#SXSW Coverage: 5 Ways Virtual Reality Finally Enters HR Space

HR, HR Tech, Virtual Reality

Experts estimate that the virtual reality and augmented reality market will be worth $120 billion by 2022. This week I’m in attendance at the SXSW Conference in Austin, TX, and virtual reality is the belle of this ball. It is everywhere in expo halls, pitch sessions, parties and conversations by attendees at neighboring bars and convention center halls.

Where does the human resources and talent industry fit among that $120 billion number or does it even at all?

What is the Fourth Transformation?

The four transformations, which virtual reality is a part of, are centered around the transformation of the rise of the computer and how this piece of technology has transformed our life. The first transformation occurred when people started using text characters to talk directly with computers in the 1970’s. The second was the creation of the GUI and the Apple Macintosh in 1984. The third came in 2007 with the iPhone. We have entered the beginning of the fourth transformation, where technology moves from what we carry to what we wear. The fourth transformation includes virtual reality, mixed reality, wearables, artificial intelligence and virtual reality. 

The Virtual Reality industry is estimated to be $120 billion by 2022 #sxsw Click To Tweet

Virtual reality is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment. VR places the user inside an experience. Instead of viewing a screen in front of them like we do with mobile and desktop computers or televisions, users are immersed and able to interact with 3-D worlds. VR focuses on offering as many simulations of the senses as possible, such as vision, hearing, touch, even smell. Because of this, the technology places the user front and center in a 3-D artificial yet realistic world. The only limits to near-real VR experiences are the availability of content, access to the internet and VR technology.

Five Ways to Use Virtual Reality in HR and Recruiting

#1 – Interviewing

Virtual reality video interviewing offers the ability to feel as though you are literally in the room with the candidate and are able to better engage them in a more personalized way with the technology. While most job candidates have a smartphone, few have VR equipment. This can be easily solved with a $7 cardboard VR headset frame. A nice additional employment branding touch is adding the company logo and recruiting hashtags to the cardboard headset that is overnighted in a nice candidate interviewing packet before the VR video interview.

Gap recruiting team uses VR at #SXSW Job Fair offering real time view of SF campus Click To Tweet

#2 – Learning and Development

VR offers great opportunities to learn on the fly and to practice technical skills in virtual simulations. Robert Scoble, the notable tech evangelist, recently discussed in a recent Workology Podcast episode how companies like Boeing are using VR technology to help train technicians. Lowe’s began using VR as part of their new assistant and store manager training. Managers can visit different locations and distribution centers using the technology. The company reduces costs by not paying for the additional travel and are able to cut their training time in half.

I see endless possibilities for VR in learning and development from employee orientation, specialized training and the ability for peers to demonstrate complicated or confusing tasks using this new technology. VR company, Striver which received $5 million in funding at the end of 2016, is the only one I found focused on training and learning for the workplace. It’s early although I’m certain more will follow or are doing so but in a less than official capacity.

#3 – Candidate Engagement

While at the SXSW Conference Job Fair, I stumbled across the Gap job fair booth where they offered visitors an opportunity to explore the San Francisco offices using virtual reality. The tour provided me and others with a realistic office preview where the company was able to highlight benefits, perks and career opportunities available to Gap employees.

More than a day in the life and employee video testimonials as part of the recruiting process we have come to expect are those that offer VR technology. Oculus Connect launched their Owlchemy Lab’s Job Simulator. A free app on Oculus, it has a new ‘office worker’ level. This VR app is actually a game that offers a tongue in cheek reconstruction with perspectives of the future. This app offers a look into what the future offers for job previews, simulations and training opportunities when it comes to VR.

#4 – Employee Engagement & Collaboration

Because our workplace is becoming more and more dispersed, the use of VR to keep employees engaged, active and feeling as though they are a part of the organization is important. Virtual reality offers this opportunity for virtual workers to be a part of company picnics, events and even office birthday celebrations when they are five miles or thousands of miles away.Whether it’s increased engagement or collaboration, VR provides an opportunity for remote workers to be involved and engaged. Phone calls and video makes it extremely challenging to develop that personal connection between colleagues. Although, I found this is not always true. It really depends on the individual and the company culture. Being dispersed or remote from the office offers the opportunity to be extremely productive because you are free from distractions but it can also be lonely.

#5 – Virtual Meetings Supporting Dispersed Workers

This includes orientation, board meetings, conferences and any work meeting where individuals aren’t physically in a single room. Imagine the travel expense reduction that this opportunity offers along with the increased ability to collaborate with peers, co-workers and clients through a virtual reality board or meeting room. Unfortunately, for multi-taskers like myself who regularly check emails, write or edit articles and work on projects all while trying to stay engaged on a conference call, I will have to seek alternatives to my current productivity strategies. I’m certain there will be a VR training for multi-task masters like me to help be more flexible and engaged in this change.

Where HR is in the VR Technology Adoption Cycle?

New consumer technologies like VR and others that are part of the fourth transformation are only widening the gap not just between business and consumer but among HR. While in the consumer industry, we are likely entering the ‘early majority’ compared to within the HR industry, there are a small percentage of companies like Gap, Boeing and Lowe’s who are ‘innovators’ in the industry.

The challenge with the technology hype cycle is that often times pundits, influencers and companies with large marketing budgets are able to push forward interest and conversation offering little real world applications and examples. HR’s adoption of these tools and technologies isn’t solely the responsibility of the practitioner. At present, there is only small pockets of VR development outside of those I’ve mentioned above specifically for the purpose of the workplace which is directly in opposition to another fourth transformation technology, artificial intelligence. While A.I. seems to be permeating our industry, VR adoption is still developing slowly. This fact is the reason I’ve reached out to Oculus for more information, have an upcoming podcast interview scheduled with Gap and am actively looking for other HR ‘real world applications’ as the interest in these technologies grow.

Leave a message in the comments if you know of one, as I’ll be sharing these case studies in the future.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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  1. As a huge advocate of the disruptive technologies and how they can influence and improve the hiring process, this article really excited me. I love the idea of a VR interview and especially the branded cardboard VR Headset. Outstanding idea and an abundance of opportunity around that.

    Excellent article, well presented and thought out. Thanks

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