When Illona Kantor decided to dip her toe into the metaverse, she opted to begin by using avatars as moderators for an e-learning course on creating a safe and respectful work environment. Kantor, a training specialist with ZIM Integrated Shipping Services in Haifa, Israel, wanted to use new technologies to create more engaging and meaningful training solutions for her company.
"It's known that eye contact and human figures can generate more attention to learning products, and the use of avatars allowed us to achieve that goal without hiring actors [or] paying for a day in the studio or for a cameraman," said Kantor, who used a solution from New York City-based vendor Hour One to create the avatar-based e-learning. "The tutorial is part of annual mandatory training, and employees often feel that every year they go over the same material. The use of the avatars allowed us to innovate."
The Value of Avatars and Animation
More HR functions are employing avatars and animation in employee communications, job candidate assessments and learning courses to help humanize those processes at scale while also reducing costs and seeking to save HR time. With Hour One's AI-based video generation platform, for example, users can select a video template and layout, choose from over 100 different avatars, select voices, and then enter their chosen text or script into the software. The technology converts that content into a fully formed video ready for publishing.
For example, an HR leader wanting to share news with employees could pick a 3D template, select a virtual presenter and then enter text in over 35 different languages to customize messaging to a global workforce.
Natalie Monbiot, head of strategy for Hour One, said HR, recruiting and learning teams are using the avatar concept to save themselves time in front of cameras and to help customize and humanize messages at scale.
"Most HR or learning professionals don't have hours and hours to spend recording messages or moderating online courses for the workforce," Monbiot said. "You don't need a professional production studio to create these avatar-based videos. You simply work from a template or script to build them yourself."
Some research suggests human-like avatars can better engage employees or job candidates in communications or processes that typically rely heavily on text. For example, in conducting online interviews, some recruiting vendors ask job candidates to answer questions by replying to text posted on screen. To better humanize those interactions, some vendors have begun using avatars of HR or recruiting representatives to pose questions instead.
"Those companies found using avatars often made candidates feel more comfortable answering questions," Monbiot said. "It felt more natural and intuitive than using text and had the effect of creating a better candidate experience."
Using Animation in Candidate Assessments
Some recruiting vendors have begun using animation in personality assessments of job candidates, with the goal of making those tests more engaging and accurate. One such assessment was recently released by recruiting vendor Paradox and features an animated character called Ash.
The company believes using such animations rather than relying only on text in assessment tools is more relatable to candidates, is less intimidating and can provide more-accurate results in a shorter amount of time. The assessment is built around a simple story line with just one character appearing throughout and going through everyday life scenes.
"Words alone, which traditional assessments have relied on, can only go so far," wrote Dan Sines and Josh Spears, vice presidents of product for Traitify by Paradox, in a blog post. "Add in images and suddenly the candidate has a much quicker route to understanding."
The assessment seeks to provide quick and easy measures of the "Big Five" dimensions of personality—openness, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and neuroticism—by offering candidates a choice of "me" or "not me" for each scene presented by the Ash character.
"Ash accompanies you through the experience of telling hiring managers about yourself, and suddenly, the process is humanized," wrote the Traitify by Paradox executives.
Chris Russell, managing director of RecTech Media, a recruiting consulting company in Trumbull, Conn., said such animated assessments can be more effective than text-only versions if they are well-conceived and executed. "The value can be higher engagement since the assessments are easy to implement and complete by candidates, which allows for higher conversion rates," Russell said. "Being visual helps with that as well since we all live in a visual world these days."
Paradox believes speed isn't the only advantage of such animated assessments. The company wanted the main character Ash to be an "inclusive and relatable guide for everyone," so its development team created a figure who would be seen by most job candidates as ambiguous in terms of gender, race/ethnicity and age. In other words, they wanted a character to whom all job seekers could relate.
"When they see themselves in an assessment experience, candidates are better able to tell you who they are," wrote the two Traitify by Paradox executives.
Dave Zielinski is principal of Skiwood Communications, a business writing and editing company in Minneapolis.