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6 work challenges the metaverse will address

The metaverse could be used for virtual career fairs and other world of work challenges. Davos 2023

The metaverse could be used for virtual career fairs and other world of work challenges. Image: Unsplash/Domenico Loia

Valérie Beaulieu
Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Adecco Group
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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  • The metaverse is set to be a trillion-dollar industry, which experts say will have a positive impact on businesses as it infiltrates all aspects of life, including the world of work.
  • The metaverse will be able to solve key work issues around talent scarcity, recruitment, inclusion, onboarding, staff training and better engagement.
  • Realization of a metaverse that works for everyone is still dogged with challenges, including around accessibility, privacy, digital addiction and certain ethical questions.

The metaverse represents the next quantum leap forward. It promises to change how we socialize, play, learn and shop and will also heavily influence how we work.

It promises big impact – as a $5 trillion industry by 2030 and with a positive, "breakthrough" or "transformational" effect on work, according to industry experts. Whilst there are challenges of a shared, persistent, real-time 3D internet, opportunities to revolutionize the world of work are everywhere.

Talent scarcity, constant upskilling, better diversity, equity and inclusion and implementing the new social contract are endemic challenges the metaverse can help address. And down the line, could it displace workload from real life to the virtual world?

Either way, we are at the dawn of a profound future of work. And with the metaverse blending into everything we do, there are six key workplace challenges that it can help us to address.

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1. Rethinking employee onboarding

The showdown for top talent in the age of hybrid working shows the need for greater connection, beginning with recruitment. From meeting recruiters in virtual career fairs to doing a first-day tour of a virtual office, the metaverse could be the once-in-a-generation chance to shake up how companies welcome new employees.

The Adecco Group piloted a programme in Belgium training forklift drivers – one of the most scarce roles in the labour market – in virtual reality (VR). Prospective candidates are upskilled in a virtual simulator that mirrors the physical warehouse, allowing the familiarization process to take place without disrupting the physical space. Candidates follow digital theoretical lessons at home and then master the practice through simulations, making the learning process engaging, safer, more effective and quicker.

It's not the space or the place that creates culture: it's people.

Ellyn Shook, Chief Leadership and Human Resources Officer, Accenture

2. Increasing employee engagement

The metaverse will tackle increasing employee disengagement in the new hybrid working reality by re-inventing how employees collaborate and live the company culture.

That concept is already landing well with some employees. A third of those who responded to the Adecco Group Global Workforce of the Future 2022 survey said they would work in the metaverse (32%), with gen Z (46%), agency workers (58%) and those with caregiving responsibilities (47%) especially keen.

A more engaging experience will see two-dimensional engagement via video conference switch to an enhanced sense of presence via 3D avatars and other holograms within digital spaces, which resonate with the company culture and re-institutionalize the serendipity of a coffee chat.

Gamified tasks and workplaces will also be a tool to engage younger workers. Most Gen Z (87%) and millennials (83%) play video games at least once a week and will readily connect to the new environment and norms of the metaverse.

3. Innovating learning and development

Research from the World Economic Forum indicates that 1 billion people must be upskilled by 2030, transforming every employee into a life-long learner. The Adecco Group's Akkodis brand has run over 2,000 VR and augmented reality (AR) projects in the smart industries area while seeking to move into other sectors.

The metaverse is an opportunity to build a "training ground" for real life, allowing practices with minimal risks or expense. For example, an automotive engineer can learn how to service an electric car in VR and sales professionals can take masterclasses in conducting a high-stakes pitch, all without risk.

4. Revamping recruitment

The metaverse won't just change how we work; it'll also change how we look for talent.

Future recruiters might be perusing CVs backed up by blockchain with verified credentials from past employers or interviewing in assessment spaces designed as tranquil forests to reassure nervous candidates.

What's certain is that we'll be recruiting for various new, metaverse-specific professions; construct architect, ecosystem developer and metaverse designer or operator might be some of the roles we see advertised on virtual job boards.

5. Addressing inclusion

Many marginalized groups, especially women and people of colour, want to work in hybrid or fully remote environments. The metaverse could enable that without forcing them to sacrifice visibility in the workplace but only if the biases of our current workplaces don't follow us into virtual ones.

The development of the metaverse is founded on data. To avoid perpetuating existing prejudices, we will have to adjust "real-life" data for bias and ensure that these virtual worlds' core designs offer an equal chance to flourish and succeed in the workspace.

6. Solving talent scarcity

Innovation tends to come with disruption, replacing old jobs with new types of work. However, if managed well, the metaverse could help solve talent scarcity by shifting some tasks from the real to the digital world. Prototypes, for instance, may not need to be physically built in the future and you can already create digital twins, such as a virtual train to test the ergonomics of its design, the position of its seats or perform maintenance tasks from a distance etc.

Akkodis is actively piloting these new ways of working, partnering with more than 50 clients on digital learning, simulation environment and work assistance through VR or AR. For example, one solution leverages Hololens AR glasses to improve quality inspection and manufacturing engineering, which empowers the inspector and reduces the need for real-time oversight by an engineer.

We're just getting started on metaverse

As mentioned, challenges still exist, including ensuring equitable access to the tools necessary, as VR headsets, haptic gloves and other cutting-edge technologies are expensive. In addition, there are questions about ethics, privacy and digital addiction. All these tensions grow increasingly urgent to solve as the scale and value of the metaverse will continue to grow.

"It's not the space or the place that creates culture: it's people," said Ellyn Shook, Accenture's Chief Leadership and Human Resources Officer, during the Adecco Group's discussion on "the impact of talent scarcity on the future of work." You get out what you put in when it comes to the world of work and the same will be true of the metaverse.

The metaverse has the potential to break down barriers and bring people together across race, gender, ethnicity, age, language or culture. It can become a more equal and inclusive space brimming with new opportunities but it will only be as good as we make it. And we need to make it a metaverse that works for everyone.

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World Economic Forum

May 21, 2024

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