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Navigating the Great Resignation (with AR/VR)

In November 2021 alone, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an astounding 4.5 million people quit their jobs. While the November statistic is still pending finalization, this falls in line with a trend throughout the second part of last year, with more than 4 million people quitting their jobs each month between July and November. This so-called Great Resignation is becoming an important chapter in the pandemic chaos wrought by COVID-19 for the past two years. Technologies like AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality), as well as AI (artificial intelligence) can help industries fill in the skills gaps left by the past couple of turbulent years in the economy and workforce.

Business leaders are concerned about the Great Resignation and the labor shortages it has caused in industries like manufacturing, construction, transportation and utilities, and retail, among others. When Fortune and Deloitte surveyed CEOs about the phenomenon at the end of last year, 73% identified a labor/skills shortage as the external issue that’s most likely to disrupt their business in the next 12 months. More than half (57%) of CEOs said their organizations’ biggest challenges include attracting and recruiting talent, while 51% said retaining talent is their organizations’ biggest challenge.

Academics are taking notice of the Great Resignation too. In an interview with Connected World, Muhsinah Morris, interim department chair and assistant professor of chemistry at Morehouse College, says creating talent pipelines for highly skilled workers will certainly be one of the largest problems companies face in the future. She says industries like manufacturing are increasingly using AR and VR technologies to upskill and/or reskill employees and maximize the workforce they do have. 

An appropriate example is the use of AR and VR for surgery. “Imagine surgeons who have used VR to practice specialized surgical techniques on their patient before entering the actual operating room,” Morris says. “However, during surgery, the surgeon can see instructions of techniques as he goes along. In addition, he can access the scans of the patient as an augmentation above the patient and overlay them over the patient in realtime. It gives more context to the 2D scans taken prior to surgery, how they were interpreted, and now what needs to happen to remove the tumor or fix/repair the injury. When AI and machine learning enter this scenario, it will make predicting the best technique to use on that particular patient easier, because it will give you data on the best outcomes. AR and VR can provide solutions that are hard to conceive but will soon become reality.”

Now, extrapolate this example for other industries and imagine having a subject matter expert “in” the room with a struggling employee in a matter of minutes. VR can provide that realtime expertise to help new workers get the knowledge they need to learn and grow in their craft. Companies like InSkill leverage AI to similarly deliver expertise to industrial workers in realtime. InSkill says by putting the knowledge of machine builders’ best technicians into every worker’s hands, companies can improve first-time fix rates by up to 25% and reduce calls to the help desk by 25%.

If businesses still believe the only lasting change from the COVID-19 pandemic will be employees’ preference for hybrid work, they’re wrong. Certainly, hybrid work is a key factor in the Great Resignation, but it is only part of a very complex and evolving picture that no one can see clearly right now because we are still too close to it. What businesses can do is prepare to upskill and reskill workers as needed by adopting technologies that can not only increase efficiency but also attract a new generation of workers and retain those workers once they’re hired into the company.

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