“Metaverse will make working remotely much more collaborative and engaging”, Achal Khanna, SHRM India

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We recently had an email interaction with Achal Khanna, the CEO for SHRMI India, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the world’s largest professional association devoted to human resource management.

In this interview, Achal describes her experience with technology and how it has led to changing the world of business dynamically and HR is no different. With the world of work going through extraordinary transformation and Metaverse closing in on the technology we are currently used to, there is no denying that the world of HR will be further disrupted, for the better! Time for another big change for HR.

 

Tell us about Metaverse in HR?

As you probably know, the metaverse is a 3-D space with digital avatars – an alternate digital or virtual reality. As remote working gains popularity the potential to use the metaverse has also increased. It will be the responsibility of HR to ensure that development and implementation of this technology is done in such a way that is inclusive, collaborative, and completely secure. For example – the technical acumen needed to embrace the metaverse may marginalise employees in the older age group, while younger tech natives will take to it easily. Or regions with less than optimal internet bandwidth will have to delay adoption of this technology until an infrastructural upgrade takes place. Workplace safety will have to include the virtual space as well and policies will have to be modified accordingly.

On the other hand the metaverse will make working remotely much more collaborative and engaging. Due to its immersive nature it will be the closest thing to meeting physically. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg, one of the biggest drivers of this technology through his company Meta, has already declared that: “In the future, working together will be one of the main ways people use the metaverse.”

 

HR world is all about embracing technology and evolving with it. You are one of the frontrunners in this game, how do you think HR can utilise Metaverse in the Workplace?

The metaverse has the ability to make virtual interactions feel real. This feature alone makes a strong case for adopting the technology for HR.

Some companies have already successfully used the metaverse for virtual recruitment, and setting up virtual offices. Accenture set up a virtual called the Nth floor for employees to use as they would a real office – for meetings, learning, etc. Siemens organized a virtual ‘retreat’ for its employees where could be on a beach, watch fireworks, and take selfies. Samsung conducted a virtual recruitment fair. Infosys conducted onboarding for new employees in metaverse.

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The metaverse has so many potential applications. Through virtual simulations complex learning can take place in a safe, risk-free environment; employees can get first-hand experience and knowledge about different subjects and skills. Learning gets enhanced exponentially when employees are put through gamified programs due to the immersive nature of the metaverse technology. A virtual tour of the office premises can be organized for future employees. The metaverse provides the necessary confidentiality to have discussions on sensitive matters through 3-D meetings.

 

We have seen many companies going on a hiring spree. Do you think Metaverse can impact the hiring process too, if so how?

Many experts believe that the field of talent management will be one of the first to adopt the metaverse. In fact some companies have already hosted a metaverse Career Fair for campus placement. By providing 2D access to an arena candidates could create avatars and explore job opportunities and interact with different elements on the platform. Some companies have done this in 3-D by leveraging Oculus Quest 2 headsets.

Further, the growing popularity of the metaverse will create new job titles and disciplines, creating more challenges in hiring.

As you know, Job Descriptions started out as text based documents. They have now evolved to videos. The next step is to take the JDs to the 3-D level by creating in the virtual space a kind of day in the life of the typical employee.

 

Virtual interviews are as good as in-person interviews and save the costs associated with the traditional recruitment process. A potential problem could be availability of hardware at the interviewee’s end. The possible solution is that interview centres could be upgraded with metaverse equipment.

 

Onboarding is also more interesting and meaningful in the metaverse – instead of having to read the company handbook, the policies can be explained through gamification, the employee can be given a virtual tour of the office and enjoy interactive orientation classes. Hyundai Mobis has been using this effectively.

Deloitte has included a virtual tour of their London office as part of their recruitment and onboarding process.

The metaverse will possibly bring the recruiter and candidates closer making their interactions more meaningful and be beneficial to both.

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Several companies have embraced remote work culture. We have seen people switching from physical to virtual meetings. With metaverse being the new trend, do you think the next step for organizations is to switch over to 3D virtual meetings?

 

Moving to 3-D virtual meetings seems to be a logical progression. The metaverse allows you to join immersive digital worlds that are created for specific purposes and keep creating more. It will ensure that the team remains more cohesive while working together. It will improve communication as the simulation is more realistic. Meetings with customers will be more beneficial. Metaverse proponents argue that virtual shared worlds are a means of better replicating the kind of personal contact possible in offices.

 

Bill Gates wrote in his blog, “Within the next two or three years, I predict most virtual meetings will move from 2D camera image grids … to the metaverse, a 3D space with digital avatars,”.

 

Facebook launched Horizon Workrooms last year — a new collaboration experience in virtual reality.

 

A Facebook post by Mark Zuckerberg on 19 Aug 2021 says, “When you use Workrooms, it feels like you’re really there with people. You’ll notice conversations flow more naturally and you’ll pick up social cues that are missing on video – people turning to listen to each other, hand gestures, and spatial audio to give everyone a sense of place in the room. There’s also a whiteboard for brainstorming together, a screen for people to video conference in, and virtual desktop so you can use your computer in VR for presentations or multitasking.”

 

There is a section of people that believes metaverse is just an alternate/virtual reality made solely for entertainment industry and has no purpose in professional world whatsoever. What is your take on this?

 

There are companies that are already using individual or multiple elements of the metaverse, such as Oculus headsets, blockchain and nonfungible tokens (NFTs), wearables of IoT, and cloud technologies as a means of connection and new sources of revenue. These experiments are likely to grow in new ways as the developing technologies increasingly interconnect and mature. In fact Deloitte and smaller firms are offering services to help their clients to make sense of and benefit from opportunities presented in the growing metaverse. is among the major consultancies that have launched an initiative to help companies navigate emerging metaverse opportunities. Smaller firms are offering such services as well.

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The metaverse provides a more collaborative environment. A more immersive experience will ensure that even the most complex field and service work can be carried out by operations workers, as well as being able to coordinate more fully with others.

 

In future the metaverse could revolutionise the field of edtech, with its expected ability to stream data in real time and support real-time interactions in the virtual space. In the same vein, organizations can also vastly improve delivery of virtual training.

 

Other applications include enhanced customer experience in retail, tourism, etc. Companies are also making use of the metaverse to create their presence for better advertising, branding, and marketing opportunities.

As the metaverse matures it will provide more opportunities for expansion into unchartered territories.

 

With everything moving towards the cloud, how do you plan to solve the issues such as data protection and other aspects related to security?

 

One of the key fears of using the metaverse is data security and privacy as it is able to collect a large amount of personal data from a user and in turn could be used to curate personalised products and services, sometimes without taking prior permission from anyone. In fact, just 20 minutes of VR use can generate some 2 million unique data elements. This includes things like the way you breathe, walk, think, move or stare. Immersive tech can track huge quantities of highly sensitive information, creating both lucrative opportunities for businesses and a wide spectrum of privacy and reputational risks to users.

Security considerations need to be built into the metaverse at the outset, without compromising on the user experience.

Some of the actionable items that organizations need to think about include:

  • Defining rights of users in the metaverse
  • Creating and enforcing data accountability and data protection responsibilities
  • Creating a rating mechanism for age-appropriate access and use
  • Protection against malware
  • Providing awareness of cyber threats
  • Sustaining audit capabilities
  • Reinforcing identity and validation standards

Users can protect themselves by ensuring that all their devices, including the wearables, have updates software and are free from malware.

 

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