The traditional diversity and inclusion training model is broken. Recently, the harvard business review explained that the $8 billion D&I training industry is at best inefficient and at worst counterproductive, making participants even more biased.
Meanwhile, a new generation of virtual reality (VR) is being hailed as “the ultimate empathy machine”. For example, you can strap on a headset to reality and get a little taste of the bias others endure by walking a mile in someone else’s virtual body. Look at yourself in a virtual mirror as someone of a different gender, age, or ethnicity. After four minutes, you’ll begin to experience the “Body Transfer Illusion”: This superpower maps brains onto virtual bodies and can be used to convey how a minority client, employee, or colleague lives the world, with the intention of inspiring people to think and act more inclusively.
Many studies have validated the “Proteus effect” in which the behavior of an individual in a virtual world is modified by the appearance of his avatar:
My company, The Gronstedt Group, has partnered with Providence Health to innovate unconscious bias training. The third-largest nonprofit healthcare system in the United States teaches responses to microaggressions in the workplace with 3D hologram scenarios. The metaverse of real-time, spatial, 3D, immersive and embodied simulations is upon us and promises to transform training for inclusion and unconscious bias.
The biggest opportunity for diversity may lie in recruitment. Anyone who has watched the coaches on TV The voice, with their red chairs facing the singers, attended a blind audition in practice. Overcoming gender-specific hiring by auditioning musicians behind a screen has transformed the face of orchestras. Studies suggest that blind auditions increase the likelihood of female musicians being selected by 30%. Women now make up half of the New York Philharmonic, whereas 50 years ago they made up just 6% of most orchestras.
Evaluating a drywalling job on a construction site is harder to do blind, or at least it used to be. Now, multiplayer virtual reality provides a shared performance space for participants and instructors to seamlessly interact with hands-on skills without revealing the identity behind their avatars. Less than five percent of painters, drywallers and glaziers are women. The International Finishing Trades Institute (iFTI), the training arm of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), is committed to raising this percentage to (at least) 25%.
A virtual reality recruitment simulation will help them achieve this goal. High school students can enter a virtual construction site developed by my company. Using both hands, they practice pouring water and mixing joint compounds for finishing drywall. Grabbing a virtual “tape bazooka,” they fill it with the compound, load it with a roll of duct tape, and slide it over a drywall seam, taping it from floor to ceiling. The simulation suspends disbelief, offering young women, who may not have imagined themselves on a construction site, the opportunity to experience a career in the finishing trades during exhibitions and recruitment campaigns. It’s one of VR’s superpowers, and it’s the key to earning various talents during the Great Resignation.
NASCAR is leveraging the games to attract more minority drivers. Rajah Caruth recently took the plunge from driving a virtual race car in his bedroom to become the eighth black driver in NASCAR history. He participated in the eNASCAR IGNITE esports competition, which was created to recruit young talent by providing a low barrier of entry to the sport. iRacing allows players to race on renowned circuits around the world on a computer with a steering wheel and pedal accessories.
If you think that doesn’t apply outside of professional sports, think again. Walmart is expanding its talent pool with the first “retail management esports”. Over 500,000 people have played department head Sims style sparkling city mobile game developed by my company. Feedback from users has been overwhelmingly positive. One woman said: “I’m not a gamer. I hate games, but this is awesome. Another woman said, “I can play this game all day. Walmart took the bold step of making the game public on the Apple App Store and Google Play, expanding its reach.
The metaverse revolution promises to broaden the recruitment of non-traditional hires, making selection blind to color and gender, and making company culture more inclusive. But this is only possible if business leaders rise to the challenge and innovate for a more equitable future.