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VR Used by FedEx Ground for Package Handler Training and Retention

Factors such as safety issues and employee turnover influenced the company to try VR training. FedEx Ground package handlers have job responsibilities that demand a lot from them physically. According to Denise Abbott, the company’s vice president of human resources, many new employees quit their jobs quite fast as they are overwhelmed by the workload.

The FedEx Corp. delivery division tested out virtual reality (VR) for training employees, prioritising on teaching new package handlers about their core job responsibilities. The training also emphasised teaching safety basics to the new hires.

Credit: FedEx

Jefferson Welch, director of human resources at the company’s training branch, FedEx Ground University, spoke about the prospects of immersive VR training for new employees. He stated that the technology is being used in for classroom training purposes, to let people hone their skills before they even step onto a loading dock. Welch and Abbott elaborated about the company’s experiments with        VR training during a recent presentation at the HR Technology Conference.

VR training has been used in the past for training employees across several sectors. Immersive training simulations have been a part of pilot training for quite some time. More recently, VR technology has seen a sea change, resulting in lighter and cheaper devices and customisable training systems that find effortless use across business setups. Welch remarked that simulation does not have an alternative with regards to immersive training.

FedEx Ground barely had to make efforts to find willing volunteers for its VR training evaluation program, as all departments expressed interest. Training managers and HR professionals collaborated with several units to lay out clear training objectives, which ranged from reducing employee turnover, reducing expenses, enhancing safety, and helping workers look forward to orientation. – Denise Abbott

FedEx Ground associated with VR training systems company Strivr to create a plan for VR training. Strivr was started by an ex-Stanford University footballer who has been associated with high profile clients like Verizon, Walmart, and BMW.

Initially, VR training was introduced in the form of a pilot programme by FedEx Ground. This enabled trainers to track headset-equipped participants, to track their eye movements and focus. The observations made it evident that many employees were looking at wrong places during simulation training sessions involving loading and unloading activities. Welch was convinced that ‘the VR training system was the right fit after the pilot.

Welch acknowledged that the reception of the VR experiment has been positive beyond expectations. He revealed that new hires do not feel like taking off the training equipment, and seek out training sessions after work. Welch believes that the results are already evident on the docks, as managers are noticing workers with better knowledge. VR training is also available for dock managers, contributing to a rise in demand for these job roles.

The data collected by FedEx Ground suggested that VR training had made considerable improvements to the retention of knowledge. Data regarding the cost benefits of VR are still being evaluated.

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