Ready HR Professional One?: Is VR assessment the wave of the future or science fiction?

We asked Industrial/Organizational Psychology professionals to weigh in on the future of talent assessment technology. Are Virtual Reality assessments the future for candidate selection and employee development?

23rd May 2018

adam.vassar

I recently took my son to see the movie Ready Player One at the theater.  It was a great summertime popcorn movie.  Fun story, good message, and exciting action.  The core of the film’s story was set in the future and centered around a fully immersive virtual reality game called the OASIS where most people lived, worked, and played.  To my son, a dedicated video gamer, it caused him to reflect on and think about the current state of gaming and what the future may hold for one of his preferred pastimes.  For me, being a talent assessment professional, my thoughts drifted to the applications of virtual reality for assessing candidate capabilities and developing employees and leaders.

Is VR assessment, as a tool to support human resources and talent management, the wave of the future or science fiction?  The Cubiks team took this question to the experts at the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) annual conference held in Chicago in April.  Many conference attendees took us up on our offer to put on Oculus goggles and try out our virtual reality retail associate assessment.  After completing the demo and returning to reality, we asked each person to complete a brief survey to capture their expert insights on this pioneering area of the assessment industry.  Here’s what the SIOPers had to say about the applicability of VR assessment:

For which talent management activities do you think VR assessments add value?

Respondents could select multiple activities where they felt VR was viable to support the assessment and reporting of an individuals’ capabilities.

63% said Remote Candidate Assessment.  As we had conversations with conference attendees, it was clear that most individuals were excited at the prospect of offering candidates a more engaging, immersive experience when it comes to assessing their talent and job fit.  Many also felt that a high fidelity VR interface could serve as a powerful realistic job preview to ensure that candidates understood the requirements and challenges of the job and could self-select out of the recruitment process if the role wasn’t for them.  Another clear area of feedback, and likely what was holding this percentage back from being higher, related to questions on the ease of access for candidates to obtain the technology required to run the VR assessment.  This reminded me of conversations I used to have with talent management professionals 15 years ago related to remote online assessment and concerns about candidates getting access to computers and Internet.  The same analogy can be made to concerns that organizations had 8 years ago related to how candidates would obtain access to a webcam to support remote video interviews.  Similar to that concern, the speed of technology developments in the area of VR is likely to quickly close the technology gap and allow remote VR assessment of candidates to become more and more logistically feasible in the very near future.

93% said Employee Training.   Conference attendees were extremely interested in using the VR assessment solution to support employee training programs.  One clear area of interest here relates to situations that are highly difficult to simulate via other means.  According to the conversations the Cubiks team has had, training related to business ethics scenarios, angry customer experiences, and hazardous environment exposure could all benefit from the high-fidelity, immersive nature of the VR experience.  Similar to applications for candidate assessment, VR can also provide some sizzle and excitement to training programs increasing engagement amongst employees attending those events.  The emotional element of the VR experience should be emphasized here.  It’s one thing to read a scenario on screen describing an angry customer that is upset with your service agreement and is about to walk out of the store…and quite another to actually hear the emotion in that customer’s voice and see the frustration on their face as they begin to walk out of your store in the virtual world.  These additional contextual elements can be powerful additions to talent assessment.

Additionally, a well-designed, immersive VR assessment creates a continuous storyline that presents unique challenges to the participant. Using customer service as an example, if the candidate engages the angry customer and assures a full refund, but then learns that they are unable to provide that refund because it violates policy, how do they handle that situation? The assessment can consist of a continuous set of decision points that build upon one another which can provide a richer experience than independent situational judgment questions. When used for development, this also means the VR experience is replayable. Participants can learn the consequences of their choices, then try again with a different set of decisions and experience a new outcome.

The Cubiks team also surveyed SIOP conference attendees on the big question: Is VR nothing more than a fad or is VR the wave of the future?  To learn what the experts had to say, tune in for our next blog on VR assessments where we share those answers and describe the ways that the assessment industry is attempting to move away from standard online questionnaires toward more engaging and immersive assessments.