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What leaders can realistically expect out of the metaverse in 2023

December 13, 2022, 12:48 PM UTC
Woman wearing VR headset
82% of executives say they expect metaverse plans to be part of their business activities within three years, according to a survey by PwC.

Good morning!

Our proximity to 2023 has me thinking about the future of the workplace and technology’s ability to transform the way we work. Many tech companies are eyeing the metaverse as a promising evolution of the office-Zoom duopoly. But what can employers realistically expect out of the metaverse in the coming year?

Apparently, not much. Although many HR executives have been given both the budget and green light to invest in the technology—so as to not get left behind—the metaverse’s full capabilities are unlikely to materialize within the next year, according to a new PwC report. Still, it’s clear that the metaverse can enhance many employee-focused functions like training, onboarding, and team building, to name a few.

PwC’s findings concede that employers jumping into the metaverse in 2023 should focus on experimentation and utilize the technology in moderation. 

“With the metaverse, we always recommend a paced and risk-aware approach,” Emmanuelle Rivet, vice chair and global technology leader at PwC, tells Fortune.

That means first experimenting with the technology among a small group of employees, partnering with chief innovation officers, chief technology officers, and chief operating officers to develop potential use cases, and drafting internal policies and procedures for using the technology. 

For employers, the metaverse still holds a great deal of cybersecurity, privacy, ergonomic, and psychological risks, many of which my colleague Lila MacLellan detailed in her exploration of the metaverse workplace for Fortune’s return-to-office playbook last week. While the technology has proven to be an effective training tool for companies like Hilton and Walmart, she writes, many experts caution using the virtual world to discuss private topics. 

Physical and psychological comfort among employees in VR is also a concern.

“How you will let your employees show up in the metaverse is something to think about before you just throw a bunch of people in there,” says Rivet. And that’s difficult to assess without prior experimentation. 

According to PwC’s 2022 Metaverse Survey, 82% of executives say they expect metaverse plans to be part of their business activities within three years, meaning HR heads must begin thinking of the real-world human implications in the near term, well before the technology is fully developed. 

Rivet notes that it’s not too early to start poaching talent with virtual reality skills, as they’re already in short supply. 

“You want to start building internal and institutional knowledge,” she says. “If you have someone who has some expertise in the area and can track what is evolving in the space, how other companies are using it, and other use cases, you have just raised the IQ of the enterprise.”

Amber Burton

ICYMI: Check out the inaugural Fortune @ Work: Return-to-Office Playbook.

Reporter's Notebook

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It seems the labor shortage won’t budge anytime soon thanks to higher retirement rates in the U.S. Here’s how the Associated Press explains it, citing Fed Chair Jerome Powell:

“There are now about 3.5 million fewer people who either have a job or are looking for one compared with pre-pandemic trends. Of the 3.5 million, about 2 million consist of ‘excess’ retirements—an increase in retirements far more than would have been expected based on pre-existing trends.”

Around the Table

A round up of the most important HR headlines, studies, podcasts, and long-reads.

- Older employees are contending with Gen Z’s overt use of slang in the workplace—with confusing and sometimes comical results. Washington Post

- Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz appears set on ending all unionization efforts at the company’s stores before he steps down from the role next spring. New York Times

- Most CFOs prefer to cut costs, not jobs, in what they predict will be a mild recession. Wall Street Journal


Everything you need to know from Fortune.

RTO, thwarted. 2022 was the year of foiled return-to-office plans, as employees pushed back against returning to pre-pandemic norms. —Trey Williams 

Builders, not managers. To maintain a culture of innovation, the CEO of Amazon Web Services hires “restless and dissatisfied” employees who are constantly looking to reinvent something. —Geoff Colvin 

Green collar jobs. Companies in the climate sector are filling the raft of newly created “green collar” jobs with laid-off tech talent. —Abigail Bassett 

Going once. Twitter is auctioning furniture from its offices, including a giant sculpture of the @ sign, a dozen espresso machines, and Eames chairs. —Kylie Robison

This is the web version of CHRO Daily, a newsletter focusing on helping HR executives navigate the needs of the workplace. Today’s edition was curated by Paolo Confino. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.