality (VR) into your employee training. Because VR is so immersive, it can be used to create training programs that are engaging in a way traditional training can never hope to match.


Another challenge with implementing a training program is gauging whether individuals are actually learning what’s being taught. Competency tests are still the standard metric to determine how much progress has been made. If a significant portion of your employees do not pass or pass with low grades, your training needs to be improved.

Beyond knowing if it’s effective or not, competency tests also help you to determine the specific parts of your training that are or are not working. For example, if a large number of your employees all scored low in a specific area, there’s a good chance that portion of the training needs to be shored up. Unfortunately, knowing training needs to be improved and actually doing it are two different things. Often, there are limits to how much a training program can be improved and how much can be taught with standard methods. As the old saying goes, “there’s nothing like the real thing.”

In these types of situations, many companies have found that VR provides an excellent way to improve training. For example, UPS has turned to VR to help train delivery drivers and prepare them for the job. While a test can ask questions about how to safely navigate streets and avoid hazards, VR simulations can create, or recreate, conditions a driver may face and see how they respond—going far beyond any scenario described on a test.

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Behavior is the third principle of Kirkpatrick’s methodology. In other words, does an employee’s behavior or capability change and improve in response to the training?

To answer this question, you must look at the key performance indicators (KPI) common to your business. For example, “Honeygrow, a Philadelphia-based, fast-casual restaurant chain, reported that within 30 days of implementing VR employee onboarding, the number of team members certified on culture and training soared from 50 to 77%.” In this case, this was a relatively easy KPI for Honeygrow to measure.

In the case of UPS, mentioned above, a decrease in accidents would be a clear sign that their VR-based employee training and onboarding is working. Similarly, a customer support center could look to the average time it takes to resolve a customer’s issue, as well as after-call surveys of customers asking them to rate their experience.

The point is, no matter what your industry, there are likely KPIs you already use to see how well you are doing and where you need to improve. When implementing VR-based training, those KPIs are more important than ever to help you see how effective that training is.


The fourth principle of Kirkpatrick’s method is results: what your business gains from employee training. This is what it all comes down to. What’s in it for your business?

The fact is, acquiring and training new employees is one of the most costly aspects of running a business. It’s estimated that replacing a salaried employee costs an average of six to nine months of their salary. For a salaried employee or manager making $40,000 a year, it would cost $20,000 to $30,000 to acquire and train a replacement. Yet, two of the biggest reasons for job dissatisfaction are employees feeling their education doesn’t line up with the job they’re doing and believing they have little opportunity for growth or advancement—two issues that are solved by ongoing, targeted training.

It’s easy to see what’s in it for your business: happier, more effective employees and lower turnover, all of which results in increased profits and productivity.

Integrate VR Into Your Training

If you have yet to integrate VR into your employee training programs, there’s never been a better time. The technology has reached the point where it’s truly immersive, providing a realism that makes training scenarios almost as good as the real thing.

In Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience theory, he showed that the average person only remembers 10% of what they read and 20% of what they hear, yet will remember 90% of what they do. If you want your employees to retain 90% of your employee training, start using VR-based training today.

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