The metaverse has the potential to touch every part of our work, including HR. We spoke to industry leaders in India to understand how this rising tech trend could influence the future of work by delivering a hybrid blend of virtual and in-person experiences at work and beyond.
In October last year, when Facebook renamed itself Meta, the whole ambition was to move beyond social media and use futuristic technology and make augmented and virtual reality to be a key part of its strategy in the coming years.
For a pandemic-ravaged world, reducing touchpoints has become a way of life now. Thus Metaverse, a virtual realm, is slowly and definitively finding its place in several business processes, also intriguing the HR professionals on its implications in managing the employees.
While many are still figuring out how different this technology is from the existing VR platforms, some organisations like Accenture and Siemens have already found use-cases by setting up virtual offices, virtual recruitment fairs, and even virtual retreats.
In a Mint interview last month, Accenture’s group chief executive for technology and chief technology officer Paul Daugherty points out that the accelerated need for a more sound technology for business affairs plagued by the pandemic and the same was reflected in HR tech innovations as well.
As per reports, Accenture ordered 60000 Oculus Quest 2 headsets last year to aid its trainees who weren’t able to meet in person. It even set up a virtual office called the Nth Floor, an internally developed enterprise metaverse that was created to bring Accenture employees together to meet, collaborate, and learn.
Siemens, a German multinational, employed the tech to conduct a virtual conference wherein employees connecting for the first time could be on a beach, watch fireworks, and take group selfies. It’s almost a virtual retreat. In the other part of the world, South Korean giant Samsung conducted a virtual recruitment fair using the technology.
Morph the training and hirings
While the use of Metaverse for HR applications is still scattered, we spoke to industry leaders in India to understand how this emerging tech trend is going to impact human capital management.
In February this year, Infosys launched metaverse foundry to help clients explore the possibilities of this emerging tech in a virtual space. The company even claims to have developed several ready-to-apply use-cases and templates.
Richard Lobo, Executive Vice President, Head HR, Infosys shares, “We have been successfully inducting our new employees using some of the virtual tools that the metaverse presents. We are seeing new capabilities develop as technological innovations take root which will make these experiences better.”
Infosys also held its flagship program for children of ‘Infoscions’ entirely in the Meta world. Over 100,000 participants engaged in a fun-filled space that had live workshops, virtual games, live shows, virtual tours, etc.
Lobo also believes companies have innovated every function to take advantage of developing technology and HR is no exception. Technology has enabled organisations to enhance employee experience, scale people processes, and enhance human capabilities. “For example, using some of the technologies available today, future employees can have a virtual experience of the company; managers can have sensitive discussions with team members; complex learning can happen in a risk-free way using virtual reality simulators; engagement can happen in a virtual fun world and so on,” predicts Lobo.
Richard Lobo, Executive Vice President, Head HR, Infosys shares, “We have been successfully inducting our new joiners using some of the virtual tools that the metaverse presents. We are seeing new capabilities develop as technological innovations take root which will make these experiences better.
What is its potential for non-tech industries?
Star Health And Allied Insurance recently conducted a virtual job fair where they engaged with 3000 engineers. The organisation also conducted a virtual fire and safety management awareness program which was attended by 55 people.
Dr. Sriharsha Achar, Joint ED, CHRO, Star Health and Allied Insurance believes Metaverse has considerable potential in creating a more immersive employee experience. “Pandemic has transformed the way work is done. The workplace is also transitioning rapidly. But creating connections has become quite difficult. That’s where this technology will come in. It has the potential to build human connections in this hybrid working ecosystem.”
The role played by augmented reality already operates in silos like virtual hirings and training but Metaverse seems to have found a common thread connecting all the individual tech stacks into a single immersive experience.
Achar believes recruitment and employee experience would be the first two HR processes to adopt Metaverse entirely in the coming days. He feels the technology is making a lot of noise and is especially getting a lot of patronage from the younger generation who are tech-savvy. “There’s a lot of noise about it as it’s a new technology and the young workforce is interested in developing it. From how I see it if the hybrid work model is a challenge, Metaverse is the solution,” Achar explains. But he does caution about data privacy and security which has been a topic of discussion as more and more companies adopted work from home during the pandemic.
More than ever, companies need to create more relevant and engaging employee experiences wherever they are. Deepa Narayan, Vice President, Employee Success, Salesforce India points out that the metaverse is a noticeable shift that is already underway and has a huge potential to revolutionise the HR operations.
“With everyone working from anywhere, our digital HQ will continue to become more important than our physical HQ. For instance, virtual job fairs are one example of how candidates are getting a real experience of companies, their culture, the office, and much more,” she believes.
Co-working companies embracing real(i)ty?
Metaverse will also have an impact on the coworking space. Facebook last August launched Horizon Workrooms, a remote collaboration tool where members of the same team can brainstorm ideas in the virtual space wearing VR headsets. It’s as good as sitting next to each other. This new-age tech thus seems like the future of co-working spaces. The Executive Centre, a premium co-working space, is monitoring the changing dynamics in the industry and looking at ways to make flexible workspaces a truly engaging, agile, and immersive experience for their clients.
Nidhi Marwah, Group Managing Director, TEC, however, cautions that it will be imperative to keep the role played by interpersonal communication in mind. “From an HR perspective, it is vital for team members across geographies to imbibe the right company culture and build strong professional rapports and communication across departments. These open lines of communication can be established only by building a sense of community and aligning the workforce to a larger organisational goal. While we indulge in exploring the metaverse, we need to ensure we do not discount the importance of interpersonal relationships. Over the last few years of the pandemic, we have learnt the innate need for humans to be social and engage with society in real life,” she asserts.
While we indulge in exploring the metaverse, we need to ensure we do not discount the importance of interpersonal relationships. Over the last few years of the pandemic, we have learnt the innate need for humans to be social and engage with society in real life, says Nidhi Marwah, Group Managing Director, TEC
Nothing in it for pharma yet, except for inductions maybe
But there are a few sectors where the adoption could take time and that can be longer than expected. They come with certain limitations. As Rajeev Singh, CHRO, Solara Active Pharma Sciences explains, “The scope of using Metaverse in a few industries like manufacturing or pharma, is a lot lower compared to other tech companies. Its implementation on shop floors or plants or in formulations seems a bit restrictive as these functions require human presence. But yes, you can make them understand the processes and systems with the help of this.”
Singh also adds here that no matter which industry one is from, HR technologies pretty much revolve around PMS, recruitment, onboarding, and the likes. HR is industry agnostic. But he is positive that it can help in creating employee experiences. For example when a person is joining a company, one can give that person a full virtual experience of what the company is despite being physically present. “Similarly, some of the core programs like quality, global manufacturing practices, and the knowledge and understanding people need to have in these sectors can be done through a metaverse. But then its usage gets confined to only these processes,” Singh believes.
Hope for travel and tourism
For the travel and tourism industry, metaverse could come in handy both for customers and candidates.
Himank Tripathi, President- External Affairs, EaseMyTrip is of the view that metaverse could be the next big step towards tech integration, and the travel industry can benefit immensely from this, as it eases some of the limitations that were prevalent in the past.
“The metaverse holds the key to making travel a more immersive and accessible virtual experience and can play a key role in enhancing user engagement and supporting the travel ecosystem,” he adds. However, he believes the need of the hour is to address the concerns that are rising with regard to digital safety and privacy, trusted ecosystems, and the redressal of inappropriate activities in this virtual world.
In the context of HR, Tripathi sees it as a means of creating more jobs with specific skill sets. “It is also important to note that onboarding these developments within the metaverse requires a special set of skills and knowledge, which will create lakhs of new job opportunities in an ever-expanding tech sector. Integrating these roles into the workforce of this industry is the first step towards properly establishing a foothold in the metaverse,” opines Tripathi.
Irrespective of the sector and its unique challenges, metaverse seems to have caught on with many organisations, and soon we might be witnessing a shift in how talent is recruited and retained. And it would further the trend of workers living far from their employers.