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Ep 413: Into The Metaverse

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For over a decade now, I’ve been flagging up the development of virtual reality as something talent acquisition should have on their radar. It’s taken a while, but with tech giants like Meta and Apple making multi-billion dollar investments in technology and infrastructure is now finally the time for our industry to fully embrace the Metaverse.

So how does would this work, and what talent acquisition and HR activities are already in play in virtual reality. My guests this week are Misha Krymov and Jennifer Regan, the CEO and Head of Experiences at Morpheus XR. Morpheus XR is already designing recruiting, onboarding and leadership development experiences in the Metaverse and have a massive amount of knowledge to share with us.

In the interview, we discuss:

• What is the Metaverse, and who is building it?

• Creating space for meaning and meaningful moments

• How environment shapes human behaviour

• How VR gives agency to users that Zoom / Teams calls don’t

• Unbiased recruitment using VR

• Onboarding

• What should talent acquisition teams be doing to learn about the Metaverse

• Inclusion and alternatives to headsets

• Untangling science fiction from science fact

• Extending reality

• What’s the potential for VR, and how will it be used in the future

Listen to this podcast in Apple Podcasts

Interview Transcript:

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Matt Alder (1m 5s):
Hi there. This is Matt Alder. Welcome to episode 413 of The Recruiting Future Podcast. For more than a decade now, I’ve been flagging up with the development of virtual reality as something talent acquisition should have on their radar. It’s taken a while, but with tech giants like Meta and Apple making multi-billion dollar investments in technology and infrastructure, is now finally the time for our industry to fully embrace the Metaverse? How would this work and what talent acquisition and HR activities are already in play in virtual reality?

Matt Alder (1m 48s):
My guests this week, Mikhail Krymov and Jennifer Regan, the CEO and Head of Experiences at Morpheus XR. Morpheus XR is already designing, recruiting, onboarding, and leadership development experiences in the Metaverse and have a huge amount of knowledge to share with us. Hi, Mikhail. Hi, Jen. Welcome to the podcast. Could you just introduce yourselves and tell us what you do?

Mikhail Krymov (2m 13s):
Thank you, Matt. My name is Mikhail Krymov. I’m co-founder and CEO of the company, Morpheus XR. We’re building a metaverse for enterprise. Basically, what we do is we take teams, companies into the metaverse and give them worlds where they can meet each other, have meaningful experiences, team-building, onboardings, all these kinds of stuff. I think this is an amazing opportunity to day to actually shape the future of the metaverse and of the future of work. That’s what drives us. I personally come from an architectural background.

Mikhail Krymov (2m 54s):
My first two companies were architecture companies and I’ve been building offices, airports, and all kinds of commercial real estate, and was basically passionate in exploring the topic of the future of work through my work, not only in just architectural company but also in editing in about the future of work called Hundred Percent Office. My Ph.D. thesis was about architecture utopias so also exploring how people thought about what’s an ideal way to live, work, and do things. six years ago, I moved to the US, had a pretty cool startup called Slingbox, also exploring the same topic, but through a travel angle.

Mikhail Krymov (3m 35s):
I’ve gotten to VR and just realized how powerful this medium is and that all things that I’ve been passionate about being an architect and urban planner makes sense in VR. They work. How the space can create meaning and meaningful moments for the person is pretty much the same as how the physical world can so that’s what drives me.

Jennifer Regan (4m 10s):
Thank you so much, Matt. Thank you, Mikhail, Of course. My name is Jen and I am a co-founder and the chief experience officer of Morpheus XR. My personal experience that led me to this moment really was I came into my career as a head of sustainability at a multinational entertainment company. I was leading change and getting executive decision-makers across a very dynamic company, a global company, to embrace change and adopt new systems, both operationally and the back of the house, but also in how they told their stories, front of the house, to the messaging of their audiences. I was working with the Olympics and FIFA. I was working with music festivals and sports arenas, and I became obsessed with what it was that had certain leaders adopt change and embrace it, and where I would encounter resistance and people who were resistant to change.

Jennifer Regan (5m 4s):
I started to find that those that adopted change the most were the ones that embraced leadership development and professional development. The ones that didn’t hadn’t had much investment in themselves as leaders or as professionals. I started as a change manager and a change agent. I started to develop skills as a facilitator and a trainer, not only attending as many workshops as I can but starting to host, curate, and lead workshops for the audiences of people I worked with that didn’t have access to that leadership development, people at the management level, maybe not at the executive level, or people on housecleaning teams, really allowing those benefits of professional development and leadership skills to be accessed by anybody at all levels of an organization.

Jennifer Regan (5m 48s):
I found that that was where my special sauce was at leading change. It was recognizing the human ability to integrate, connect, understand, and interact with content in a self-reflective way, really affected people’s ability to adopt change. Morpheus XR is this perfect connection of entertainment and excitement with connection and meaning. How do we leverage the excitement of virtual reality to deliver training and connected experiences that have people reflect, grow, and change with the culture that they’re stewarding in their organization? It’s a perfect storm for me, from my career of leading change at these multinational organizations and leading change development to now supporting companies that do that, bringing their change development and their programming Into The Metaverse.

Matt Alder (6m 39s):
Fascinating stuff. There’s so much I want to ask you and dig into around this whole topic, but I’m very conscious that a lot of people listening may never have been in VR, may not fully understand what the metaverse is. First of all, can we just go through some basics for people? What is the Metaverse? What’s VR? Who’s building it and how do you access it?

Mikhail Krymov (7m 8s):
There’s actually now an active conversation of what the actual metaverse is, but the way we approach it is basically like embodied, immersive, new internet. If you think about it for the last 20 years, we are dealing on a daily basis, most of our day actually, with digital reality. We’re accessing it through windows, through desktop, black mirror through the phone. Metaverse is a way for us to actually enter this digital reality and experience it directly with our body in the form of world spaces, objects, artifacts, entities.

Mikhail Krymov (8m 0s):
I think this is very exciting because we’re doing this anyway, but we’re not really engaged. We’re not really part of it. We’re just watching on this digital reality from the other side of the looking glass basically. More practically, the metaverse is a space of interconnected or disconnected VR-based worlds, so immersive worlds, that you can access through VR or putting on a VR headset, or actually accessing it through desktop or mobile in an old fashioned way, but still, what you’ll be part of is spatial 3d world, where you can move, pick up things, and stuff like that.

Matt Alder (8m 50s):
What’s really interesting and something that you both alluded to is this sense of immersive worlds and environments, and how they affect and shape human behavior. I think obviously this is something that we’re going to be talking about a lot over the coming months and years, but can we just dig into that a little bit more? That relationship between environment and human behavior, people obviously prefer very familiar with that in terms of offices and people working from home and the whole sense of space and the huge debate around that at the moment, but how is this all applicable in the metaverse?

Mikhail Krymov (9m 29s):
Yes, great question. I’ll answer that, not just as a user or as one of the co-creators of the metaverse, but also as an architect because that’s my background. That’s where I coming from. When building real buildings, real spaces, basically, what was very magical to me that how we unconsciously, and sometimes consciously but mostly unconsciously, interact with the spaces around us and how they define, basically, these scenarios that we see that are possible, basically spaces that you’re in the defined range of possibilities.

Mikhail Krymov (10m 17s):
What I was blown away with when I first got into VR is that I realized that like being in these worlds, in the spaces, the work is pretty much the same as they were real. Basically, the only limitation is that when I touch the wall, my hand doesn’t stop, but I feel the wall still. It’s just my hand doesn’t stop, that’s it, and I cannot eat there, but the rest works. What I realized that the power of creating meaningful spaces and meaningful experiences in VR basically works for our perception the same way as just real-life experience.

Mikhail Krymov (11m 8s):
That’s the bottom line. The idea is that being in the metaverse, you can have meaningful moments. You can have insights. You can meet people and be fully there so you can leave your life there and make it a real part of your life experiences on a much deeper level than interacting with someone on Zoom, Google Meet, or something like that.

Matt Alder (11m 40s):
That’s really interesting. When you put it like that, we talk to each other on Zoom all the time and we’re just interacting with a flat picture. That seems real so it’s a really interesting and eye-opening way of thinking about it. Bringing it back to recruiting and HR, what’s already being done in the metaverse?

Jennifer Regan (12m 3s):
Yes, absolutely. I’ll go ahead and take that one, Matt. I think the answer to this question actually builds off the question about shaping human behavior. One of the things that we are missing in the two-dimensional space of video conferencing is agency and customization. Two-dimensional video conferencing really forces us all to be, we use the terminology, held hostage to one speaker. It favors certain personality types – extroverts, and people who don’t have any social concerns about being seen while they’re speaking.

Jennifer Regan (12m 43s):
There are a lot of different personality types that are not favored or comfortable in a Zoom-focused environment where you’re basically putting someone on stage and everyone is held hostage to stare at that person. If you aren’t the person on stage, you have to wait for your time. There are a lot of different personality dynamics that get pushed to the side in a video conferencing-focused remote distributed workforce. Whereas three-dimensional spaces, like these VR spaces, restore agency back to the user and allow the different personality types, the breathing room, and space to interact where they’re comfortable, which actually will lead to more authentic interactions than when we’re stuck in a video conference.

Jennifer Regan (13m 29s):
For some of us that are more extroverted, we don’t notice these things. Video conference is no different than being in a room. As you can tell, I’m confident. I have no problem interrupting people if I want to be heard, but if that wasn’t some part of my personality, it would be very hard to be in a Zoom with people who were louder than me or more extroverted than I am, let alone feeling like I’m on camera the whole time, which is something that people literally have stage fright. Public speaking is one of the top three fears people have, and Zoom basically makes everyone have to become public speakers in a way that you didn’t in a work meeting, in a conference room. Three-dimensional spaces that we’re using really allow people to find freedom again, to move to where they want to be in the room, to where they want to interact with speakers or engage with the topic, and to express and engage in some of the more traditional ways that we do.

Jennifer Regan (14m 21s):
Do you get attention by being quieter, but moving into a physically different place where someone can hear you better because you’re physically closer to them versus having to be put on stage. These kinds of elements from an HR perspective are very important in the recruiting world. We’re all trying to interrupt our biases and do blind recruitment. Well, there’s nothing blinder than an avatar that is a color that you would not expect a human to be, that is generically androgynous, that doesn’t reveal a gender, and that has a voice modulator so you can’t reveal. There are people who are using VR as a place to do blind recruitment interviews so they can interview based on what they’re hearing from your answers and not what they’re picking up from your tone, your intonation, or from your appearance.

Jennifer Regan (15m 6s):
There’s some value to that. There are people who are using VR for new hire orientations and training, which is one of the main things that we’re getting to do and bring into the metaverse and help people with, which is utilizing this three-dimensional space to deliver content that gets to be engaged with. You can observe content and click through a video like a sexual harassment training on a 2D computer, and people watch a video, answer some questions, and move forward, but it’s easy to multitask when you’re on a two-dimensional screen. When you’re in virtual reality, your presence is so commanded and you’re so drawn in and you actually have to walk across the room to select the correct answer to the sexual harassment training questions, or you actually have to interact with the facilitator and actually discuss or dialogue about those answers.

Jennifer Regan (15m 55s):
I know I just fluidly explain that, but I guess if I was to succinctly say it, right now, VR is being used for recruitment and hiring to interrupt biases and have unbiased recruitment. It’s being used for new hire orientation, and workshops and leadership development that allows people to feel like they’re in the same room, and fluidly move from interacting with the content, very present and engaged, to then moving into breakout sessions or discussion groups or doing tabletop exercises. All the things that people have been craving to do that they would do if they were in person is possible in virtual reality.

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Matt Alder (16m 57s):
Now, virtual reality is a massive play for a number of the large tech companies who are investing multi-billions of dollars in building infrastructure and giving people access. If we take it as read that more people will have access in the sort of coming months and years, what’s the potential for this? What could we be doing in the metaverse in a year’s time?

Jennifer Regan (17m 31s):
I’d love if both of us could answer this because I know that Mikhail is a visionary as well in this. I know personally something, all the co-founders share that motivated us to form Morpheus is that we were all raised by parents who spent 96% of their adult life at work. We are, generationally speaking continuing that pattern, where we spend the majority of our adult life working. I would love to see VR being a tool that lets us become so effective in our collaboration and work meetings that we could reduce the number of hours that we’re working in a week.

Jennifer Regan (18m 12s):
Because when we meet, we are having these hyper-productive meetings where our notes are being automatically taken while we’re talking and a summary is being recorded. We can quickly agree in the meeting where we click on it and say, “Yes, we agree, and that’s the follow-up items. Then we can take our time outside of meetings, outside of VR to really focus in and get work done, and really reduce how much time we’re working. That’s my pie in the sky view, but within five years or so, you’re going to see in the HR world, I think that anyone who works in employee relations, anyone who works in conflict management or in wellness training, VR is such a rich tool and resource.

Jennifer Regan (18m 54s):
You send a VR headset to your employee’s home, and it is a way that you can give team members a workout app and they can go to the gym together and work out virtually. They can get together for social experiences, like an escape room or scavenger hunt, or they can come and attend a lunch and learn and a guest speaker. I think for the HR professionals out there, VR is going to be one of the best toolkits that any company could invest in because it’s a way of really administering. You could do your health fair in virtual reality. You can do bring in a guest speaker for an entire company.

Jennifer Regan (19m 35s):
I know one of the big things these big corporations do is they’ll hire a great keynote speaker for their annual conference, but there are so many people in the satellite office that will just log in through a zoom. What if you could have a guest speaker Q&A with every single one of your regional offices? Everyone feels like they’re in the room with that highly-coveted guest speaker. I think VR is going to be a secret tool kit for company culture building for all HR professionals moving forward.

Matt Alder (20m 1s):
Mikhail, where do you think we’re going with this in terms of business?

Mikhail Krymov (20m 5s):
How we define it is the value in what we found basically. What do we see as the value of high-value communications? Basically, the way we look at it is there is one dimension of communication. It’s slack. When you just write the line to your coworker like, “We need to do this.” That’s one-dimensional. Two-dimensional is Zoom, when we are on a flat-screen, we see each other, we can exchange words, but there is no real body language. There is no shared experience. Then there is, for example, meeting with a potential partner where it’s not just about saying words to each other, it’s about having a shared experience, establishing trust, establishing a relationship.

Mikhail Krymov (20m 46s):
These bonds, these human connections, they’re built on basically shared unique experiences. This is possible in real life, of course. That’s how it’s been done forever, but this is also possible in VR. This is, I think, a space. It’s not even a medium. It’s a space where we can meet after COVID, during COVID, distributed world without travel, or just having some unique experience that you cannot have in real life right now, like meeting in a disco bar in space.

Mikhail Krymov (21m 35s):
That would be something that you will remember and that will be a meaningful moment for you. For me, this should basically replace what we’re trying, and successfully, to do now on Zooms that we try to do stuff that we’ve been doing in real life. That should move to VR. I’ll give you an example. A new hire joins the company, distributed company. How can they feel what they are becoming part of? How can they actually see that? Today is just seeing the website, and then you just work from home.

Mikhail Krymov (22m 21s):
You feel pretty disconnected from that entity and the division of the company. In VR, you’re going to the virtual campus of that company. You see the architecture, the design, the vision, the materials, museum, history. You meet people there. You sit near the pond with a koi fish and discuss some projects together. This is unique. This is, I think, what we are for, basically.

Matt Alder (22m 52s):
I find this fascinating because, in the consulting work I do, I do a lot of work around helping companies prepare for the future. In my presentations, I think probably for the last 10 years, I’ve had virtual reality as something to watch. It’s taken us a long time to get to the point that we are now. I think the pandemic has obviously moved everyone’s thinking very, very, very quickly. I already mentioned the amount of investment that’s going into this space. It’s obviously an important area that people who work in talent acquisition and HR should really be aware of and be educating themselves on.

Matt Alder (23m 38s):
What should people be doing in terms of learning more about the potential of the metaverse and how they might incorporate that into their strategy?

Jennifer Regan (23m 48s):
I absolutely think that talent acquisition and HR professionals should be looking at, one, we would happily onboard anyone who’s interested and have a consulting session with them. I can tell you right now, one of the challenges right now the majority of the VR marketplace has been and continues to be geared towards individual gamers. If you are pursuing a path to developing an enterprise product, people are having to go the path on their own. That’s one of the problems we’re solving, which is we’re trying to be an enterprise solution that lets people, instead of having to hire their own company, to have their own app developed.

Jennifer Regan (24m 29s):
They can actually partner with us and bring their content into our application because our application has the security features and the privacy settings that are needed for corporates and enterprises versus utilizing a social media-based application. One of the things I would say is to get a Quest2 headset and start participating in experiences in the metaverse. We have a demo we can pride to any of your listeners. We’d be happy to provide and get them plugged in. I think that already today, which is what’s insane, you can have better, more engaging, and fruitful work conversations in virtual reality.

Jennifer Regan (25m 13s):
You can already have brainstorming sessions, reflection. You could already do your new hire orientation. If you are someone whose new hire orientation is web-based, you can stream that web-based presentation in your own virtual headquarters, where there’s also basketball and fireworks and things that you can play and interact with. You can actually incorporate these interactable objects with your new hire orientation so you can cement and equate physical behavior with certain concepts in your new hire orientation that become more memorable, more sticky. Talent acquisition HR professionals should definitely be getting into VR now and going on the journey themselves.

Jennifer Regan (25m 56s):
think it’s also important to note that virtual reality is not just experienced in a headset. The value and power of virtual space can be accessed through desktop and with us through mobile as well. That allows you to have all the benefits of the three-dimensional space, the ability to the agency that I was talking about earlier, to move around all those benefits. For those members of your team that might have conditions like vertigo or others that would have them not comfortable in VR, there is an alternative. We knew for ourselves that we could not enter the enterprise market and not have a solution that would work for every single employee because inclusion is not only important for us, but we know it’s important for the HR professionals that are building these teams out.

Jennifer Regan (26m 41s):
Virtual reality is a solution, whether it’s on a desktop or in a headset. I think that people who are in the space should go ahead and start attending. We’d love anyone who wants to reach out to us. We can guide them to different events. They can attend to start to think about it, but within two months, they could have their team meeting in VR today.

Matt Alder (26m 58s):
As a final question, I always like to finish asking questions about the future. With VR, I think so much of the thinking, awareness, and perception of it as a concept has been shaped by science fiction, things like Ready Player One, the holodeck in Star Trek, or whatever that might be. I’m just interested in terms of how you see it moving forward and interacting with real-life as it were. How is this going to develop? Where is VR going to sit in our existence compared to, I suppose, what we call real life?

Matt Alder (27m 43s):
How do we untangle science fiction from science fact? Where is all this going?

Mikhail Krymov (27m 52s):
To answer that, you’ve drawn a soft line between you in real life and VR, but I found it fascinating that virtual reality is the keyword is not virtual. The keyword is reality. The whole point is that your experience is real and that’s what makes the whole thing real. We’ve called our company Morpheus XR. Morpheus is a God of dreams who helps to move between different worlds. XR stands for extended reality, an industry term. I like this concept of extended reality. It’s not actually about virtual reality as a separate part of life.

Mikhail Krymov (28m 40s):
It’s extending our relatives that are now between office, home, street, neighborhood, block, to extending it to other spaces, to other worlds where we can meet more freely without limitations of locations, and basically, without any other limitations, like physical ones. Our imagination becomes really the driver of these experiences. It can be beautiful and magical.

Mikhail Krymov (29m 20s):
It can be ugly. As all things humans do, it reflects who we are more than anything else. I think that the next few years of VR will just become a natural part of our lives, of our existence like TV became once, like computers became, like phones became. Some of these devices took an unproportionate large part of our time. No one saw that coming. When I would struggle to limit the use of the phone during the day and such, and definitely VR will trigger all these problems because it’s sticky.

Mikhail Krymov (30m 7s):
It really is engaging and magical. At the same time, it takes some learning curve, some development over the strength of what’s called VR legs to be there for long hours. There is some natural limitation to how long you can be in VR. Today, it’s, I think, a couple of hours really. I think it will be just third place. A place, a space where we go to meet people, to have meaningful moments that will just become an initial part of our lives and we’ll do it for different reasons – for work, for entertainment, for gaming, for social stuff.

Mikhail Krymov (30m 54s):
I think it will make our lives richer. I believe that the creative force of humanity will prevail over tendencies to make just money and that’s it.

Matt Alder (31m 15s):
Mikhail, Jen, thank you very much for talking to me.

Jennifer Regan (31m 17s):
Thank you so much.

Mikhail Krymov (31m 19s):
Thank you.

Matt Alder (31m 20s):
My thanks to Mikhail and Jennifer. You can subscribe to this podcast in Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or via your podcasting app of choice. Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future. You can search all the past episodes at recruitingfuture.com. On that site, you can also subscribe to the mailing list to get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.

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