The Metaverse – For HR, A New Space
When Facebook rebranded as Meta, those familiar with the Metaverse understood the economic opportunity recognized by Zuckerberg and his colleagues, while those who had yet to pay attention, took notice.
Defining the Metaverse
The Metaverse is the convergence of two tech concepts: 1) virtual reality (VR) where one views a 3-D environment, shifting perspective by moving one’s head; and 2) a digital second life where one creates an avatar (a figure representing a particular person in an online forum) and with VR-enabled headset, motion sensing controllers, and microphone, moves the avatar to interact with virtual objects and other avatars in a virtual environment. Metaverse “worlds” mirror the real world in that they are reactive to user actions. They are 24-7, exist in real time, and are self-contained. Users can transact and socialize through their avatars.
Metaverse Audience and Economy Growing
Metaverse inhabitants are early technology adapters. Primarily millennials and Gen Zers, they are video gamers and VR users. Videogame market data expert Newzoo.com reports there were 2.7 billion gamers worldwide in 2020 and could reach 3 billion by 2023.
Spending on VR/AR, the foundational tech tools for the metaverse, was $12 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach $72 billion by 2024. (Forbes.com 1/25/2022) Within the metaverse itself, spending is growing. With blockchain technology, cryptocurrency, and NFT’s (non-fungible tokens of images, videos, or other in-metaverse objects), users create “wallets” with which they buy and sell items including virtual art, clothing, and real estate, and participate in events. According to Grayscale, all-time metaverse spending surpassed $200 million and is increasing. (Grayscale Metaverse Report 11/2021)
Monetizing the Metaverse – Real Estate, Marketing, Fashion
Consumers are engaged: keyword “metaverse” yields 677,000 results on Google. (influencermarketinghub.com 4/26/2022) Major corporations are investing, including: Meta – recently purchased Oculus VR platform and headset manufacturer; Microsoft – acquired Activision Blizzard leading videogame creator of Candy Crush and Call of Duty; tech giant Alphabet – heavily investing in the space; as well as the major gaming platforms Hyperverse, Sandbox, Decentraland and others.
Virtual real estate is already proving profitable. Sandbox sold 792 parcels of virtual “land” to Everyrealm, a crypto-based investment company for $4.3 million. Tokens.com invested $2.4 million in “land” in Decentraland to develop retail and event venues for fashion brands.
Mainstream companies are also testing the metaverse. Financial giant JP Morgan Chase recently opened a virtual lounge in Decentraland which featured a tiger for visitors to interact with under a portrait of CEO Jamie Dimon. HSBC bought real estate in Sandbox, with plans to develop a stadium for virtual sporting events. (natlawreview.com 5/16/2022) And just like in the physical world, owners of metaverse real estate can lease space and sell billboard advertising to marketers looking for creative ways to engage customers.
Implications for Work, Talent
According to Harvard Business Review, “the metaverse seems set to reshape the world of work in at least four major ways: 1) new immersive forms of team collaboration; 2) the emergence of digital, AI-enabled colleagues; 3) the acceleration of learning and skills acquisition through virtualization and gamified technologies; and 4) the eventual rise of a metaverse economy with completely new enterprises and work roles.” (hbr.com 4/05/2022)
Imagine a virtual office of avatars moving from room to room, sitting with colleagues for a team meeting, having spontaneous conversations and feeling more connected. Entering a virtual workspace can provide a demarcation between home and work life, and be designed with nature walks and other uplifting surroundings. Virtual onboarding, job training, and reskilling can become faster and more engaging when workers are immersed in demonstrations and hands-on experiences, utilizing game technology and quest-based learning.
Hiring in the Metaverse – What’s Next?
As fully-functioning companies or divisions of existing companies are created in the metaverse, having the right talent is essential – workers who have the technical abilities. Younger workers are more likely to be gamers and participate in the metaverse, expecting some work experiences to be virtual and willing to become immersed in this virtual world.
From fashion to sports, industries are exploring in the metaverse. Some companies like Samsung and Hyundai are stepping into the metaverse to identify talent. In the fall, both companies held virtual job fairs where applicants created their own avatars to interact with avatars representing the companies. While there is much excitement, issues such as privacy and equity have been identified.
According to Stig-Rune Reese, Managing Partner of IMSA Search Global Partners Norway,
“Today the industry is in its infancy, and how it evolves is unclear, yet to stay ahead in talent acquisition, we always need to be thinking about what will come next. We also must be vigilant on how recruiting in the metaverse plays out. Interviewing an avatar is not the same as meeting a real person, and many of our assessment sensors can’t be used on the avatar.”
Metaverse Opportunity or Risk – Knowing the Score
While the future of the metaverse may be unclear, it is happening now, and companies should be informed. Stay current on developments in technology and virtual services. Consider implications for employee training and engagement. Assess potential business opportunities – is the metaverse right for your brand, are your customers there, what is the investment vs. profit potential – all while being aware of the risks of cryptocurrencies, NFT’s, emerging regulatory issues, etc. Whether an opportunity to be seized or a risk to be avoided, the metaverse is here to stay and businesses should know the score.
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