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Changing reality of the workplace

Are our current realities preparing us for eventual virtual lives, both personal and professional?

The journey through the pandemic in the past two years has brought in a huge shift in our lives: priorities, purpose, social interactions, and expectations from the workplace.

According to Microsoft Work Trend Index 2022, a survey covering more than 30,000 people in 31 countries “We’re not the same people that went home to work in early 2020. The collective experience of the past two years has left a lasting imprint, fundamentally changing how we define the role of work in our lives. The data shows the Great Reshuffle is far from over. Employees everywhere are rethinking their “worth it” equation and are voting with their feet. And as more people experience the upsides of flexible work, the more heavily it factors into the equation. For Gen Z and Millennials, there’s no going back. And with other generations not far behind, companies must meet employees where they are.”

We are in the middle of the “Great Reshuffle,” where millions of people are quitting their jobs Not to leave the workforce but in search of better opportunities. They are willing to restart their careers with employers who are providing them with better ways of working, offering greater flexibility, a culture of trust and empathy, and above all, meaningful work that has a positive impact on the planet, humanity, and the communities they inhabit.

Hybrid and distributed (working permanently from home/other locations) teams are the new realities of the workplace, and mostly this balance will tip more and more in the favor of distributed teams especially, for knowledge workers. We are now seeing the emergence of Workplace 2.0.

This changing reality of the workplace impresses upon organizations to rethink their strategies for employee retention and engagement. These strategies need to center around employees’ wellbeing, providing them continuous and dedicated opportunities to reskill and upskill for internal mobility for career growth, ensuring through rigorous training that leaders lead with empathy, and identifying ways and means for the hybrid and distributed workforce to rebuild their social capital with their teams, peers, and managers.

Fortunately, with a paradigm shift in the workplace, parallelly there was emergence and maturation of two key technological ideas, Web3.0 and Metaverse, that could lead the way in redesigning better employee engagement strategies for the post pandemic largely virtual workplace.

Web3.0 evolution

In 2006, John Markoff had for the first time used the term Web 3.0 in one of his articles for The New York Times, to describe the next generation of the Internet, which will be intelligent and will function almost as an adviser and a guide, with the ability to provide answers to queries in human fashion. In the 2006 article, Markoff says “In its current state, the Web is often described as being in the Lego phase, with all of its different parts capable of connecting to one another. Those who envision the next phase, Web 3.0, see it as an era when machines will start to do seemingly intelligent things.”

The first version of Internet, referred as Web1.0, was static and read only. Users had a very limited role. It was decentralized and built on open protocols (HTML, HTTP and URL) driven by Web browsers. It was also called the syntactic web.

Web 2.0, or the second-generation Internet, which we are using now, is known as the read and write web or the social web, as it facilitates interaction between users and the sites and is driven by mobile, cloud and social networks. But Web 2.0 is highly centralized, with most of the users’ data being controlled by a handful of tech giants.

Web 3.0, like Web 1.0, has decentralization at its core and is an attempt to break free from the control of a few large corporations. Web 3.0 refers to a decentralized online ecosystem based on the blockchain, which uses cryptography and game theory. It is envisioned as the Web built by users for themselves, where they have control over their data and content, and they can freely transact their data sans any intermediaries without losing ownership and privacy.

According to Dr.Gavin Wood, who is credited with coining the term Web3 in 2014,
“From a user’s point of view, Web 3.0 will look barely different from Web 2.0, at least initially. We’ll see the same display technologies: HTML5, CSS, and so on. On the backend, technologies like Polkadot — Parity’s inter-chain blockchain protocol — will connect different technological threads into a single economy and “movement.”

We’ll use web browsers, but they might be called “wallets” or “key stores.” Browsers (and components like hardware wallets) will represent a person’s assets and identity online, allowing us to pay for something, or prove who we are, without needing to appeal to a bank or identity service.”

Key to Web 3.0 is the digitization of assets via tokenization. Tokenization converts assets and rights into a digital representation, or token, on a blockchain network. A token is a piece of data that stands in for another, more valuable piece of information. Tokens have no value on their own. They are useful because they represent something valuable. Tokens cannot be returned to their original form without the presence of additional, separately stored data. As a result, a breach of a tokenized environment will not compromise the original sensitive data.

Cryptocurrency and fungible tokens are forms of digital currency that can easily be exchanged across networks, driving a new business model that democratizes finance and commerce. Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs) are units of data that represent unique assets such as avatars, digital art, or trading cards, that can be owned by users and monetized for their own gain. Blockchains provides a coordination layer for tokenized digital assets, giving users ownership and management permission.

Tokenizing the employee journey for better engagement

A Social Token is a form of cryptocurrency that is used between a content creator and consumer for reward and compensation. It is typically used in three ways: access, exchange, and investment. In the context of the workplace, social tokens can be used to unify and gamify an employee’s journey within an organization. At every key touchpoint, starting from the onboarding process, social tokens could be leveraged to reward, recognize, and compensate the employees, thus enabling employees to leverage the earned social tokens to get access to better experiences and opportunities for their professional growth and development. For example, a newly hired employee could start with some pre-loaded social tokens in their wallets, and on completion of their onboarding process, they could earn additional social tokens. Their Individual Development Plan could include a few critical trainings that would only unlock (access) by using X number of social tokens earned through project performance, participation in social and cultural activities, contribution to knowledge dissemination and management, and so on. This kind of universal transparent system will track an employee’s journey and at the same time will provide the employee with the means and authority to drive their growth and development within an organization and will lead to better employee engagement.

From the learning and skilling perspective, another interesting idea that can be adapted through tokenization, this time through NFTs, is “own moments in time.” If every employee’s, learning moments (their first accomplishments, skilling activities, etc.) can be recorded through NFT, then their complete learning history can be digitally created. This gives individuals a chance to build real evidence-based digital skill profiles and organizations an opportunity to maintain and track easy-to-access the real skill matrix of their workforce.

Another concept from the crypto world that can be drawn into the realms of workplace learning is Learn to Earn. According to Ben Schecter from Rabbithole,

“Learn-to-earn is a new education model in which instead of paying to learn, a person is actually compensated for demonstrating that they have learned something. This is possible when the skill, knowledge, or information that a person learns adds value to a network, and that network is therefore willing to subsidize the learning.”

This model could very easily be adopted for workplace learning, where employees are compensated through social tokens for demonstration of new skills and knowledge relevant to the organization. Incentivizing skilling in employees could be the most critical strategy for retention to deal with the current Great Reshuffle.

What makes up the Metaverse

“Immersion” is the core concept of Metaverse, where someone is not just viewing something on a screen but is in the (immersed) environment and interacting with it first-hand as an avatar. Real time, synchronous, life-like interactions are key aspects of Metaverse. It became a buzz word when Facebook rechristened itself as Meta in 2021. Metaverse essentially relates to the idea of virtual worlds created by using spatial computing, 3D graphics, virtual reality, and augmented reality based on our real-world interactions and behaviors. These virtual worlds offer more immersive virtual experiences related to entertainment, gaming, socializing, fitness, shopping, collaboration, and learning. Metaverse is largely based on the idea of simulating a real-world environment and experiences virtually, but it now has the potential to offer experiences at the mass level that the real world can never offer. For example, in Metaverse, all tickets for any event (sports, concerts, etc.) will always offer a front-row experience. Interconnectedness is another key aspect that underlies the idea of the Metaverse. It will be a network of virtual worlds that users can easily navigate and transition in and out of.

Today’s Metaverse is made up of multiple layers, which fall into four categories:

Enablers include platforms that moderate and manage security, digital identity, data governance, privacy, content moderation, and Metaverse economy.

Infrastructure and hardware relate to device hardware, components, accessories/peripherals and OS layers that are part of the human interface layer and the underlying infrastructure across cloud, semiconductors, networks, etc., that powers the Metaverse.

Platforms facilitate distribution and discovery of content, experiences, apps—including browsers, search/ visual search, app stores, in-app storefronts and core set of tools and platforms for building 3-D experiences—including design, game engines, AI services, and creator tools

Content & experiences includes first-party content, developer content, creator content and UGC, etc., applications tied to specific Metaverse use cases—ranging from learning to collaboration to events to industry-specific applications and virtual environments where a large number of users can gather, interact, create, and move in and out of different experiences.

“Metaverse” to rescue from challenges of workplace 2.0

Of the many challenges that Workplace 2.0 is posing to organizations, one that is hitting very hard is loss of social capital of the employees. Working remotely has had an impact on employee relationships and has led to more siloed functioning of the teams and individuals. It is leading to a decrease in the human connect at the workplace, with work-related interactions becoming very transactional.

According to Nancy Baym, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research, “When people trust one another and have [social] capital, you get a willingness to take risks, you get more innovation and creativity and less groupthink.”

It has therefore become imperative that organizations make conscious efforts to help employees rebuild their social capital by deepening their relationships and networks at work. This does not mean getting employees back to office. This is where organizations could leverage Metaverse to create virtual spaces for employees to interact informally. The Metaverse in this scenario could simulate the physical workspace, where employees could connect with each other in the meeting rooms, have an informal water cooler chat in café, participate in team building activities, workshops, and events. This virtual space could also provide employees fitness rooms to work out to deal with the increasingly sedentary lifestyle due to the lack of physical movement associated with commuting and walking around from meeting to meeting in the workplace.

Metaverse also has a huge potential in making the skilling initiatives of organizations more effective, engaging, and meaningful. Key learning scenarios where Metaverse will be highly effective are:

High risk and complex technical skills
These include skills that have a high danger index and involve usage of complex and expensive machinery and tools. Examples could include training surgeons to perform complex surgeries, radiologists to operate expensive machines, technicians to assemble and maintain machinery, driver training, safety trainings for manufacturing units, etc. Immersive learning environments will allow the learners to make mistakes without the fear of life threatening or costly consequences.

Developing and enhancing soft skills
Metaverse could provide learners an opportunity to practice and hone critical job-related soft skills. Imagine a manager working through feedback sessions with different types of employees and identify their shortcomings and improvement areas on how to better these conversations. Customer Service representatives could uninhibitedly practice scenarios of dealing with difficult customers. These virtual environments will allow learners to configure practice scenarios with a wide variety of variables and allow them to precisely identify the gaps and replay them by applying improvement strategies.

New employee onboarding Journeys
Metaverse could significantly be leveraged to build effective and immersive onboarding journeys for the new employees, especially in these times of hybrid and remote working. It would enable new employees to interact with their supervisors, peers, and organization leaders in a virtual environment. Historical interactive timelines in Metaverse could enable the new employee to experience firsthand the evolution and growth of the organization by transposing them to key organizational milestones over the years. They could be made to observe or participate in scenarios that enable them to imbibe core organization values. Welcome parties in Metaverse could help new employees socialize and informally interact with their workmates.

Metaverse, though in its infancy now, will show rapid growth in the next couple of years and is going to “pervade” all aspects of our day-to-day life. It is going to be one of the core pillars of Workplace 2.0.

In conclusion, Web 3.0 and Metaverse will play a significant role in ensuring employee engagement in rapidly changing Workplace 2.0. Investment in these technologies now is key to making your organization future ready.

Reach out to us to get to know how Encora can advise you better employee engagement strategies for workplace 2.0, improve your employee potential through impactful immersive learning experiences, and harness the power of Web3.0 for an impactful employee journey. We are here to help you get started.


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