It’s no secret the HR function is changing. 91% of HR leaders believe the scope of their role has changed in the last five years, and 73% feel the term ‘Human Resources’ is outdated, reflecting its administrative past rather than its agile future. And yet, the adoption of emerging technologies that are accelerating the innovation of practices such as immersive learning is sluggish. HR leaders feel they lack the right technology and the skills to implement it at scale.
At Accenture, however, emerging technologies such as VR and the metaverse are revolutionizing the HR function. The ‘Nth Floor,’ is Accenture’s pioneering application of the metaverse where the firm has rolled out a new immersive experience as part of its onboarding process. It has created virtual counterparts of physical offices that have helped improve hybrid collaboration and networking. It provides a platform for immersive learning. The scale of Accenture’s metaverse is seriously impressive:
- Accenture has onboarded over 150,000 employees in the metaverse
- Post-onboarding surveys have scored 94% favorability
- Accenture has delivered hundreds of community gatherings, including an annual strategy meeting for 150 managing directors in 25 countries
Olly Jeffers, Accenture’s Global Onboarding Metaverse Lead, takes us up to the Nth floor to look at how metaverse technology is redefining Accenture’s HR practices.
Accenture’s enterprise metaverse: The Nth Floor
Accenture has always prioritized experimenting with the latest technologies and using them at the enterprise level. Indeed, it has explored the use of virtual worlds for over 15 years. With the world forced into remote and hybrid working over the past three years, and the maturity of VR and metaverse technology, it began exploring ways to bring its global workforce together beyond traditional email, phone calls, and video meetings. Through a series of pilots and experiments, it evaluated the use-case of metaverse technology for parts of the onboarding journey. Jeffers describes the early adoption of this technology among the HR team at Accenture.
“We started to see that the metaverse was providing our people with a social and collaborative touchpoint. It was a spontaneous connection at a time when it wasn’t possible to meet in person. It was very memorable for our employees, and fun, so we began to create One Accenture Park for our employee onboarding.”
“Having brought aspects of our onboarding experience inside the metaverse for our new joiners, our leadership was immediately bought in. We rolled out metaverse technology beyond the onboarding experience. The Nth floor was born.”
How Accenture is applying metaverse technology
Accenture believes the Nth floor to be the world’s largest enterprise metaverse. It spans onboarding, immersive learning, collaboration, socializing, and wellness. Not only has it completely re-imagined the onboarding experience for new starters, but it has helped Accenture to tackle issues including hybrid working and engaging L&D programs that improve the quality of leadership skills across the globe. Let’s explore the depths of the Nth Floor and how it is accelerating the digitization of myriad HR functions.
One Accenture Park is a home for new joiners. In the metaverse onboarding hub, employees going through onboarding can network, meet their peers, and learn about Accenture’s culture and business practices. The immersive experience begins on their second day. Jeffers explains the two-part experience that follows.
“Firstly, we welcome new joiners into a conference room designed to replicate Accenture’s physical office spaces. This is a chance for them to move around, talk with other new joiners, and acclimatize themselves to the technology. Subsequently, their ‘park ranger’ will lead them down a corridor and see One Accenture Park open in front of them in Jurassic Park style.”
“They then move into smaller groups and take part in a small bonding exercise. When they return, they begin to learn about what Accenture does and how we work. A mock client provides them with business challenges that they solve as a team. The new joiners get a taste of what it’s like to work for Accenture in an immersive world, free from distractions, and far more engaging than any other remote onboarding.”
To date, Accenture has onboarded over 150,000 employees in One Accenture Park. This remarkable achievement shows how emerging technologies like the metaverse, and VR, can not only help HR teams scale their work, but also improve employee experience across the full course of the employee lifecycle. The feedback Accenture has received through post-onboarding surveys and even organic employee feedback is a testament to the journey it has created. The virtual onboarding received an average rating of 4.7 on a 5-point scale (94% favorability). A new starter recently shared the following feedback:
“The inclusion of One Accenture Park brought another dimension of engagement during the onboarding process. It allowed a different approach to our learning, exploring, and interaction within my new start group whilst being able to get hands-on with technology. This added to the excitement and enthusiasm, so much so that myself and a couple of colleagues decided to further explore the capabilities of the metaverse and socialize in VR. We discovered things like being able to explore different Accenture offices, project a presentation on a giant skyscraper and play games.” – Delvin Monzon, Technology Architect, Accenture
It has also been a constant evolution and learning exercise for Accenture.
“It’s taken the work of many teams, and many people to create One Accenture Park. That work hasn’t stopped either. We continue to develop and grow the spaces and build new experiences. Building a world like this means forging strong relationships with a vast range of teams. This included learning experience teams, our instructional designers, and onboarding experts. Most importantly, we worked very closely with our XR team. These designers, developers, and artists bring these ideas to life. They are the architects of these virtual spaces.”
Organizations are only just beginning to recognize the scope VR technology can have for L&D programs. Previously limited to more technical or dangerous use cases, immersive learning can be applied to countless hard and soft skills to facilitate development. Demand for job roles such as instructional designers is increasing as HR leaders look to understand what applications immersive learning may have. Accenture’s Nth floor has revolutionized its approach to learning and development at all levels of the organization.
It has held hundreds of community gatherings in immersive spaces. For example, at an annual strategy meeting with client account leaders, Accenture created a virtual lounge using a combination of avatars and realistic meeting spaces to provide a deeper sense of connection. The result was more than 150 managing directors in 25 countries, enjoying face-to-face time from their locations. Jeffers talks through another example: ‘The Leadership Essentials Mountain.’
“On the lower level of One Accenture Park, there’s something called the ‘NJ Expo’. It’s an interactive museum where people can discover key Accenture topics, such as having a successful career at Accenture. One of these is the Leadership Essentials Mountain. We’re using pneumonic devices, analogies, and metaphors to get the key essence of the topic across in a very memorable way.”
“With the Leadership Essentials Mountain, we encourage people to explore seven mountain checkpoints on a journey to discover what the leadership essentials are. Employees learn the characteristics and behaviors that exemplify how we lead at Accenture when they reach each checkpoint. Eventually, they reach the top of the mountain, and through this virtual gamification, they’ve learned the essentials.”
These revolutionary immersive learning journeys replicate many of the benefits of more traditional, in-person learning events, that cannot video meetings cannot capture.
“When you put the VR headset on, you remove all distractions. On a normal call, message alerts are firing off, emails coming in, or other phone calls coming through. It can be challenging to just focus. We remove a lot of the noise.”
“Secondly, the spatial audio used in the Nth Floor replicates the real world. In the real world, if I wanted to talk to someone in person, I could do so without disturbing the meeting. With video meetings, it tends to be that only one person can talk at a time. For events like watching a speaker on a stage, it allows you to reflect and have a conversation about what you’re hearing at the moment.”
“Lastly, in a networking setting, you can dynamically move from conversation to conversation and focus on the information that matters to you. We’re seeing this help our learners reflect on what they’re learning, which supports our durable learning principles.”
An immersive learning model like this relies on leveraging early adopters. These are individuals within the organization who are eager to embrace innovative technology. Such change agents can help socialize it among teams. Accenture worked closely with a core network of employees who recognized the possibilities with metaverse and empowered them to create events within the Nth Floor to learn, connect, and socialize.
“It doesn’t intend to ever replace face-to-face connections. But for an organization with the global scale of Accenture, it’s not always possible to have people come together.”
“Especially for teams that are spread across large distances, or just can’t travel to the office, the Nth Floor gives them the power to come together, feel present, and be with their colleagues. Take a daily stand-up. Now we can meet on the beach at One Accenture Park and hear the waves on the sand.”
As the hybrid conversation continues in full swing, organizations that seek ways to augment the benefits of in-person work in remote environments stand to improve employee engagement by offering their workforce more personal ways of connecting.
The future of Accenture’s metaverse
Unlike its physical counterparts, the Nth floor has the benefit of continued expansion and consistent reimagination. With metaverse champions creating new events and opportunities for virtual collaboration, and support from the C-Suite, Accenture has secured buy-in at all levels to continue evolving.
“We’re very excited for the future of the metaverse and how Accenture can use these tools. Beyond the HR function, it’s helping us serve our customers. We’re already showing our clients how the metaverse will transform business and using our story as the proof-of-concept.”
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