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Bengaluru: A growing number of human resource professionals are taking to the so-called metaverse to hire and engage with new and existing employees. This has gained pace with the pandemic forcing companies towards remote working, leading HR managers to deploy the latest technologies for employee engagement.

In 2020, shortly before the covid-19 outbreak, global consultancy firm Accenture created an immersive employee engagement platform called the Nth floor. Built using Microsoft’s Mesh mixed-reality (MR) platform, it allowed Accenture workers to meet for presentations, socialize with each other and attend training sessions without actually meeting in person.

Microsoft said in a November 2021 blog post that the onboarding process typically “involves gathering new-hire cohorts and senior leadership in an office to go through a series of experiences that help people understand and personally connect with the Accenture culture, plant the seeds of professional relationships and set them up for success starting from their first projects".

Accenture’s immersive platform was a precursor to the new ways of functioning of HR professionals. Further, prompted by the covid-induced lockdowns, companies are doing ‘Zoom call’ interviews and experimenting with employee engagement in the metaverse by using technologies like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and MR.

VR creates three-dimensional spaces that users can view and interact with using headsets. AR, on the other hand, puts virtual elements like holograms in the real world. Mixed reality, or MR, is an amalgamation of AR and VR that helps companies create digital simulations of the real world and enhance these experiences.

Accounting and consulting firm PwC designed its PwC Virtual Parks in May last year, allowing users to create avatars, walk around the virtual space, and participate in events. They can also meet virtually and network with others. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg had also showcased Horizon Workrooms last year, with which the company aims to bring the entire office experience into the virtual world.

While PwC and Accenture are trying VR and MR for employee engagement and hiring at the global level, Indian firms are jumping on the metaverse bandwagon. Mumbai-based AI-driven skilling and hiring platform Incluzon, for instance, is looking to digitize the interview process through metaverse implementations. The company is building a platform that it claims will allow HR professionals to gauge the interviewee’s body language and confidence levels.

“India is currently in the nascent stages of adopting the metaverse, especially in HR practices. While the potential is enormous, companies considering the transition are investing in research and development and the development of backend processes," said Naveen Jangir, co-founder, Incluzon.

However, the biggest hurdle to deploying metaverse solutions is the availability and cost of hardware required to provide meaningful immersive experiences. Incluzon said it is working out the feasibility of making VR headsets available to students in smaller towns.

According to Neeti Sharma, senior vice president of digital staffing firm TeamLease Services, the industry may revisit an old concept to overcome this challenge. Around 2009, people used to travel to video conferencing centres in order to attend first-round interviews, before they traveled to the job location for advance interview rounds. Sharma said she expects “metaverse parlours" to mushroom over the next few months in India, which will support the lack of infrastructure while startups and other firms work to bring VR and AR headsets to the mainstream.

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