In the last couple of years, developments in VR (virtual reality) and AR have gone beyond sports and entertainment. Niantic released Pokemon Go in mid-2016 and it became a global phenomenon. Samsung Gear and Google Glasses came out in 2013. Though they have been there for a few years, Pokemon Go demonstrated the real power of AR to the world. Since then, the world of business has started piloting this technology.
We hear about Boeing using AR for intricate assemblies in an aeroplane and Agco using this to inspect components and sub-assemblies in the manufacturing of farm equipment. Several other industry sectors have started using it for delivering superior experience to their customers – prospective as well as existing ones. They are able to convert sales enquiries better, provide do-it-yourself help to their customers, enable their sales and service technicians to follow check-lists and bring them upto speed quickly. We see AR tools being used in hazardous work environments to access them easily and detect issues if any. Workers in the warehouses are able to reach the bins and niches to store and retrieve components quicker than ever before.
How can HR leverage AR?
HR Team helps the business leaders attract, develop and retain talent in the firm. In each of these steps, they are required to provide a realistic view of the firm – its culture, purpose, people, products, and environment; at the same time, give a sneak peek into the future. Would it not be interesting if a potential employee can take a quick tour of the company – its work areas and real people interacting with one another, solving problems, developing new ideas and so on without physically travelling to those locations?
AR can help us assess suitability of a job applicant when we show real life situations at our workplace and ask him or her to respond to those. Rather than describing hypothetical situations or theoretical issues to a candidate, it is better to understand how the person reacts to them and accordingly assess if we will be able to engage the person meaningfully, offer a career path and leverage his or her talent in our company.
Training and development is another important responsibility of the HR team. AR offers a huge opportunity for us to simulate work situations and hence, explore ways of dealing with them. Nothing can be more effective than this to train and develop employees.
What stops us from using AR?
There are multiple challenges on the way. To begin with, it is not on the agenda of the leadership team and hence, not deliberated. The Business Owner or Leader has to take the first step of proposing the change and taking it forward. This is easier said than done because there are more pressing issues crying for attention normally.
Secondly, it is not easy to go off the beaten path. It calls for courage and strong leadership to explore new avenues when the current practice is not a disaster. Companies and leaders who look for greater efficiency and want to climb a few notches higher on the journey towards excellence, can only muster the courage to experiment with something new.
Real challenges on the way are cost of these tools, battery life of the device, internet connectivity and security of the data gathered in the process. Another big obstacle is the mind-set of the employees that some jobs could be lost due to the use of such tools. Some of them also complain of health issues and ergonomics. Over a period of time, we will see improvements in all these aspects. We need not wait for the perfect world. Cost-benefit ratio and usability are the two key determinants for early adoption.
Where do we start?
First things first, the leadership team has to believe that AR is the way forward and their organization must take advantage of this technology. Then comes the next crucial step of building consensus among the managers in the next layer of the organization and evaluating options for a pilot. Once the pilot is installed, the leaders have to prepare the organization for adopting the new way of attracting talent, presenting the opportunity, assessing applicants, engaging employees and training them.
Smart organizations think long term and ahead of their peers. They will lead the way!