The changing landscape of HR, can it survive without adapting?

In recent months, I have had the pleasure to speak with some amazing leading global HR/People Team professionals. They all agree, that the function of Human Resources and people management is on the precipice and at a technical inflection point which will either propel the HR function into the heart of their future operating model or leave it struggling, fighting for budget, attention and purpose.

For several years there have been a number of obvious challenges facing HR professionals, including:

  1. Attracting and retaining top talent: One of the biggest challenges for HR professionals is finding and retaining talented employees. With the rise of the gig economy, the post COVID19 demands for new ways of working from employees (and even new recruits!) and the increasingly competitive and high priced job market, it is becomming increasingly difficult for businesses to attract and retain the best talent.
  2. Managing diversity and inclusion: HR professionals must also ensure that their organisations are inclusive and welcoming to people of all backgrounds and experiences. This is a complex and challenging process, as HR professionals must balance the need for diversity and inclusion with the need to maintain a fair and unbiased workplace.
  3. Adapting to new technology: The rapid pace of technological change is, to me, the biggest challenge for HR professionals. As new technologies, such as the power of Mixed Reality (artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality) continue to emerge and the opportunities of the industrial metaverse and the wider metaverse, HR professionals must ensure that their function is adapting and taking the lead with these well understood, stable and scaleable solutions.
  4. Complying with the never ending change in regulations: HR professionals need to navigate a complex landscape of employment laws and regulations. As these laws and regulations evolve, HR professionals must ensure that their organisations are compliant and avoid potential legal liabilities. It won’t be too long until that the UK has a new set of GDPR regulations to consider and deploy!

In this blog, I want to focus on what I think is the biggest challenge – new technology! The global COVID-19 pandemic witnessed two business functions being forced to deploy, what has become the world’s biggest technology application proof of concept to deployment, in the history of the software industry. The immediate need to role out communication and collaboration software enterprise wide (Microsft Teams and Zoom being the big winners), introduce new policies and provide remote training put the roles of HR and IT under the capability spotlight. Thousands and thousands of HR personnel had to, and still today, coped with incredible pressures to adapt to an unprecedented business and human catastrophe. Let’s not forget the enormous requirement to facilitate the new concerns of employee wellbeing as a result of the pandemic.

As global markets begin to re-open and as organisations get used to the new way of working, HR and People Teams find themselves at a technology inflection point. What’s next! How does the function stay ahead of the technology revolution? How can HR leaders become positively disruptive and gain or retain valuable budget allocation? How can HR significantly contribute to employee retention?

The answer lies in the parameters of the global emergence of immersive technology and business function augmented mobile apps. There are many great case studies (see below) of organisations who have adapted their operating model to the new generation of technology for HR purposes. There is little doubt that immersive technology, such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), will have a significant impact on the field of human resources in the coming years. A recent post in the ‘Human Resource Executive’ (December 2022) cited that in 2023 employee retention will replace talent acquisition as the top HR business priority. So, here are a few ways in which immersive technology will change HR:

  • Training and development: VR and AR can be used to create immersive, interactive training programs for employees. These programs can be used to teach employees new skills, simulate complex processes, and provide on-the-job training in a safe, controlled environment.
  • Recruitment and selection: VR and AR can be used to facilitate virtual interviews and assessments, allowing HR professionals to evaluate candidates without the need for in-person meetings. This could make the recruitment and selection process more efficient and effective.
  • Employee engagement: VR and AR can be used to create immersive, engaging experiences for employees, such as virtual team-building activities, virtual social events, and virtual training programs. This could help improve employee morale and engagement.
  • Performance management: VR and AR can be used to create immersive, interactive performance evaluations and feedback sessions. This could make the performance management process more effective and engaging for both employees and managers.

Below are some examples of how HR/People Team departments are adapting to the new technology landscape:

  • Tesco is using VR to train its employees. The company’s VR training program covers a range of topics, including customer service, health and safety, and product knowledge. Tesco has reported that its VR training program has been successful in improving employee performance and reducing staff turnover.
  • Deloitte announced that it was using VR to help employees develop leadership skills. Deloitte’s VR program allows employees to simulate complex business scenarios and practice their decision-making and communication skills in a safe, controlled environment. The company has reported that its VR program has been effective in improving employee performance and promoting leadership development.
  • Kaiser Permanente is using VR to train its nurses. The company’s VR program allows nurses to practice their skills and knowledge in a realistic, immersive environment. This allows nurses to gain experience and confidence without putting patients at risk. Kaiser Permanente has reported that its VR training program has been successful in improving the quality of care and patient outcomes.
  • Walmart, the largest retailer in the world, has been using VR to train its employees since 2017. The company’s VR training program allows employees to practice tasks, such as dealing with difficult customers and handling hazardous materials, in a safe, controlled environment. This has helped Walmart improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its training programs.
  • Delta Air Lines has been using VR to train its customer service agents since 2018. The VR training program allows agents to practice dealing with a wide range of customer scenarios, from dealing with angry passengers to handling lost luggage. This has helped Delta improve the quality of its customer service and increase customer satisfaction.
  • General Electric (GE) has been using AR to train its employees since 2017. The AR training program allows employees to access step-by-step instructions and other information directly from their physical work environment. This has helped GE improve the efficiency and safety of its training programs.And even the Bankers have been getting involved:
  • Goldman Sachs is using VR to improve its recruitment and selection process. The company has developed a VR assessment that allows candidates to participate in virtual interviews and other assessments without having to travel to a physical location. This allows Goldman Sachs to evaluate candidates more efficiently and effectively.
  • Bank of America is using VR to improve its employee engagement and development. The company has developed a VR program that allows employees to participate in virtual team-building activities, such as virtual obstacle courses or scavenger hunts. This program has been successful in improving employee morale and engagement.

In summary, the above case studies demonstrate the potential for HR/People Teams to take a lead in adopting the power of immersive technology to dramatically improve human performance, and steer their organisations towards the industrial meteaverse!

Blog Post by Nigel Kilpatrick, Chief Strategy Officer

About Nigel: He has had a very successful international career at senior leadership positions in the Software industry for over 25 years and is a recognised thought leader in Shared Services, Process Transformation and is an Advisor in Enterprise Training & Development at the The Academy of International Extended Reality. He has worked in both in start-up (invested in and started and sold his own companies) and mainstream corporate organisations in the UK & USA. His skills and experience include starting his and exiting his own companies, Mergers and Acquisitions, IPO & MBO, Go-to-Market strategy, End-to-end sales process, In-direct Channel programs, and global Business Development.His career has spanned the MSFT Collaboration, Middleware, System Integrator, Videoconferencing, Digital Asset Management and Business Process Management industries. 

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