Virtual Reality Onboarding: Capturing Talent in the Metaverse
Tech companies believe they are at the forefront of an out of this world revolution in the onboarding process. But can plugging your employees into VR really improve your candidate experience?
Juggernauts of the tech world know that there is a big future in Virtual Reality, and the workplace is front and centre of their vision.
Microsoft, for instance, has its HoloLens headset technology, combined with AltSpaceVR that allows users and companies to create digital worlds to inhabit, meet up and collaborate in.
Facebook has Reality Labs, formerly known as Oculus, which its website declares will “positively impact the way companies do business” – and the fact that the Facebook suite of products was renamed Meta shows how much it believes that the future lies in the metaverse, a digital universe for virtual and augmented reality.
Alongside a host of other companies, including start-ups and long-established corporations, such products are persuading businesses both in and outside the tech world to invest in VR.
Accelerated by the requirement for remote working and companies looking to diversify their offering, Virtual Reality is increasingly being used to woo prospective employees and optimise the integration of new recruits. But is there more to it than flashy tech and a futuristic appeal?
Getting Meta With It
Formerly a Talent Development Manager with George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, directing global onboarding processes and multimillion Talent Development initiatives, Jamie Bykov-Brett has plenty of experience in what it takes to initiate employees the right way and improve retention.
When the pandemic halted his latest personal venture into training and facilitation, Bykov-Brett began to explore Virtual Reality as a tool to enhance onboarding and staff training – at a time when many employers and employees were desperate to improve remote working methods.
His creation, MetaHub, uses “cutting-edge visualisation technology” to enable companies to engage in virtual meeting spaces where they can interact, create, converse and train.
“From a financial, social and economical perspective, this is a really great opportunity,” Bykov-Brett told us. “We must understand how much detail and how many people are lost within that first part of the onboarding journey at the moment. Most people want to have information before that first day in the office, they want to be able to learn about the organisation and assuage their anxieties.
“Companies lose a lot of people between the moment they accept the offer and before their first day. If we don't engage them in that pre-boarding stage, they're much less likely to start with us because they don't have to commit at that point. There's still an opportunity to take a step out.”
It’s hard to step out when you are immersed in a whole new world. A tour of Metahub’s virtual spaces opens with a rooftop terrace that overlooks a sweeping city vista, skyscrapers brushing against white clouds and blue sky. Other spaces include a cosy cinema room and a lounge areas that pops with energetic colours and the aesthetics of a modern office space.
A Virtual Utopia
Bykov-Brett suggests that VR headsets can be used for many aspects in onboarding, including presentations, running through documentation and providing a tour of the office.
It is also possible to display the mission and values of the company through visual means, such as with team building games or abstract concepts. MetaHub offers a Whole Brain Thinking Room, based on the Whole Brain Model by psychometrics specialist William Herrmann, that divides the room into four with each quadrant dedicated to a different aspect of the company’s values and qualities such as workplace relationships, integration and planning.
“We can save a hell of a lot of time on the man hours that we constantly use on the onboarding process to deliver these presentations and core concepts over and over and over again,” Bykov-Brett continues.
“Compared to ‘2D’ meetings such as Zoom calls, we know that employees have a 32 per cent higher emotional reaction to 3D content and they engage with it for 26 per cent longer. So we're already creating a better learning environment just by utilizing VR technology.”
As well as appearing at the forefront of technological advances to new hires, Bykov-Brett also points out that a company can use Virtual Reality to improve its inclusivity values. “We're enhancing participation by removing barriers that stop people from participating. Say, if you have a disabled employee coming into the office for the first time, we could provide them with a VR headset and do a virtual tour of the office, including accessibility features, before their first day – and that might help with some of the anxieties and make sure they are comfortable.
“In terms of interviews, we can disguise character traits and other distinguishing features to make sure that people aren't being unfairly discriminated against based on appearance or background, making it a level playing field.”
The New Reality Beyond the Pandemic
As many companies scale back their remote offerings, it might seem probable that demand for virtual escapism will decline – instead, the pandemic years and the surge in remote working have provided a springboard for the format that will continue long into the future, allowing Virtual Reality providers to further explore how the technology can change working lives.
“Now, there's so much more in the level of participation and interest,” enthuses Bykov-Brett. “There's still this learning curve of teaching people what the metaverse is and what Virtual Reality is, no doubt.
“However, even the way that we design VR onboarding processes wouldn't have been possible ten months ago. Although we are still early in terms of the learning design of VR, what we can offer has been enhanced so quickly in such a short space of time that the functionality alone is completely different to what it would have been.
“The progress has allowed me to continually explore how we use the metaverse, and how we can make the metaverse more inclusive and accessible.”
Virtual Reality will continue to open new doors for companies, and each door opens out onto a whole new world. Onboarding can become infinitely more diverse, displaying the company in visual feasts that are only limited by imagination – and we’ve only just started to consider the possibilities.