Cashing in on virtual skills

Written by Jenne Brammer for The Sunday Times
30 Jul 2017

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.

Lucie Hammond