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April 24, 2020

Employee Experience In The New Reality

This week our CEO, Tim Fleming, was guest to People Lab and FathomXP’s webinar, VIRTUAL REALITY AND EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE, hosted by Belinda Gannaway.

Belinda and Emma are writing a book on employee experience design (EX) – their approach to the book is empathy which led them to exploring further the fascinating topic of immersive technologies with Tim.

Tim discussed one of the critical components of any immersive technology, especially virtual reality (VR) – our brain’s perception. Future Visual have been exploring the potency of fully interactive environments to affect behaviour change for some time. Although your brain knows it’s in an artificially constructed world – it quickly says ‘this is real’ and will produce biochemical responses congruent with the type of environment the viewer is in eg. Are they under threat? Will they be having an empathic response with the scene they involved in? This biochemical response is what guides us in real life and they are shown to be replicated when in VR and AR (augmented reality) environments.  

Tim talked about how at Future Visual we use VR for high-risk scenarios, creating an embedded experience. Perception and involvement will amount to empathy.

Tim discussed the true benefits of collaborative immersive presence as it’s the route that Future Visual is developing. It’s about enabling your remote teams to come together for more powerful experiences and creating more relevant approaches to teamwork.

We then heard from Belinda a little bit more about Employee Experience (EX) – It’s the experience which sits in someone’s mind from the moment they think about you as a potential employer, to the moment they leave – and way beyond as experience remains as a memory. Our needs and expectations directly impact our experience.

Gallop summarises this: “Employees have become the consumers of the workplace” 

The Covid threat has given VR/AR a 3 year tail wind. Where EX sees it popping up is listed on the slide above. Deutsche Bahn and IKEA are using VR for training, onboarding and recruiting employees. Hilton Hotels has also used VR for training and EX design in their Hotel Immersion programme.

Onboarding not only needs new thinking re: the physical in these times but will also benefit from new available approaches. There are a different set of needs for onboarding and emotional needs are very different and it will be interesting to see how VR will help resolve this.

Co-Host Emma Bridger had a very interesting reference from Einstein who said “Reality is merely an illusion”. 

Does VR offer another way to trick our brain? By rewiring our experience through the plasticity of the brain can we expose ourselves to a broader range of emotional environments and create an empathy gym?

VR goes beyond experiencing different realities – one piece of research was of someone using the avatar of a child’s body in VR and found it made them more playful. 

With EX in mind, gender and race could be an interesting way to build empathy to overcome biases and help improve experiences for people at work.

Future Visual built a VR narrative where people had to work to instructions and go into an area to work with tools and get equipment before entering a main environment and then building an escape vehicle. People could collaborate remotely in the VR environment and interact with the teams, with lots of metrics captured during the brief, with group talks with the team leader. Employees would then reenter the task.

Where next for VR and EX?

Tim suggested that onboarding was an interesting area which might include virtual welcome packs with the ability to access info and items more quickly and more playfully. Full Immersion for new employees into the space with knowledge at hand.

Remote team collaboration is now the bigger part of the puzzle – it’s about how to tie in employees effectively and efficiently.

Future Visual is currently creating exciting environments for playful spaces and break out rooms. Certain scenarios will benefit remote teams by having playful spaces to create energy, creativity and stimulate discussion.

Emma Bridges believes there are real opportunities to use these environments to take us out of our standard habitual way of doing things.  Some different environments would certainly benefit – no more boardrooms and boring day trips like Alton Towers!

Tim summarised the thoughts which had been discussed on the webinar:


“Immerse as Einstein suggested and you get a different chemical response to yourself.  Perhaps everyone should have a virtual Einstein Room! Employees need some space for empathy to play out. There could be a three tiered approach: Functional/onboarding – Creative – Emotional facilitation of conversation and dialogue of what might previously been considered as challenges. These are all interesting strands for EX.”