[Speaker: Chad Astmann]
Hello and welcome to another podcast mini-series. I'm your host, Chad Astmann. I'm a senior partner at Korn Ferry and I'm an excited observer of the exciting ways advanced technology is impacting human capital management. Thank you for joining me on today's episode where we will be exploring the metaverse and the potential implications it might have on the world of work. And here to discuss today's topic, I'm delighted to be joined by Sarah Birdsell, who is a leader on the executive management team at Meta. Okay, so let's jump straight in.
[Speaker: Sarah Birdsell]
When we think about these immersive connections, it's not about replacing that human connection that we get when we're physically together, right? There's nothing better than sitting together with your team in person. But what we've learned so quickly for the last couple of years is that, that can't always be possible, and it shouldn't always be possible. And we need to think about new ways to attract talent and to bring people together. And the other end of the spectrum has been, of course, the you know, head and shoulders view or the Brady Bunch view, connecting people together as well. And that's good to a certain extent, and that's good for some meetings still, but you know, there's that middle ground of a product like Workrooms, where you can high-five your colleagues without having to travel to be there, where you can whiteboard together. And so that collaboration one, I would say, or virtual meetings is a little bit more on the emerging front.
Where we're seeing people really drill into on the early adoption phases of their organization journey is learning development. So, driving home the need to focus and invest in their people and bring that to life. And I'll share with you two different types of stories of customers that we're working with. One would be a Hilton Hotel.
Hilton built training so that their head office employees could understand and learn what it was like to be a frontline worker. So that empathy training for executives, everything from, “how do I deliver room service carts” to interacting at the front desk during a check-in process. So, they built something for their head office employees, but as a way to create that connection with their distributed employee workforce.
Another example has been Walmart. So, Walmart now has trained over a million of their global customer service employees through virtual reality. And what they found is that two components. So first being they were able to get a full 60-minute training course delivered in 20 minutes because you're able to do active role playing and you're able to really engage in different types of senses.
The second part to that is when you're engaging in those different types of senses, you put on that headset, there's a little bit of tension that you get, you know, the nerves kind of rally up a little bit and it replicates that real life interaction experience. So, the stickiness of the training and their ability for them to replicate those skills they've learned was stronger. And so, they're looking at this from a, how do you train your frontline in a scalable way, that makes it far more impactful?
Our priority for us is making sure that we have avatars that represent how people want to be represented. Whether that's a wheelchair, whether it's cochlear ear implants, anything that's part of their identity has to be there in order for them to feel belonging in their organization. But also really interestingly enough, when you think about other forms of identity, there's a lot of mixed research about what people are looking for. So, you know, we see, for example, someone who may be an amputee. In some cases, they want that represented because that's them. In other cases, they don't necessarily want that representation to be as accurate as their true self, true physical self. And so, I would say the first part about inclusivity is identity and making sure that that's really important as well. But also thinking about what are those other ways that you can attract talent that may have some barriers today.
So, for example, can you have cameras on the virtual reality headset, pick up ASL and translate that into captions for someone else? So there's a lot of organizations that are really leaning into that and a lot of emerging technology that's helping to cross those boundaries and make sure that everyone has a place.
Does this enable us to cross boundaries, blur boundaries, and have people become engaged and connected with people regardless of where they're at, whether it be their home office or if they chose to commute? Absolutely. I think one of the magical things is, you know, if you go back to that, the Brady Bunch view of work, we've all been on calls where all of a sudden someone turns off their camera or shows up at a meeting and their camera's not on. And our human reaction is, well, maybe they're not engaged, right? Maybe they're just not interested in this meeting so they're not even gonna bother turning the camera on when everyone else has their camera on.
The reality, of course, is maybe that person's feeling under the weather that day, or they've got a sick child at home, or there's just laundry piled behind them and they're not comfortable. And so the ability for someone to put on a headset and have their avatar be there with them, for them to always show up in the best way that they want to show up, even though they may be working in their pajamas, is pretty special.
There's a lot of things that we're discovering in this space. Organizations are having questions about does my dress code policy apply to avatars? Is it appropriate for someone to maybe be a little bit more business formal on a physical event, but then they can show up in a virtual meeting and maybe a more casual t-shirt? And so those conversations are things that we need to mentally get our heads around and understand things like…
What is the appropriate body language for your avatar? Maybe when you walk into a meeting, you may be more of a handshake type personality, but are you going to be okay with a high-fiving avatar? And so what does that look like? So I think there's a lot that's happening in that space from a research perspective to understand what are those right behaviors and that perception about does something need to be different in a virtual environment than a physical environment?
The other part of course is, is what does that avatar look like? Today I would say our avatars are a little bit more on the cartoon side of the spectrum. They're coming a long way and certainly the types of cameras and the headsets make a difference too. The Quest Pro has a different type of camera that's going to pick up your facial expressions and that level of detail about how your face moves when you talk is different than an older version of your hardware device.
But what does that representation look like? Do we need to make sure that our identity and our avatars are updated to reflect who we are today versus our aspirational selves? And so, things like our Codec camera research that we're doing where we're creating research-based avatars that identify all the nooks and crannies of our facial experience so that when we roll our eyes and make those faces in meetings, that level of detail picks up. I think so for me, identity and making sure the level of accuracy shows up is going to be super key.
My last parting thoughts and challenge to everyone is continue to be curious. It is a space that is constantly evolving, and you know, it's always interesting to lean in and learn about what every organization is doing. Almost every organization has an aspect of VR that they are working with. So, continue, continue to be curious. Things are constantly developing and it's all for the betterment of all of us.