The workplace of the 2020s already looks vastly different from what we could have imagined just a couple of years ago. Facebook’s announcement that it was embracing the metaverse and rebranding itself as Meta set off a frenzy.
Despite the growing popularity of the term, the concept is still shrouded by mystery and is constantly evolving. According to Mark Zuckerberg, it is a kind of “embodied internet.”
It is something you can jump into (through Virtual Reality) or bring to your reality (through Augmented Reality). E.g., the LiDAR scanner on the new iPhone can scan your surroundings and bring the latest content into them through your camera.
The metaverse has the potential to touch every part of our lives, including work. In 2020, an average adult increased their time online by 25% to 16 hours a day. Research by Gartner predicts that by 2026, 25% of people will spend at least an hour in the metaverse per day, work being a key reason for this.
The digital world is expanding and soon new consumer spaces in the metaverse will take us to almost any type of world we can imagine, letting us relax, entertain ourselves, shop or socialize over a long distance. Last year, Gucci created The Gucci Garden experience to sell virtual products and sold a digital twin of a Gucci purse for a higher price than its real-world counterpart. Unreal!
The metaverse is expected to reshape the world of work in at least four major ways: new immersive forms of team collaboration; the rise of new digital, AI-enabled colleagues aka ‘digital humans;’ the acceleration of learning and skills acquisition through virtual and gamified technologies; and creation of a metaverse economy with new work roles.
Imagine a world where you could have a beachside conversation with your colleagues, take meeting notes while floating in a swimming pool, host virtual weddings, conduct virtual job fairs, or teleport from your office in Mumbai to Delhi, without taking a step outside your door. The scope of the metaverse is limitless.
If we look at various employee touchpoints, it shows an age of tech-savvy employees awaiting a digital-first experience like:
Sentiment Analytics has the potential to understand the true pulse of the employees. As ‘senti-meters’ listen and learn about their diverse employee groups, the insights can be used to design a super-personalized employee experience.
Recruiting and Onboarding
The right blend of AI plus human experience will enhance the candidate experience and build a great employer brand. Research shows, that talent acquisition is an area where companies see major measurable, and immediate results in reducing time-to-hire, improving productivity, and deliver an enhanced candidate interview and onboarding experience that is seamless and intuitive.
AI can make the most time-consuming tasks in HR into a faster, more accurate process, thereby driving employee commitment.
HR must design an AI-driven process that invites collaboration from all stakeholders. Continuous feedback mechanisms and 360 degrees feedback loops with the right notifications and linked manager outcomes can help boost employee performance.
Employees today want choice in every aspect of their work-life. They must be able to selectively choose the benefits that suit them from an available “basket of benefits” on an AI-based digital rewards platform where employees have individual sign-on and can suggest suitable benefits to employees as per factors such as life stage, past behaviours, lifestyle preferences, etc.
Many administrative HR activities such as payroll and benefits administration, invoicing, customizable workflows, configurable policies, etc. are best enabled through AI-driven tools to enable human workers to focus on value-adding work.
Learning and Development
AI provides a greater opportunity for learning by doing, and overall higher engagement through immersion in games and problem-solving through “quest-based” methods.
Teamwork and Collaboration
Workplace solutions that bring new levels of social connection, mobility, and collaboration to a world of virtual work and help counter video meeting fatigue and the social disconnectedness of remote work.
As AI takes over mundane tasks, insights related to human behaviour will become a paramount data input for AI systems. Unique human skills will be in demand in the future. For example, a role like Behaviour Analyst will study employee behavioural data such as performance, personal, and environmental data to help improve the employee experience, cross-company collaboration, productivity, and employee well-being.
There are advances in AI (such as machine learning and computer vision) and in autonomous animation (such as expression rendering, gaze direction, and real-time gesturing) to create lifelike, emotionally responsive ‘digital humans.’ Digital humans are taking on roles like skincare consultants, real estate agents, and educational counsellors.
Metaverse brings a plethora of new roles that we can only imagine today: avatar conversation designers, “holoporting” travel agents to ease mobility across different virtual worlds, metaverse security officers, a new category of workers who spend 100% of time in metaverse, etc. HR leaders need to plan the building of new capabilities through a future-focused L&D strategy.
According to the World Economic Forum, around 58 percent of businesses will use this technology in the next two years. Several employee touchpoints are likely to go high-tech, but HR must remember not to completely eradicate the human-touch element by planning correct implementation to balance any counter effects.
Any new piece of culture-shifting technology typically faces criticism. On one hand, predictions are being made about human jobs becoming redundant due to widespread automation. On the other hand, there is a focus on human roles that will become important with uniquely human skills that leverage problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity.
In this era of rapid technological progress, the Metaverse is poised to become one of the most significant breakthrough technologies of all time. For now, it may seem that the future we are hurtling toward holds more questions than answers. However futuristic this way of life seems right now, it is already on its way here and HR needs to gear up to cope with it.