Virtual reality helps leaders see through bias

11 December 2018

A pioneering approach harnessing the immersive powers of virtual reality is helping Bankwest shape the future of leadership training in Australia.

Bankwest partnered with Perth start-up Being VR to develop its Inclusive Leadership VR Experience to help shift how businesses address prejudice and bias in the workplace.

Leaders are immersed into three scenes involving conflict, prejudice and bias between three team members and their manager across a 90-minute facilitated session.

The program was piloted in March to help leaders understand and develop inclusion and diversity strategies and is now a key part of the company's leadership Masterclass.

Bankwest's Manager – Learning Transformation Simon Thomas said the innovative solution helped overcome the difference between intellectual and emotional learning.

"We know people intellectually understand inclusion is positive, but it needs to be more than an intellectual connection to motivate people to change behaviours,” Thomas said.

"People need to feel emotionally connected with the consequence of exclusion, so we wanted leaders to raise their self-awareness of reactions, motivations and biases."

Research into traditional methods of diversity training found effects to be limited, in part due to the classroom-like nature and a lack of supporting programs.

Bankwest's VR initiative addresses those shortfalls by being part of the wider leadership training and sitting alongside inclusivity and diversity programs Unity and Mosaic.

The immersive experience then results in more meaningful training to provide leaders with the best possible opportunity to absorb and retain information.

"I could show you photos of training from 1916 and 2018 and the only difference is people today are looking at a PowerPoint, not a chalkboard,” Thomas said.

"That works for passing on information, but it doesn't drive behavioural change and we were conscious of the need for the learning to be the catalyst for change.

"The learning ends with leaders writing the final scene in the form of coaching advice for the manager, meaning they walk out having written their own coaching action plan."

Media enquiries

If you have a journalistic enquiry, please get in touch.