The stuff of sci-fi films and immersive gaming is now landing in the real world, and these companies are already harnessing virtual reality technology to attract and impress must-have talent.
Let’s start first with a reality check (the last reality pun, we promise) – virtual reality is no longer a ‘could be’ trend that you can ignore. Big brands are getting on board. The New York Times is publishing its biggest stories in new dimensions, using smartphones and cardboard. And a report by Strategy Analytics expects the VR industry to generate close to $900m in revenue this year.
If you’ve never tried virtual reality, it can literally be an eye opening experience. Strap on glasses and headphones, and it allows you to be transported to a world away. Filmmaker Danfung Dennis said of the technology:
“The power of virtual reality is its command of presence — its ability to transport the viewer into another world, and have him feel present in it.”
Hearing VR a lot these days? A big part of the technology’s recent explosion comes from rapid developments that have removed the need for tens of thousands of dollars of equipment to create anything semi-realistic. While some may still spend that for cutting-edge, fully immersive experiences, you can still experience something pretty incredible with just a smartphone, an app and a ‘viewer’ – a device that looks akin to space-age ski goggles – available for as little as $15 from Google.
How is it done? The current crop of virtual reality videos are created by shooting a scene from all angles using a number of cameras, and stitching all of the video together in the editing process. The result is an experience where no matter which way you turn, you’re ‘surrounded’ by the scene you’re watching.
The Rise of the Virtual Interviewee
One of the most obvious areas for virtual reality to be implemented in HR is during the interview process – as a way to tour a facility; to observe a manufacturing process; even to assess skills in real world situations, simulated by VR.
Consider the possibility that some company might like to hire an individual to captain their oil tanker across the sea and wants to see foul-weather preparation. Or perhaps an employer wants to see how a mine manager behaves on the 500 foot level during an emergency.
Another huge advantage to all this is that employers are not paying someone to fly all the way across the country for an interview. You can be quite certain about your own prospects’ capabilities before you recommend them for a position. That makes you look even better.
Who’s Doing What with VR
Like any new technology entering the field, you can start to prepare your plan of attack by looking to the big players experimenting and implementing virtual reality tech into their HR workflows today.
Consider what Jet is doing with their head office in Hoboken, New Jersey. They’re using VR tech to save travel time, and give remote candidates a chance to tour the offices, and form a psychological connection well before they accept an offer (and increase the likelihood that they will accept.)
Jet’s CEO Marc Lore says a big part of their VR experimentation is to try and convey what can’t be done well in the interview room.
“We have a chief people officer and a director of talent experience so that we can ensure Jet is a great place to work for everyone we bring in. But you can’t experience that culture in a day of interviews in conference rooms, so the VR experience is a good way to see what happens over the course of a whole week at Jet.”
The British Army developed a similar technique, in conjunction with advertising agency JWT and VR outfit Visualise. Future recruits sit in an actual Challenger II Tank and use the power of virtual reality to take them from shopping center mall to real-life battlefield.
Even General Mills has gotten into the act with a tour not just of their offices, but interesting areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, recognising that for those considering a move with a family or partner, life outside the office is just as important.
It appears to be paying off too. Said one candidate at a college recruiting event: “I’ve always wanted to work at General Mills, and now I want to work there more.”
Get started with VR…for only $15
It’s relatively easy and cheap to get a sense of the possibilities of virtual reality, by using Google’s Cardboard viewer, which you can order online starting from $15. Once it arrives, head over to Tom’s Guide and take a look at their list of compatible apps – our pick is the New York Times’ VR app, full of compelling VR storytelling.
Once you’ve got a sense of how the technology works, start brainstorming as to how you could use VR technology in a unique way for your business. What are candidates most interested in seeing, or get most excited about on tours of the building? Where is your company culture most evident on a day-to-day basis? How could you paint the best picture of a ‘day in the life’ using video? Think too about how VR could be used to ‘test’ how candidates respond to real-world challenges they could face.
When you’ve got a few ideas down, schedule a time to meet with your marketing team to get the ball rolling. Come prepared with initial research on cost too – freelance filmmakers are now starting to shoot in the format, and while there still is a significant initial cost to shoot VR (around $15K), think about what such assets could add to your employer and company branding, and the impression a must-have candidate will get when a pair of VR glasses arrive in the mail. Divide that by the number of hires you could use this on per year, and the investment quickly becomes more palatable.
Training in the virtual realm
Beyond recruiting, virtual reality lends itself to onboarding in many professions. By creating virtual company locations where employees can interact with the environment, engage in virtual mentoring, or some forms of blended training, teams can acquire a great deal of experience without leaving their desk.
Companies typically spend 150% of the first year’s salary to integrate a new employee. This can take the form of lost productivity by mentors of that employee, additional training, and simple mistakes.
The NFL is a great example here. They’ve teamed up with Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab to develop an immersive diversity training module, putting coaches, players and staff right in the middle of real-world situations. According to The Next Web, one scenario will involve a participant taking on the role of an African-American woman, being harassed by a white male.
“Feeling prejudice by walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is what VR was made for,” says Stanford University’s Jeremy Bailenson.
Virtual training provides a safe environment in which the employee can fail. Failing is good because it’s one of the best ways to gain experience and learn something. And VR training leaves reading documentation and manuals for dead. The fact is human beings remember 20% of what they see; they remember 30% of what they hear; they remember 50% of what they both see and hear; but they recall a full 80% of what they see, hear, and do. There simply is no better way to maximize retention.
Even with all the foregoing, virtual reality is still just scratching the surface. When Commodore came out with the first handheld calculators, there was no way that they could have envisioned the home computer market, laptops, tablets, or especially our modern smart phones. In the same way we cannot even begin to imagine where VR is going to take us.
This is going to be a vital component of your future. Companies that lag are the companies that fail. Do your research now because the future is barreling down on you like a runaway truck, and you can be sure that your competitors are already doing so.
How can you see virtual reality changing recruitment? What one stage is most ripe for change?