Virtual Reality: Cutting cost, reducing isolation and attracting talent

Immersive technologies are changing our work experiences. Here, Damian Collier looks at its impact on the talent agenda.

With the UK’s unemployment rate having risen to its highest level in almost three years, the idea that any sort of innovation might have occurred across the HR sector could be a difficult one to fathom.

But the opposite is actually true. Over the last few months we’ve seen widespread shifts in the way HR departments are adopting new, and even more engaging, recruitment procedures as they look to overcome strict COVID-19 social distancing rules.

Research from global analytics firm Gartner shows that organisations have adapted quickly to this changing environment, with 89% of HR departments confirming they’ve moved to virtual interviews – with the majority of these using new technologies to onboard staff.

Yet while these figures represent a significant shift, the adoption of innovative recruitment practices was a trend that existed some time before the pandemic – with the rapid rise of virtual reality (VR) technology already beginning to transform recruitment and training and learning practices worldwide.

Many organisations were already using VR headsets to showcase office space to potential recruits, helping them to familiarise themselves with new work environments. Others were using VR technology to immerse new staff in real-time scenarios, or holding virtual career fairs to interact with candidates.

VR can help to attract top talent or boost staff morale, it can also cut recruitment costs and time to hire too

The results speak for themselves. This approach to recruitment, and the use of immersive technologies across the HR function, is here to stay, but there are some barriers to overcome first.

The adoption of immersive technologies in business is still in its infancy, and that can be met with criticism and early doubters. Some might argue that VR can never create a world that’s a proper substitute for a meticulous face-to-face human recruitment process. Or might point to the fact that, so far, the uptake of VR technology in the workplace has been slow when compared to smartphone or tablet adoption.

Historically there has been some validity in these observations but as the technology has improved, and as it continues to become more ubiquitous with significant investment into the space by technology giants such as Facebook, Apple and HTC – VR can absolutely supplement or even become a substitute for the physical recruitment processes; pandemic or otherwise.

The long and short of it is, while VR can help to attract top talent or boost staff morale, it can also cut recruitment costs and time to hire too, particularly from those larger conglomerates who may recruit from further afield than just their own territory.

Why fly to say, Tokyo, when you could perform the whole recruitment process within a VR environment? The answer to this question may be more important than ever as businesses continue to look for ways to cut costs but remain competitive amidst a recessive economy.

Some naysayers might express concern that introducing VR in the workplace may lead to staff isolation or loneliness in the future. However, the reality couldn’t be more inclusive. During this pandemic, there have been numerous work conferences in the VR realm, and the experience is just as engaging as operating in the ‘real world’: you can book meetings, sit down in the same room as others…even wave at them. This is an incredibly physical environment and has been proven to actually combat loneliness and isolation. It demonstrates that VR can be a truly connective space to work in.

This doesn’t mark the end of the office water cooler moment – of course physical offices will be used for years to come. It may just be that these moments will soon be recreated in a new virtual form.

And in the short term at the very least, VR is a fantastic tool to augment the current recruitment process as we all try and deal with the very real practicalities imposed by the new world that we are currently operating within.

About the author

Damian Collier is founder and CEO of Blend Media


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