Bank of America is betting on virtual reality to upskill staff


What is the best way to help employees prepare for the worst case scenario? For Bank of America, the answer is: exercise.

In October 2021, Bank of America offered virtual reality training across 4,300 financial centers with nearly 50,000 employees. The program initially prioritized training on customer and peer interactions, but has proven so successful that the organization has since invested in building additional complex and challenging hypothetical scenarios such as bank robberies.

“The safety of your employees depends on decisions that managers make in seconds, and in some cases,” says John Jordan, president of the Bank of America Academy, which oversees all onboarding and skill development at the company. “We’ve found that virtual reality is quite the business case, and a way to provide better training and better experiences for customers and employees.”

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Jordan says all of Bank of America’s VR training isn’t as terrifying as robbery — although it is effective. The Academy has always adopted technology To promote Training and development programs. Web-based trainings allow employees to participate in scenarios and conversations, both during the formal onboarding process and at any time thereafter in the employee’s leisure time; These exercises have been used nearly a million times by employees. He adds that adding virtual reality is just another way to improve learning and make it more stable.

“When we started experimenting with this technology, we quickly saw situations where someone was being trained in something and we felt confident in their skills, but once we used virtual reality, they realized they might not know the subject as well as they thought,” Jordan says. “So the VR experience not only created for them a more memorable way to learn, but also gave us a better way to certify a skill.”

It has proven to be a valuable way to build empathy. Through the expertise of the academy’s in-house team, as well as input from Bank of America’s technology partners, the bank has created exercises for responding with empathy when someone is going through a divorce or experiencing a death in the family, for example.

“Especially for young people who are so early in their careers, they may not have tried these things before, and as a result they may not be as empathetic as you would like,” Jordan says. These exercises help fill this gap, and in addition to giving employees a chance to practice and experience live conversation, virtual interactions are also recorded, allowing the employee to review their performance.

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“The exercises help you look for cues, ask better questions, and literally put yourself in someone else’s shoes,” Jordan says. “Usually the people who provide the best customer service are the people with the most jobs. How can you emulate the position? It’s through practice.”

Technology adoption has posed fewer hurdles than anticipated in American bank. The biggest challenge, Jordan says, is simply helping people overcome the fear of wearing VR glasses. (“People think they’re going to get dizzy.”) But once they try the technology, those fears subside.

As the company continues to build virtual reality drills into the future, Jordan says there are plenty of additional opportunities to maximize the value of the technology, particularly in the field of technology. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policies.

“To be able to show what it might be like to have a physical disability, or to be the only person of your race in a room — that’s where we’ll see value, and from here empathy grows,” he says.

Through Bank of America’s Pathways Program, the bank partners with nonprofit organizations and community colleges to provide career paths for people in low- and middle-income communities, with a commitment to employ 10,000 people. Part of this partnership includes sharing some of Bank of America’s training programs, and working to build job skills and career readiness among these communities.

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“We’ve hired 5,000 employees and work around 5,000 more, usually people without degrees, and we’ve had tremendous success,” Jordan says. “We partner with organizations like Boys and Girls Club, or Community College of Rhode Island, and have a wealth of content in everything from technology to customer care and empathy, and we work to complement what these organizations are already doing to develop the skills of communities.”

As the academy’s technology-driven programs continue to expand, both inside and outside Bank of America, it will only create a stronger workforce, Jordan says, and better interactions between the Bank of America team — and with its clients.

“If you get 50,000 people to be better at something, you’re going to have millions of customer interactions, that counts,” he says.


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