Accenture looks to combine the metaverse and the workplace

It doesn’t matter what the technology is, HR and business leaders need to consider a wide range of factors before taking the investment plunge for new tools in the workplace. 

That makes consulting giant Accenture’s strong foray into the metaverse a ground-breaking effort, that is set to reap rewards during a period of severe talent scarcity in professional markets.

Gastón Carrión, Managing Director – Talent & Organisation, Asia Pacific lead at Accenture, acknowledges that this combination of virtual and augmented reality tools, together with cloud computing and remote servers, can be an intimidating process for organisations to embark on.

It has been a “momentous” technology shift, he tells Chief of Staff Asia, adding that leaders should strategise on how they want their companies to become a part of this unique new space.

“Once they have defined this, they need to decide if the company is ready for the next generation of the internet, such as if they have the necessary blueprints for the capabilities required,” Carrión said.

Leaders also have to start thinking about how to develop the skills needed for the next digital world, which can be done via the hiring of new talent, and/or reskilling their employees to be more digitally fluent.

Lastly, they have to think about how they intend to use the metaverse, such as by empowering development teams to design and test new kinds of experiences for the organisation. 

Welcome to the “new frontier”

Carrión says the metaverse is often referred to as the “new frontier”, and it may very well be an endless one. 

“The metaverse represents a font of limitless possibilities in the longer term,” he said. “While we could speculate about use cases it is too early to definitively predict how exactly our use of the metaverse would evolve.”

Based on the Accenture Technology Vision 2022 report, Carrión says it is expected that digital environments will be increasingly woven into the fabric of the physical world.

“Instead of very clear boundaries between the virtual and physical worlds, we will see these lines blur as people find a way to navigate between both.” 

Metaverse won’t supplant human interaction

Carrión does not view the metaverse as a replacement for human interaction, but rather as a complementary communication tool. 

“Leveraging metaverse platforms such as Accenture’s ‘Nth Floor’ helps bridge the gap when collaborating and networking remotely moving us closer towards a means of collaboration that feels natural and familiar,” Carrión said.

Carrión also notes that with the metaverse still being “built” today, there is an opportunity to actively look into getting ahead of potential pitfalls that could be associated with the technology. 

“Applying ethical principles and building with the integrity and safety of users in mind will help to mitigate such issues,” Carrión said.

He also says the interactive nature of the metaverse makes for added employee well-being, as HR has the potential to improve the way employees interact with each other. The metaverse can be a platform to help employees foster stronger social connections in the age of a “work-from-anywhere” model.

Accessibility challenge

Carrión says that in previous iterations of the internet, accessibility was sometimes late to be considered, but those issues are now being built directly into Web3 platforms.  “We have a real opportunity to ensure that the metaverse experiences and platforms that we build and provide to employees and customers are optimised to cater to the differently-abled,” he said, noting the benefits for vision-impaired users as an example.

“We will need to ensure tools are built to cater to these individuals in the form of screen reading capabilities, audio descriptions of the environment, or even echolocation and haptic sensors to simulate a sense of touch,” Carrión said.

Hybrid brings the “best of both worlds” to Accenture

The combination of human ingenuity and technology will define the future of work. So says Carrión.

He predicts artificial intelligence, automation, and other technologies will augment work and, in many ways, raise the bar for what people and businesses can do.

Carrión says the hybrid work model is appealing for many reasons, the main one being its ability to bring together the best of both these worlds.

Citing Accenture’s Future of Work Study 2021, Carrión noted that hybrid work was most preferred because it gave people the choice to work remotely and go onsite whenever they are needed. 

“The combination of the metaverse within the hybrid work model will help augment the virtual working experience for employees, creating more avenues for organisations to engage with their employees even on a virtual front,” Carrión tells Chief of Staff Asia.

The combination can ultimately lead to firms fully embracing the advantages offered by hybrid work while minimising perceived drawbacks of the model by augmenting the ability to seamlessly meet, collaborate and network even when working remotely. 

Metaverse and remote employees

Carrión believes that the metaverse will enhance virtual experiences for remote employees. 

“Take Nth floor, Accenture’s mixed reality platform as an example,” Carrión says. “It is an experience that enables people to interact with each other in person, regardless of geographic separation. Employees can opt to use it to host virtual coffee breaks, conduct training, or host important all-hands meetings. 

“It has become a versatile, customisable, and scalable solution for bringing a geographically distributed workforce together. In short, it helps our people to be there without physically being there.” 

The Nth floor is a virtual campus that Accenture uses as a virtual space for employees to gather and participate in community events. 

“At the end of the day, working in the metaverse brings us one step closer to helping employees be productive anywhere. Organisations will need to start creating a work environment that can move with agility and flexibility,” according to Carrión.

Carrión stressed the importance of building digital fluency across the organisation. He said everyone should undergo tailored skilling and learning paths to equip them with the needed digital skillsets to make the most of the metaverse and flourish in a new work environment.

Firms also need to consider whether their cloud and information technology infrastructure is adequately equipped to support the adoption of the metaverse.

“Businesses would also need to carefully consider the metaverse platform they will leverage, does it have the capabilities they are looking for, is it flexible, scalable, and adaptive? The journey towards leveraging the metaverse to its fullest potential can be daunting, we would recommend working with trusted consultants who have demonstrated capabilities in the space as doing so can help simplify and hasten the transition,” Carrión says.

Metaverse and security

Privacy, safety, and security are some challenges that firms must pay particular attention to in a metaverse environment, where people can meet and interact and where digital assets can be created, sold, and purchased.

“Some of the technologies that help support metaverse environments such as 5G are more secure than their predecessors, but ultimately the user experience, safety, integrity, and security offered differs based on the specific metaverse platform being used,” Carrión says. 

“The onus is on metaverse builders to address these concerns, and on companies to do their due diligence and testing before committing to leveraging metaverse solutions and platforms.”

Training in the metaverse: Accenture’s new VR strategy

The Managing Director – Talent & Organisation, Asia Pacific lead, says the company sees physical and virtual experiences co-existing together in the future of work. 

Carrión highlighted the company’s new VR Cybersecurity Adventure course, which provides a gamified experience taking users through an immersive journey set in real and fantasy environments. The training asks users to defend themselves against hackers, scammers, fraudsters, and cyberbullies with the user’s knowledge of safe cybersecurity practices is tested using select virtual reality headsets.

He says continuous learning and upskilling is an integral part of Accenture, which is committed to offering its teams opportunities to consistently acquire new skill sets to strengthen their readiness for new roles. 

According to him, the company invests nearly US$900 million annually in professional development and continuous learning programs, delivering more than 31 million training hours every year.

“For instance, as part of our Talent Quotient learning problem, we have added a new learning module to train all our workforce on the topic of Metaverse,” Carrión tells Chief of Staff Asia. “We are constantly updating and building out our learning resources and our materials around the Metaverse and its related technologies are similarly being updated.” 

Entering the metaverse

The metaverse aims to augment people’s working experience through the use of deep multimodal interaction, such as virtual avatars and immersive video. It paves the way for interactive possibilities, such as having a coffee session among co-workers who are all in different time zones.

Accenture forayed into the metaverse even before the pandemic, with the building of a virtual campus called The Nth floor. This is being used as a virtual space for Accenture employees to gather and take part in community events. 

The company also created digital twins, or virtual copies, of many of its physical offices, from San Francisco in the US to Madrid, Spain, and Bangalore in India, to provide its people with more familiar environments in a virtual setting. 

After the pandemic broke out, Accenture started building on capabilities for onboarding new employees and used The Nth Floor as a platform to serve learning and collaboration needs within the organisation. 

“This year alone, Accenture has hired 150,000 people, and with The Nth Floor, we were able to transition seamlessly into the new hybrid work model. New hires can meet together on teams and engage in immersive experiences virtually during their onboarding process,” Carrión said. 

“By doing so we’re creating workplace experiences where our people can participate, contribute and feel like they belong, regardless of where they work.”

Capitalising on the potential of the metaverse

Saying that there are “endless” opportunities within the metaverse, Carrión is optimistic that business leaders in the Asia Pacific region will capitalise and take advantage of its potential to enhance their organisations. 

Almost four out of five, or 79%, of Asia Pacific executives say the metaverse will have a positive impact on their organisations, Carrión said, citing Accenture’s latest Technology Vision 2022 report. Nearly half, or 46%, believe that this impact will be either a breakthrough or transformational for their organisations. 

Accenture brings about 800 of its metaverse-skilled professionals and market-leading capabilities to help design, execute, and accelerate its clients’ metaverse journeys. 

Carrión pointed out the company’s work with The H&M Foundation.

“We helped the team develop and launch a virtual collection of five different looks. The Billion Dollar Collection was brought to life using Accenture’s diverse skills,” he says. “We created a digital avatar from scratch as well as brought the designer sketches to life using digital twin and (computer-generated imagery) technology. This enabled the H&M foundation to showcase its ground-breaking impact in a new and innovative way.

“With these technological advances, the H&M Foundation was able to change the face of the fashion industry through the use of sustainable and innovative practices.”

Getting to know: Gastón Carrión

Job Title: Managing Director — Talent & Organisation, Asia Pacific Lead

Company: Accenture

Location: Melbourne, Australia

Years in the role: Two (in addition to a further 20 years in Accenture)

Family status: Married

Academic background: Bachelor of Arts from the University of Buenos Aires, an Executive MBA from Argentina, and a further Global Executive MBA from Columbia Business School, London Business School, and Hong Kong University

Sporting interests: The gym, running, and tennis

Leadership philosophy: Always empower your teams

Go-to quote for inspiration: “Innovation is the new competitive advantage” – Julie Sweet (global CEO and chairperson of Accenture)



Industry: Management consulting and information services

Regional headquarters: Singapore

Other offices in Southeast Asia

  • Jakarta
  • Manila
  • Bangkok
  • Kuala Lumpur

Employees: Estimated 373,000 globally

HR focus areas

  • Technology at work
  • Talent development
  • Innovation

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Chief of Staff Asia