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How Indian Employers Can Boost Workplace Goals Using the Metaverse - SHRM India

​Three years from now, 25 percent of the population will spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse for work, to study or for entertainment, according to research from Gartner. But a key contribution the metaverse is expected to provide is helping companies advance their workplace agenda, say HR professionals.

"The metaverse opens a window of possibilities," said Richard Lobo, Bengaluru-based executive vice president and head HR at Infosys, one of the world's largest outsourcing and IT-services companies. The metaverse isn't only for technology employers - it also will benefit industries that rely on physical infrastructure, he said.

On a broader level, the metaverse has the potential to help solve India's shortage of skilled youth despite having the world's largest population of young people. For example, it can help bring high-quality education and training materials to youth living in smaller towns and rural areas who might not have access to it now.

"This technology…brings a lot of equity, in the sense that there's a lot more availability and exposure to people no matter which part of the country they're in," said Lobo. "This is what will change the whole landscape."

What is the Metaverse?

For many, the term itself remains fuzzy. "People confuse it with a new thing that's coming," said Lobo. At Infosys, which has more than 300,000 employees, he views the metaverse as a coming together of the virtual and real worlds, which doesn't require a virtual reality device to be called the metaverse. "It's a continuation of the progress that technology is making," he said.

Lobo outlined five distinct efforts for which Infosys is already leveraging the metaverse effectively:

1: Onboarding

For a long time, the typical onboarding process involved bringing new hires, especially those just graduating from college, to the Infosys offices to experience the workplace.

"Over the last 2-3 years we could not do this," said Lobo, so they turned to the metaverse. "We've been able to give people a virtual feel of what it's like to enter an Infosys campus."

Recruits and potential job candidates can get a feel of the workplace straight from their desktop, which is different from watching a video about the company, said Lobo. In a video, control is with whoever is making it, since they decide what to show and what to leave out, he said.

"With virtual reality, the control is with the user," he explained. The user can decide if she wants to explore a particular part of the campus or sit in on a classroom as an observer. "It gives you the feeling that you're actually walking into that room and sitting there," he said.

2: Engagement

Every year, Infosys offers a day when employees' children come to the office, but during the pandemic that wasn't possible.

"So we created a Virtual Day, where people across the world could join in a fun world," said Lobo. Around 100,000 children, including those of Infosys employees based outside of India, engaged in visual workshops and events.

"Adaptation of kids is much faster than everybody else" to these technologies, said Lobo. "That shows the potential."

3: Health and Wellness

As with many other organizations, health and wellness have gained greater importance at Infosys in recent years.

"We found that we could connect people virtually quite well using the metaverse," Lobo said. Employees are doing workouts together or meeting to discuss their hobbies. These get-togethers are different from a Teams or Zoom meeting because avatars are shown on the screen rather than the employees, which is more fun. "It's just an improvement," said Lobo.

4: Training

"One of the biggest potentials for the metaverse is training," said Lobo.

Imagine teaching a doctor to do surgery or an engineer to fix difficult problems using virtual reality, he said. Another example comes from the aviation industry.

When learning how to fix aircraft engines, a company can create a virtual engine that is a 'digital twin' of the physical engine, said Lobo. The 'digital twin' behaves like a real engine, and anything done to the digital engine gives the same output as the physical one.

"It saves a lot of time and money if you use the metaverse for training, analysis and so forth," said Lobo. "If I could train one engineer at a time on an engine, with this technology I could train many at the same time."

At Infosys, they are exploring the option of training people managers using the metaverse. "For example, if I want to train a new manager on how to do a good performance appraisal, I could use this technology very brilliantly because I could create an avatar in front of the person," said Lobo. The avatar would be like a guide, giving feedback on what was done well and what wasn't, "so you can actually create simulations for managers to use," he said.

5: Collaboration

The metaverse will also enhance collaboration, said Lobo, allowing remote meetings to become more productive. Right now, organizations approach remote meetings using Microsoft Teams or Zoom, but that isn't much different than a phone call, he said. The metaverse introduces avatars of employees writing on whiteboards and working together.

"I could be creating my drawing sitting in Bangalore and somebody else could be adding to that drawing sitting in London, and it could all look like it's happening on the same whiteboard," said Lobo. It will take some time for the technology to fully get there, and it will require a change in physical office spaces, including creating virtual meeting rooms. "But we are reconfiguring some of our office spaces now," he said.

As with any new technology, organizations have to be conscious of what might go wrong, Lobo explained. For one, employers will need to watch out for employees' health and wellness, as such as fatigue.

"People only interacting with each other virtually - how long can you do it in a day?" he said. Organizations also should be mindful that some employees may be better at adapting to the technology then others. "We should not assume that this is a solution to everything," said Lobo.


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