Corporate Training… from the Moon?

The use of virtual training in the UK has jumped 24% in a year. Is the world ready to move from on-site training to headset training from anywhere?

Next time you get ready for corporate training, you might find yourself sitting in a conference center or at a computer watching a PowerPoint.

UK corporations appear to be among the world’s leaders in converting training from the traditional on-site experience to virtual reality. According to the latest figures from Statista, Britain’s AR & VR market is forecast to reach $1.2 billion this year, up 24% percent from 2022 and likely to continue growing at nearly 13.8% annually until 2027.

That’s a noticeable chunk of the global market, which was worth $12 billion last year and is expected to hit $22 billion in 2025.

Virtual reality allows people to enter a simulated environment via a headset and converse with colleagues. And along with the related augmented reality, it's increasingly being used by British firms to train staff. Yet there are some major drawbacks to this method of training or team building. “We learned in the pandemic that we can work together without being in the same room,” says Ben Frost, a senior client partner in Korn Ferry's Products business. 

Already slightly more than one in four British firms are using VR or AR, according to UK-based consulting firm FDM. And the reasons are not surprising: VR use has been heavily influenced by the continuing popularity of remote work and the growing need for many companies to control costs in a tough economy. The initial setup involves an substantial budget—sometimes as much as $150,000—but the equipment, including VR headsets and other system technology, can be used repeatedly, which brings down the cost per person.

In addition, training employees via VR eliminates other costs, such as travel and hotel, as well as productivity lost while staff are away. “If you need to train staff, then you can use VR to put them in an online setting globally at the click of a button,” says Stuart Richards, Korn Ferry’s sector leader for consumer products in the UK and EMEA. “Bringing people together virtually means they don’t have to give up time traveling.”

Still, some worry about the VR movement. Wearing a VR headset can bring on cybersickness, according to the US-based National Center for Biotechnology Information, whose website cites nausea, vomiting, eye fatigue, dizziness, and ataxia as potential symptoms of this condition. Prolonged use of VR is also known to strain eyes and produce headaches. “There are definite constraints on how long people can tolerate headsets, and it varies from person to person,” says Steve Newhall, Korn Ferry’s head of leadership and professional development for EMEA.

Some experts also worry that a lack of face-to-face interactions can be a significant drawback. In this case, there may be an effective solution, at least in some cases. “Ironically, VR works best when people are together, rather than remotely,” Newhall says. “When it comes to high-performing teams, one of the critical ingredients is trust, and this is often built in the ‘small moments’ which tend to happen when people are physically together.”


Learn more about Korn Ferry’s Future of Work consulting capabilities.