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Small Businesses Have a Vital Voice in the VR Conversation

October 12, 2023

At A Glance

Jobs for the Future partners with 21 small businesses to train workers using VR technology

Jennifer Giffels Director, JFF
Lucy Fernandez Manager, JFF
Practices & Centers

If the full power of virtual reality (VR) technology is to be harnessed and equitably experienced—and if we take our commitment seriously to including a diverse community of voices in its development and deployment—small businesses must have plentiful opportunities to co-develop, test, implement, and iterate on VR solutions. Small businesses are critical drivers of local and regional economies. The numbers tell the story: Small businesses make up 99.7% of this country’s employers, and since the mid-1990s, small businesses have created more than 62% of all net new jobs.

In earlier work, we saw augmented reality (AR) technology, such as digital work instructions, help small businesses improve worker productivity, product quality, and workplace collaboration. Now, Jobs for the Future (JFF), in partnership with Meta, aims to identify, implement, and share specific use cases in which small businesses can use VR to develop skills that will help workers advance and help businesses grow and succeed.

To advance our impact, JFF partnered with a cohort of 21 businesses who joined our Demonstration Project, implementing VR solutions to result in tangible skill development for workers and to meet key business goals.

Access to training on the job is a key component of a quality job. As part of JFF’s mission to drive equitable economic advancement for all, we are demonstrating that VR allows small businesses—not only larger enterprises—to offer on-demand training in relevant, in-demand skills that improve the overall worker experience and the quality of jobs.

Why a Demonstration Project?

JFF creates opportunities for small businesses to engage with emerging technologies because we believe in the importance of this technology reaching and benefitting all workers and learners. With our support and a cohort of peers to learn with, the businesses are set up to deploy this technology successfully in their unique context. VR offers a powerful way to reach workers on the job in a flexible, cost-effective, efficient, and scalable way—and we must ensure small businesses, and not only their larger counterparts, are among the primary beneficiaries of the power of this technology. Our cohort is implementing two immersive VR solutions: Talespin, which develops durable (or “soft”) skills across many industries, and Embodied Labs, which teaches actionable empathy in the context of aging senior care.

Who Did We Select?

When recruiting businesses to participate in our Demonstration Project, we prioritized small businesses with less than 500 employees who had the motivation and capacity to engage with the technology and JFF for several months and were interested in exploring the fuller potential of VR with other use cases.

Businesses joined us from nine states and five industries, all with an excitement and drive to build on their employee experience and training approach while propelling their business goals (such as growth, efficiency, impact, and more) forward.

Meet the Cohort

Our 21 businesses share in their own words why they were excited to join this work.

GRACE Aerospace is excited to use the XR technology for soft skills training. We feel this will allow our employees to gain more experience on active listening, conflict management and managing frustration. Communication is key in any business environment and to be allowed to do this in an immersive environment will allow our employees better transformative experiences.

GRACE Aerospace

Right at Home (Multiple Locations)

Right at Home Jacksonville (FL) Right at Home Miami (FL) Right at Home Salt Lake City (UT) Right at Home San Francisco Peninsula (CA)

Visiting Angels of Salt Lake City is excited to be on the cutting edge of training technology to provide the best education to our caregivers. In turn, our caregivers can provide the best service to clients and further develop their skills. We expect this experiential environment will greatly impact our caregivers’ ability to empathize with their clients, be proactive, and reignite passion and interest in this often difficult and rewarding line of work.

Visiting Angels of Salt Lake City

Bamboo Health is thrilled to partner with JFF and Talespin to offer this dynamic learning opportunity to our managers. Virtual immersive learning is a compelling, cutting-edge method of refining critical soft skills and we’re eager to see the role it can play in empowering our team to manage effectively and make crucial decisions.

Bamboo Health

Telling my team to speak clearly, listen actively, and problem solve effectively is not as effective, or fun, as showing them. This program allows my team to see, hear, and feel the learning which creates muscle memory for their brains.

Crystal Hughey, Corporate Cleaning

Centsible House is thrilled to participate in JFF’s XR Technology Demonstration. We will be able to learn if XR can help our mobile workforce to explore new topics and experiences that would normally be difficult to access during their busy lives.

Professional Services:

Grant Associates is proud to partner with JFF in their mission to develop quality jobs for our communities. Through this pilot project, we are excited to help build research around the learning outcomes of VR/AR technology. We believe that by finding innovative new ways to train team members and managers—such as through this virtual reality pilot project—on the topics of emotional intelligence, professional communications, and conflict resolution, we will strengthen our team and our impact on our customers.

Doug Cotter, CEO of Grant Associates

The participation of this cohort of businesses was made possible by the partnership of many intermediaries who worked with JFF to spread the word in their regions. Thank you to the following intermediaries that supported JFF and the cohort in this project:

JFF is thrilled to support and champion the cohort of small businesses and looks forward to disseminating our learnings broadly. Please stay in touch and follow along as we continue to demonstrate how AR and VR technology can strengthen the competitiveness of small businesses by upskilling workers, particularly those who have been disadvantaged in the labor market.

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