VR Meets HR: Immersive Training and the Future of Work

Bryce Luken

Chief Operating Officer at Moth + Flame

Learning Objectives

Please join the Chief Operating Officer from Moth + Flame, Bryce Luken in this Executive Interview where he will discuss how virtual reality immersive training aids the future of work in Human Resources.


Key Takeaways:



  • Can you tell us about the current state of VR? Some think that it was overhyped and is underdelivering for casual consumers, but that’s not what we’re seeing in the enterprise. What do you think about VR’s growth in the enterprise and why this is accelerating now?

  • What is it about immersive training that makes it more effective and efficient over other methods?

  • What does Moth+Flame provide to its customers? Tell us a bit about your offerings for both the private and public sector.

  • Can you talk us through what it looks like when you start working with a company? What is the development process like, and how does existing programs or curriculum fit into this?

  • Can you tell us how VR training can help HR departments?


"With one customer, we went from 2 use cases to 30 use cases, and we're on a five-year program with them. "

Bryce Luken

Chief Operating Officer at Moth + Flame

Transcript

Britt Erler

Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Connect HR Leadership Virtual Summit hosted on Quartz Network. My name is Britt Erler, QN Executive Correspondent. Thank you so much for joining us. I am pleased to welcome our executive speaker Bryce Luken, Chief Operating Officer of Moth and Flame, as he discusses virtual reality, immersive training, and the future of work. Welcome, Bryce.


Bryce Luken

Hey, Britt. Thanks for having me.


Britt Erler

It’s a pleasure to have you here, and really excited to dive into this topic today because I really believe that this immersive training is going to be the future of work and what we see in years to come. Before we do so, if you wouldn’t mind walking the audience through a little bit more about your background and your current role with Moth and Flame.


Bryce Luken

Yeah, absolutely. As you mentioned, the Chief Operating Officer of Moth and Flame, been here for a little over 2 years. My background has really been in venture backed startups and high tech, as well as a stint in the military. It’s been a merger of kind of leadership and development in my career paired with technology, and for really the last decade, have been selling software technologies in the large enterprises. So excited here with this tech specifically, because it does really feel like a culmination of a lot of my career coming together. We’re able to leverage technology to make people better humans, and help people perform at a level that they really couldn’t before. It’s an exciting piece of technology, and I’m really excited to talk with you about it today.


Britt Erler

Your background really fits in perfectly. In the past year alone, we have seen such strides in the virtual workspace. Not to mention really, the state of VR, and that’s kind of where I want to start. Some think that it was really overhyped, and that it’s undelivering for casual consumers, but I don’t necessarily feel that way, so I want to hear from you. Why do you think VR growth in the enterprise is accelerating as quickly as it is?


Bryce Luken

A lot of the VR pilot programs kicked off in circuit 2018. Now, those programs have been going through the wringer and the data is coming out. Now, you’re able to make an argument around ROI, and have actual data to back and make a data-driven decision when implementing VR. Any technology, we all understand the hype cycles, but now we’re really seeing kind of the proof point.


Bryce Luken

Just one example off the bat: We have a customer with an eight-figure training budget that they were able to cut by 10x by implementing VR. A lot of cases, there’s actually our dollars, which is very helpful in an HR or to be able to sell that to the FPA, the finance order, or your CFO. It sometimes can be a difficult argument. In some of the soft skills areas that we’ve been doing, we’re also just seeing improvement in kind of the human performance side, where it’s improvements in confidence or how do they approach a difficult conversation.


Bryce Luken

The data that we’re seeing there on the immersive side is really interesting in terms of the confidence and the people and your end users wanting to use the tech because a big piece of using immersive technology is actually the desire of the end user wanting to use it. That’s new versus the CBT, where I’m checking email and doing something on the side. At the current moment, it’s actually been—timing has been interesting, just with remote work. With COVID hitting, we did see a spike in demand and interest that, “Hey, we actually have to figure out a technological solution here to get training across and how do we do this if I can no longer bring people into a room together and learn from that instructor?” That’s really started to push the technology, the adoption, and people solving the heart issue of bringing in a frontier technology into an organization and executing and implementing.


Britt Erler

I think as we see a lot of companies are deciding, “I only want to have a remote workforce moving forward.” With that comes meeting a more immersive training experience for their employees. For these companies that are looking to do something like this, what is it specifically about immersive training that makes it more effective and more efficient than other overall methods?


Bryce Luken

I’ll start with effective first, because if you look at traditional training, I think 80, 90% of the market is still done in person. Most people agree that in-person training, one-on-one, instructor-led, learn from the pro, learn from the best, is still the primary way of training. The other was CBTs, and that’s where you see a lot of the offloading of the training that needs to be done on an annual basis. Maybe that has a high impact, but it’s maybe more compliance related.


Bryce Luken

That was kind of the spectrum and virtual reality, in terms of effectiveness, kind of sits there in the middle, where it’s the best of both worlds. It has the scalability of a CBT because it is software, but we can scale your greatest brick and mortar assets. The best trainer that you have, we can put them in the headset and in front of every single employee that needs to interact with them. The fact now that the technology that we use natural language processing in our tech, you can actually have a conversation. What that’s doing into the mind, people don’t say, “I went to the training, or I did the or I saw the training.” They’re saying, “I did it,” because they’re speaking the words, they’re doing the things. In hard skills, we have haptics, and so people are actually moving and doing the actual activity the training that needs to be performed. That’s really where it’s been able to prove itself on scalability, and the effectiveness having a greater effectiveness as a real in person trainer.


Bryce Luken

In terms of the efficiency, that piece is where again, the 10x return that one customer had, it was this year. We don’t have to travel people and we can have now a higher volume of individuals go through this training that we couldn’t before because of brick and mortar type of constraints. When you peel back the onion and really look at, not the technologies you’re using, but just how you execute your training programs, there’s real opportunities to leverage VR to create those types of efficiencies.


Britt Erler

I think about it from our company as well. We started off based in Los Angeles. Everybody worked in office, everybody was local. Now with COVID heading, and we have this new virtual workspace, we’ve been able to hire really diverse candidates from all over the world, but with that comes the struggle of “Okay, how do we train them efficiently, effectively, and as you mentioned, really make them feel like they’re a part of the experience, a part of our office?” which isn’t always easy. I really see this immersive training being such a crucial piece of that for companies moving forward. You mentioned a little bit about, obviously, the tech that Moth and Flame provides. Talk to me a little bit more about that—what you provide for your customers, especially in the private and public sector.


Bryce Luken

It’s a full end to end solution for the customer because we understand it’s a new technology, and it can be people can think of it as hard because it is a very difficult thing, so we want to offer that full end to end. We work with you from everything from hardware procurement, picking your headsets, and how do you deploy these things. How many do you need? What will be the utilization rates on these things? Are you deploying them out to sites? Are you moving them between remote employees? What does that physical plan look like?


Bryce Luken

The big piece is our platform—the Moth and Flame platform that is really the mechanism that allows you to distribute and exploit the virtual reality training to your entire workforce. That platform has kind of the LMS installed in there for virtual reality, so that you can distribute check, employees going through it, but really, the analytics are something that I’ve noticed really get people excited, because we are quantifying things that that were never quantifiable before. You’re in virtual reality, you’re saying things, you’re making decisions, and you’re interacting with a virtual environment. That virtual environment is actually able to capture those interactions. Now, you’re seeing decision flows, and you’re seeing where people are struggling, or where maybe did they deviate off path from where you would like to have them go.


Bryce Luken

It really gives you a ton of insight. We’re applying that in kind of a few different areas. We have both public and private sector offerings, and hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills—it’s anything from human to system interaction, where you’re sitting there and flipping switches, pressing buttons, dials, working on flat panel screens, to soft skills where it’s conversational, and there we’re doing topics such as suicide prevention, sexual assault, prevention and response. Our latest program that’s really exciting is diversity, equality, and inclusion. It’s about having those difficult conversations that maybe you’ve never had before in real life. This gives you that safe place to actually practice having those conversations and work those soft skills that, especially again, in this remote environment, little different in how we interact, and how do you prepare people for those interactions. This really gets people those—the reps in practice.


Bryce Luken

We’re doing that for companies like Accenture on the commercial market. And then we work with the Air Force on the public side, which is a massively scalable organization—very intense security standards that we’ve been able to work with them on. They’ve really been a leader in investing in a lot of the emerging technology, and we translate that from the commercial sector to the public sector.


Britt Erler

It’s incredible. Our company and other companies around us are, as you mentioned, sexual harassment, training, diversity, equity, and inclusion are becoming huge. You can watch videos all day long, but there really is something to be said about hands-on experience, and really knowing what it’s like to be in that position. It’s night and day in terms of learning your role, how you work in the office space, so that’s incredible and a game changer for so many organizations.


Bryce Luken

Yeah because you think about it—like these critical conversations come at moments and periods of time in your life or in the day or this work environment, where it’s high stress and the heart begins to beat and you’re like, “Okay, there’s a decision I have to make here and a call.” A lot of times you’re being presented and being put in that situation for the first time. Being able to get the reps before you’re put in that situation can have massive impacts [inaudible] at a high level with one of our customers.


Bryce Luken

Their employee base that their training works as child welfare officers, and there’s a high turnover rate in child welfare officers, because it’s a very stressful situation to walk into that house and conduct the interviews and at the end, make a decision on a child’s life. You keep them or you take them out, or do you leave in the home or do you take them out? That’s very, very stressful, so the data is showing it with the implementation of that program that they had a 20% decrease in turnover, just from being able to simulate. Okay, let me get some, get some reps going into different homes and dealing with some different situations so that I’m more prepared for when I’m actually interacting with in the real environment. That’s just one one use case that we’ve seen, but if you can identify those high stress kind of moments, and virtualize that and give your people the chance to get some reps, you’re really setting them up for success.


Britt Erler

Absolutely. Let’s talk about that a little bit more because, obviously, you work in a variety of different industries. What does that process look like when you first step in to start working with a company that maybe already has some processes in place a curriculum that they want to function by? What is that kind of first step for you?


Bryce Luken

It’s sitting down and really identifying that first use case, and what are major priorities and goals of their organization, and even looking up into the C suite, what are some organization organizational goals that we could really try to deliver on to get that win with a pilot program? It being something new, usually you got to prove yourself in the board.


Bryce Luken

Start with that goal setting, not talking about the features and all the benefits of all the cool, because it’s cool to act, but that’s not really what you want to dig into. Start with the goals and then we really work with the orgs to ensure that we have that solution designed around them in a way that they can be successful. Whether that goals reduce cost, okay, let’s peel back the onion there. Are you flying employees around? Are you bringing in trainers? Is there some constraint here in bandwidth or throughput? Like, how can we look at that? Or is it some positive result like DNI training, is a great example. It’s a newer thing in orgs, and here’s an opportunity to create a great, immersive experience to give somebody a training that’s cutting edge on a very important topic.


Bryce Luken

That’s kind of how we come in and analyze and how that engagement looks. Once you’ve identified that, looking at the curriculum, that’s just a translation process of pulling it into virtual reality. Again, we do that from hard skills, like literally we work with fighter pilots and fighter jets for hard skills, all the way to the soft skills with suicide prevention and sexual assault prevention and DNI. We can work in whether it’s bylaws or procedures or whatever it is. You can build that in that curriculum and ensure that you get the outcomes and the learnings that you want. Every user, every employee that goes through that headset to have when they take the headset off.


Britt Erler

Really, the options are endless is what you’re—


Bryce Luken

Britt, it’s pretty incredible that the use cases that people come up with when customers get the first bite at the apple, they’re like, “Wow, okay, that had impact.” With one customer, we went from 2 use cases to 30 use cases, and we’re on a five-year program with them. We’re just building and building that portfolio up to just completely virtualize their entire training curriculum. Yeah, it really is. Now, you still want to go for the high ROI, high impact, and get the big wins for the organization and really get the employee base excited about it.


Bryce Luken

It’s so true. Not many people are just wanting to sign up for training based on how many people were that excited. I think that leads perfectly into my next question. We have a lot of executives here that, obviously, work particularly in HR departments. I think the big thought for them is “Okay, how is this gonna affect me? What are the major benefits?” Walk me through that a little bit.


Bryce Luken

That one that we were not expecting. On one of our programs, we had a 97% recommendation rating from the users and the training—I don’t want to tell you exactly what the training was. The users were very cynical about the training that they are “Here it is, yep, this is the annual check the box training.” At the end, they were like, “Wow, that was interesting. What did you do?They start talking about what they did. What did you do with so and so? What decision did you make there? Because it’s creating memories, and it creates this experience, and that’s really creating this high level of engagement. That recommendation—it’s almost like an NPS score coming from your employee base training. Again, a lot of military training in my background, never have I ever seen that where people are recommending that folks take a training, so [unintelligible] getting statistics coming out of that.


Bryce Luken

Simply put, we’re just trying to help HR departments meet their goals. How do they get the training out? How do they make it effective? How do they get that employee base those, those users to actually have those learnings? Our approach, we try to be very systematic with with the departments to understand those objectives and the learning outcomes, and do it in a way where we create memories for the individuals so that they can retain it for the long run, and actually put it to use when it needs to be called upon. Whether that’s the situation that you hope you never have to face, which is like a suicide prevention, bystander intervention to a hard skills, fighter pilot, getting ready to fire up his jet and do his thing, and he needs to recall that on a daily basis. You’re building that cadence, so that’s really what we want to be able to partner with the HR department to be able to deliver that and help them hit their goals, whatever those those could be.


Bryce Luken

The other piece—that kind of unexpected that we got—was that the ability for the departments now to capture kind of user inputs and responses in a way that they didn’t before, so that there’s a better feedback loop to the HR department. Now, you can actually start tweaking the trainings or the things that you might need to be doing because you’re getting information and data that didn’t exist before to help you make more informed decision. If we can improve the performance of your org, as you’re performing out to serve your employee base, I think that’s a win across the board from the entire organization.


Britt Erler

I think a lot of companies that are looking to implement this, they always think to themselves, “How can I best prepare to implement this new type of program in my organization?” We both know it’s not easy. Employees are always a little nervous when something new is being brought to the table. Are there any obstacles or key takeaways that you think executives or HR departments should best prepare for when implementing this type of program?


Bryce Luken

The best practice goes back to that like, where do you create the big winning goal? It’s making something exciting that the employees care about. When you put them on that headset for the first time, because again, you know I think it’s only a matter of years before we do see it more out in the consumer markets, but still for a lot of folks putting a headset on the base and with the company, it’s a first time experience. They’re gonna “Okay, here we go, here’s my new thing.” If you can create that wow moment, that “Wow, this is a complete upgrade from anything I’ve done and I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” that really helps with that adoption and excitement, and really that buy in of folks wanting to do it. That’s been a big piece.


Bryce Luken

The second is, don’t be fearful of the logistics of hardware. I always think it’s interesting, because folks are like, “Okay, it’s like the laptop, and how do we figure out getting everybody dispersed hardware?” There’s solutions to this. It is kind of the 1980s, 1990s era of the PC coming into corporate America. We have customers that have 25 headsets on premise, that are now getting over 1000 users in just a few months through those headsets. Extreme leverage, right? Sometimes, you got to call up your operation research folks in the company to come up with the ops model. We teamed with the company to figure that out, to create that leverage, and we can take bite sized chunks here. Let’s do a site, let’s get a few headsets in there, and figure out that ops model, where are we getting all that great feedback from the employees that rationalizes and justifies what the program and what we’re doing. Those are going to make it exciting, and don’t fear the logistics model.


Britt Erler

I agree with you. I think it’s about getting more people’s foot in the door to try it out, to really experience it, and it’ll start to become so big because. I think about it on my end, and the only virtual reality experience I have is one of those like mall companies where you walked in a marble theme and you put the whole headset on. I got to be honest, it was awesome. That’s like the only thing I have to relate to as to what this type of experience would be like. I have a feeling a lot of people are in the same boat because it is so new. I agree with you. I think it’s getting your company excited. It’s getting people’s foot in the door to really have that hands-on experience and to realize how amazing it actually is for them. I can see it becoming huge in the next couple of years.


Bryce Luken

Two things here, Britt. First one, I’m going to get you a headset shipped out to you. of our experiences and see the emotional poll on these as well as the incredible amount of complexity that you can put in. The other piece, the other thing I’ve heard folks fear is “Okay, now we’re putting another screen on people. We’re already a remote workforce. How do you keep that human connection?”


Bryce Luken

In Moth and Flame, we’re a completely distributed company. Every Wednesday, we put our headsets on and we all meet up together in a room, and we hold our weekly tag up as a company, and it is an absolute kind of blast. I haven’t met more than half of my company, but I know faces not just from Zoom, but I know their avatar face in the room for meeting with them every week. The technology is amazing. Now, you can take pictures and actually replicate an avatar that looks like your face. You can recognize people in the room, in the virtual room. That’s where that’s where it’s going. You can create the training environments. You can create the collaborative environments. It’s really—and it’s just the beginning with what it’s doing. Attack and focus on the ROI and big goals of the organization to leverage the technology, but it’s gonna be fun. More and more use cases throughout the organization as the years pass.


Britt Erler

As you said, this is going to continue to evolve and what we’ll see it do is endless. Really. It’s incredible. As we wrap up this conversation today, I think a lot of companies are at the beginning stages of this and thinking, “Okay, this is something I want to do. This is now a good place for me to start. Where do I go from here?” Some companies have already maybe tested out certain ideas with it, they’re not sure if they’re doing it the right way and are kind of like, “Okay, is this a great decision for me moving forward?” I think this is a really good stepping stone for them. Final pieces of advice for executives that are, like I said, either in that beginning stage or right in the middle and trying to make sure that they’re moving their company forward.


Bryce Luken

The biggest piece of advice: if you’re going to look at a new a new piece of technology to come in and do something transformational in your org, identify that big win and that big goal, because the if we team together, we will have to work with your infosec, security folks, and your network folks, and then the managers that are helping implement the ops plan for the distribution. Getting that collective buy in and driving momentum internal to the organization to adopt something that is going to be very, very new, I think really requires that excitement and that ability to say, “Look at what this is doing.”


Bryce Luken

The example here of one on our suicide prevention, we’re doing it for the US Air Force. We have the highest ranking female general in the military supporting this program for us. It has scaled from 10,000 to 50,000 users in less than a year. Everybody is from the command level, so your senior level manager all the way to your end users excited about it, because they know, “Hey, this matters. This is honestly a problem, right? We don’t like seeing this. Let’s figure out how we can do better.” That was kind of the entry point. Now, these headsets are out there, they’re being used, they’re finding additional use cases with us of how they can use this and the adoption is happening in that case. That’s really kind of—just to give a little vignette on an example of how that can really transpire and really excite an organization to the tunes of thousands of people being excited about it. That’s really key to move the ball down the field.


Britt Erler

From what you just told me today, it’s life changing is going to be for so many employees and companies. It’s really incredible and something I’ve never even heard much about until this point. I’m really excited to see how this grows and how companies start to utilize it.


Bryce, thank you so much for being here and really providing your insights and the stepping stones to get these companies on board and excited about this opportunity. Thank you to everyone who has joined us today as well. I’m sure you will all have tons of questions for Bryce on this. Not to worry—we will have a discussion forum underneath this presentation. Thank you again for joining us and enjoy the rest of the Connect HR Leadership Virtual Summit.


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