Virtual Reality (VR) is way more than a technology to play video games or watch amazing videos. No surprise, some estimates show that VR (together with Augmented Reality) will be a $150 billion business by 2020.
We don’t know for sure all the fields that will be changed by VR, but we can predict some of the industries and functions that will be dramatically transformed in the few years to come. And I believe that one of the fields that will be radically disrupted by VR is the Human Resources (HR) function.
In general, HR practices, strategies and role have been sort of monolithic for a long period of time. In most companies, recruitment, onboarding, training, performance management, corporate-operations relations, among others practices, still follow the same outdated rules and processes that have been in place for at least three to four decades.
Those outdated rules and processes are not only expired and don’t apply to the demands of the world today, but they are actually playing a big role against the very objectives they are supposed to pursue. Research shows some of the consequent results. For example, 48% of employees worldwide are unhappy with their jobs, more than 80% of US workers have work related stress, and employees’ disengagement is a staggering 70%.
Since the HR function is getting enormous pressures today (adapting to a hyperconnect globalized world, responding to varying generational demands, using more data, technology and information), the results shown above won’t change, unless the way HR does its business changes as well. Particularly when it comes to leveraging technology and innovation.
How can the VR function transform the HR function? These are some of the ideas on how to use VR to transform the HR function (starting now!):
Candidates will be interviewed using VR, which makes it easier for them to get to know the company, and for the recruiters to assess in real time the skills that the person is actually bringing onboard. Using VR, candidates can get realistic tours of the company, experiencing it at its fullest extent. They can also meet teams across the world, and even “shadow” a person with similar responsibilities in order to understand what the job entails.
Essentially, the benefit of VR for recruitment is twofold. For the candidate, it allows to critically understand and get to know the potential employer in order to determine whether it matches the candidate’s potential. And, perhaps more importantly, it allows the employer to carefully assess candidates’ skills, finding the best possible fit that decreases turnover and disengagement.
Training / Onboarding
Just in 2012, US companies spent $164.2 billion on training and development. About 50% of those expenses were related to travel, facilities and equipment. Is it a surprise that training could be one of the most significant areas in which VR can have an immediate and dramatic effect?
VR can provide real 3D scenarios for workers to truly grasp the content, knowledge and information that are being transmitted during any training. Even though technology-based training represents around 40% of the total instruction delivery, most of it is still focus on webinar (boring 2D!) technology.
Imagine the potential to deliver technology-based training where participants are fully immersed in a real-life kind of experience, almost touching the tools and equipment they will be using. This will certainly increase the potential for employee engagement. And, especially, the possibility to decrease work-related stress as a consequence of lack of knowledge that comes from participating in new teams and tasks.
The same approach can be used for the onboarding experience. It doesn’t matter where a new employee is, he or she can fully experience a total immersion in the company day to day by using VR. This can be done way in a more effective and efficient way, since VR allows interaction with teammates and operations in a smoother way than a classroom-like onboarding session.
In the era of globalized collaboration, VR can have a radical impact in how people across the organization work with each other. And HR can be pioneer in that direction.
Today, most collaboration happens via emails, phone calls, or even neat platforms such as Slack. However, with VR, people can be brought together to brainstorm, solve complex problems, innovate and maximize their collaboration efforts by having a real-life 3D experience.
Some research shows that the number one source of happiness is human interactions. And an important part of work-related stress, unhappiness and disengagement at work have their source in the lack of meaningful interaction with others. This is especially true for companies which personnel are spread all over the world.
Technology brings us closer, and VR can bring us the closest! By levering VR technology we can provide a bridge for people to interact more often and with more quality. Most importantly, these interactions will feel like real, instead of emotionless emails or phone calls.
Improving soft skills (especially empathy)
VR can boost the way we perform at the level of our soft and social skills, especially empathy. Researchers are convinced that VR can modify behaviors in the real world.
For example, in 2011, researchers at Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, “asked participants to maneuver a vibrating, haptic “chainsaw” to down a tree in a simulated forest”. After using the simulated tool, researchers found that the group of VR users utilized 20 percent fewer napkins to mop up a spill than the participants who read about the environmental effect of cutting trees.
If companies are able to connect their employees with customers around the world, employees will be better equipped to better understand their stakeholders’ needs and act accordingly. This is especially powerful in organizations with a social mission and limited resources. These organizations can leverage the power of VR not only to connect their personnel with their stakeholders, but also their donors.
Imagine an organization as impactful as charity:water using VR to connect their people and donors with those who are being benefited. This will certainly close the gap between stakeholders (or customers) and the company. This is a powerful way to increase social skills, and empathy as one of the most important drivers for customer satisfaction.
Where to begin
The benefits of using VR may vary from company to company, and from industry to industry. There’s no one size fits all kind of approach that can be implemented all across without any degree of differentiation. However, the fact that VR will impact several industries and functions is really certain, and there’s no doubt that it will transform the HR function
The road ahead on the implementation and use of the technology in HR is evolving fairly quickly, yet it’s still extremely open to test and pilot different approaches. As an HR and technology expert, my advice would be to start with small scale experiments where the value of VR can be piloted and tested for any given specific company and industry. For example, it’s not the same testing VR for a nonprofit with operations in developing countries than it would be for NASA or SpaceX.
Perhaps the best course of action is to design small experiments and test the validity of the assumptions about the potential benefits of VR. Once the metrics for success have been evaluated, the next step with would be to scale the size of the solution until the point where it’s been successfully implemented across the organization.