The world is evolving in front of our eyes, with 2020 bringing unprecedented change to the way we live and work. As it relates to the latter, we have reached a tipping point, of sorts, whereby business leaders must better understand and embrace the relationship between corporate strategy and workforce development if they wish to remain relevant into the future. Indeed, the old adage, “Your people are your greatest asset,” continues to ring true.
Over the last decade, “the future of work” has clustered around words like “automation,” “digitization,” and “artificial intelligence.” While the pursuit of these concepts certainly isn’t going to stop in the face of the unique challenges we face in today’s world, the reality is that even a pre-pandemic America was going down a path of being more people-focused. In August of 2019, the Business Roundtable – a consortium of 181 CEOs representing America’s largest and most influential companies – redefined the Purpose of a Corporation from maximizing shareholder value to “investing in employees . . . through training and education that help develop new skills for a rapidly changing world.”
It’s no longer enough to simply acquire talent and put it to work; today’s businesses must find ways to invest in their talent, such that business performance is a byproduct of the connection between people, purpose, and profit.
The year 2020 accelerated this trend even further, as companies have been forced to reinvent the way they enable and empower the workforce during not only an international health crisis, but also an operating environment that is now defined by distributed teams, remote hiring practices, and remote learning and development initiatives. And who has been tasked with succeeding in the face of this new paradigm? Human Resources. While sudden and unexpected, HR took center stage in 2020 and demonstrated how it can have a tangible impact on the entire employee experience and, therefore, measurable results for the business.
But if there’s anything that 2020 has shown us with respect to HR’s newfound “bigger seat at the table,” it’s that “the future of work” is right now. Businesses that have historically been slow to innovate must adapt, and adapt quickly. Today’s workforce needs tools that can positively impact hiring, onboarding, collaboration, and continued learning and development. The traditional methods used by organizations in these areas simply aren’t good enough. It’s time to reinvent workforce performance, and it all starts with how companies invest in their people.
One such tool that stands to significantly impact the workforce in a post-pandemic world is Virtual Reality (VR). It has entered the “cheaper, lighter, faster” era that also accelerated the ubiquity of computers, cell phones, and tablets. As a result, the benefits of VR that academic researchers have known about for decades are now possible at-scale for even the largest companies in the world. In short, VR is here, and it’s here to stay.
While the technology and science behind VR is quite complex, the notion that VR is in the midst of becoming the next technological breakthrough for enterprises is, in fact, quite simple. That’s because the fundamental benefits of VR are similar to what pilots experience when using a flight simulator. Flight simulators are immersive environments that look and feel nearly identical to being in a real cockpit. In this way, using VR can also be an immersive experience for employees, leading to retention and engagement outcomes that far outweigh the results of traditional, two-dimensional modalities. People learn best by “doing,” and VR allows for learning by doing on steroids.
In the post-pandemic business environment, and through the lens of an evolving Purpose of a Corporation that is more people-focused than ever before, all eyes are on HR leaders to help organizations navigate unprecedented times. While the health and safety of employees has been nearly every company’s top priority in 2020, the workforce’s ability to thrive in a remote-first world isn’t far behind. “Digital transformation,” long thought of as a concept owned by IT and consultants, is now being driven by the people-focused parts of an organization. And among the many tools that are being presented to employees to address this challenge, VR is playing a pivotal role in measurably elevating workforce performance at scale.
While Virtual Reality certainly won’t be the only tool that organizations invest in as part of their “new normal,” it stands to be one of the most influential for addressing the many challenges that lay ahead for organizations of all shapes and sizes. Some of America’s largest and most respected companies have already gone “all in” on putting VR into the hands of their entire workforce, and they’re seeing results that academic minds could have only dreamed about not that long ago. The future is indeed immersive, especially in a business environment where people come first. Will it be immersive for you, too?
The future is indeed immersive, especially in a business environment where people come first.