Ever heard of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One?

It’s a novel that takes place in the year 2045. Human civilization is in a dark period, so people seek refuge in a virtual reality world called the OASIS. Many spend all their waking hours in the simulation – working, taking classes, exploring different cultures, and trying out new hobbies.

The book became a pop culture phenomenon when Steven Spielberg signed on to direct the film version, but that’s not why I was interested in it. I’ve long been intrigued by the promise of virtual reality, and I think Ready Player One presents a reasonably accurate portrayal of what our lives will be like around mid-century.

Is The Prospective Company A Good Fit?

Ready Player One does not talk about HR and the employee lifecycle, but my mind went to this application immediately. The first thing I considered was hiring. We instruct candidates to think carefully about whether a prospective company is a good fit, but without the opportunity to spend time in the organization, there’s a great deal of guesswork involved. Virtual reality could enable a candidate to experience a day-in-the-life of an employee in their role. She could walk through the facilities, meet managers and co-workers, and start a project. But most importantly, she could get a much better sense of the culture.

Virtual reality could also revolutionize talent management. At present, leaders have trouble managing global, dispersed workforces. Employees might clock in from locations all around the globe, work variable schedules, and communicate using different methods. Virtual reality will certainly change the degree to which remote workers feel engaged and part of a unified team. By mid-century, you’ll put on your headset and send your avatar to work alongside colleagues who could be physically located anywhere. Conferences, meetings, presentations, performance reviews, brainstorms, and team building/social events could all be conducted in the virtual world, facilitating ongoing communication, relationship-building, and innovation.

Customized Training And Individual Skill Acquisition

Learning and development is the area of HR that will likely benefit most from advances in virtual and augmented reality. This technology could take the concepts of customized training and individual skill acquisition to an entirely new level. If you want your new hire to master public speaking skills, for example, you won’t have to wait for the next Toastmasters or Dale Carnegie signup. You’ll just have her avatar work with a virtual coach and then present to a virtual group of executives in a virtual boardroom. If today’s gamification applications address the type of experiential learning younger employees crave, virtual reality will pack 10X the experiential punch.

Providing employees with opportunities to learn about and explore different areas of the business will become easier too. Now, rotational programs and even short-term stretch assignments in alternate functional or geographic areas are typically reserved for the highest performers simply because they are so expensive. By eliminating travel-related costs, virtual reality will make it possible for more employees to broaden their skillsets and increase their value to the organization.

What other ways might virtual reality transform HR as we know it?

Image Credit: Pixabay.com

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