Metaverse has become one of the top buzzwords in the last two years. While the idea has been around since the early 90s, thanks to sci-fi novels and video games, discussions about the metaverse and what it means for the future of life and work have only recently become a topic of interest.
But what is the metaverse?
While there are many complicated definitions of the metaverse, simply put, it is a virtual man-made world where humans are replaced by avatars and things by digital depictions, allowing them to gather and connect virtually without any geographical constraints. People can communicate on the metaverse, work, attend meetings, travel to exotic destinations, and even host their own weddings from anywhere in the world. In a nutshell, it is the most advanced version of a social networking platform.
How does the metaverse affect the future of work?
According to McKinsey, 95% of business leaders anticipate a positive impact from the metaverse on their industry within the next five to ten years, with 61% expecting a moderate transformation in industry operations.
The Covid-19 pandemic led to the adoption of remote working and virtual teams like never before. However, the metaverse will take this to the next level, allowing individuals to access an entirely virtual workplace from different locations and devices, using immersive and augmented reality technologies.
Late last year, Lenovo conducted a survey of 7,500 working professionals in the US, UK, Brazil, China, Japan, and Singapore to understand their thoughts about working in the metaverse. Nearly half (44%) of the respondents said they are willing to work in the metaverse and believe it can deliver benefits like increased productivity in the workplace.
What does this mean for HR?
As businesses across the globe continue to explore the metaverse, here are some principal HR functions that it can have an impact on:
1. Recruitment and onboarding:
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, hiring remotely and engaging with candidates over a screen has been somewhat of a challenge for recruiters. And that's where the metaverse can prove to be helpful.
For instance, Samsung hosted a virtual recruitment fair on a platform called Gather Town, where candidates could set up their avatars, talk to the company's HR managers, and ask questions about the organization in a casual and informal setting. A few weeks later, Hyundai Motor and Lotte E&C did the same thing. Similarly, PwC UK created a metaverse platform called Virtual Park to interview candidates avatar-to-avatar. In just six months, the park hosted over 12,400 unique users across 56 recruitment events, with students registering from 155 UK universities.
And it doesn't have to stop at recruitment. Take Hyundai, for example. Not only did they conduct a virtual career fair, but they also onboarded new employees through virtual inductions using the app Zepeto. Employees can have a virtual tour of their workplace, share ideas about how to use the metaverse for work, and be a part of an onboarding experience that introduces them to their work and peers in a more immersive way.
2. Employee engagement
Employee engagement can become elusive in a work-from-home environment. HR teams can use the metaverse to overcome this challenge and boost collaboration and engagement.
For instance, Meta's Horizon Workrooms and Microsoft's Mesh utilize VR technology on the metaverse to enable distributed teams to share a private virtual room where they can work together, attend meetings, or simply hang out. What's nice about tools like these is that you actually feel like you're present in the same room with someone else even though, in reality, you're hundreds of miles apart.
3. Learning and development
The multimodal interaction that the metaverse provides through virtual avatars, immersive videos, and spatial audio can be extremely beneficial in augmenting one's learning experience. And with organizations prioritizing learning and development programs in the workplace, this opens up a world of possibilities.
For instance, recently, Make Real collaborated with Vodafone to create a VR application that allowed learners to take on the role of a maintenance crew and install and maintain cell phone infrastructure. The goal was to create an immersive experience that showed them the typical risks of working at heights, such as a cell phone tower, and the importance of personal protective equipment in a safe space where they were allowed to fail.
Immersive experiences like this can help accelerate the pace of learning, eliminate life-threatening risks like in the case above, and facilitate better retention of complex concepts.
Today, the metaverse isn't just a concept used in gaming — it is slowly but surely becoming an immersive platform that can be used for a variety of applications ranging from collaboration to entertainment, training, and education.
While it is still a work in progress, experts believe it will become one of the most important breakthrough technologies of all time. And when that day does come, HR professionals must be equipped to embrace and leverage it to carry out day-to-day HR functions in order to stay ahead of the competition.