On Nov. 16, 2022, the University of St. Thomas community was able to get an inside view of the virtual world of One Accenture Park, created for onboarding and training over 100,000 new employees at Accenture. Kristina Schatz, executive director of Business in a Digital World, brought the Accenture team in for the second event in the fall speaker series Demystifying Tech to showcase a real example of how the metaverse is being applied in business today.
“Accenture really brought to life how a company might use the metaverse responsibly and ethically to increase engagement, retention and attention in core business values of the company such as diversity, equity and inclusion,” Schatz said.
St. Thomas MBA alumna Lori Zumwinkle, Accenture senior managing director and North America Retail Industry Lead, kicked off the event with an introduction into Accenture’s commitment to innovation and bringing innovative ideas to life. Zumwinkle pointed out that companies that have focused on innovation since the pandemic began are five times more successful.
With that in mind, Accenture created the Nth Floor, where the company uses the metaverse to help train over 100,000 new employees.
“We thought about the traditional way we onboarded new employees … it wasn’t going work with the pandemic,” Zumwinkle said. “So, we had to think of an innovative way to help newcomers learn about the various aspects of Accenture and do it in an interactive way that was real.”
Allison Horn, Accenture’s executive director of global talent, presented as her avatar from within One Accenture Park (also known as the Nth Floor), providing a guided tour of 5% of the virtual world created for new Accenture employees worldwide. In some of the 70 countries where Accenture has offices, new employees are provided with VR headsets and on day one join this virtual world to begin their work at Accenture.
Horn started the tour in a familiar looking Accenture conference room where new employees get comfortable, build out their avatars, and learn some of the unique aspects of virtual reality.
Horn’s avatar continued the journey through One Accenture Park, stopping to explain the virtual platform built on the Microsoft tool called AltspaceVR, where anyone can build out a virtual universe and live, virtual events. Event attendees learned about the many exhibits within the park to onboard new joiners, including a virtual coffee shop, exhibits that speak to Accenture’s core values and code of business ethics and a “floating brain in the sky” exhibit that introduces teams to how learning is an essential value at Accenture. Horn also explained the adjacent Technology Quotient exhibit, a massive sculpture that, although appearing to be just a heap of scrap metal, was created to ensure that all 700,000-plus people at Accenture learn about the world’s most transformative technologies.
Next, Horn teleported to the Leadership Essentials Mountain exhibit, where employees, equipped with all the essential mountaineering equipment, climb the mountain to learn about Accenture’s leadership essentials and leadership principles.
Finally, the audience was immersed in the newest exhibit that highlights Accenture’s commitment to a culture of equality across Accenture. Guided by a park ranger, inside the exhibit one sees a wall full of 740,000 stars transform into a constellation representing a united, diverse, and respectful Accenture community. There are many more stops along the way introducing employees to resources such as interactive displays that showcase the core benefits of embracing inclusion, employee resource groups, and world cultural celebrations. Horn explained, “It is a different way of explaining to people … the things that make us unique and the things that matter most to us. It’s just a much more fun interactive way to bring this to life and to be able to do so such that people, from day one, feel a sense of connection.”
At the end of the virtual tour, Horn joined live back on Zoom for a Q&A session with Kathy Arnold, VP and chief human resources officer at St. Thomas.
Curious students, staff and the extended St. Thomas community had great questions for the team. The first was about why Accenture chose the VR platform for onboarding. Horn explained, “I really like to anchor back to immersive learning. [Immersive learning is] always going to be better than passive learning. And anything you can do to really bring immersive learning to life is going to yield massive benefits with respect to attention, engagement, and retention. So, for us, that's where the value is. We can take immersive learning, which we know drives attention, engagement and retention, and we can scale that at a speed and a quality level that we know is going to be consistent across the world.”
When asked about employee feedback, Horn responded, “We have had tens of thousands of our new joiners head out to Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, you name your social platform, they're on it, putting pictures of their avatars, putting pictures of their start group in their avatars together, using hashtags like, #JustJoinedAccenture, #ProudToBeAtAccenture, #LetThereBeChange, promoting our talent brand as a source of pride and saying this is what my initial few days felt and look like at Accenture. So, to me, that kind of input, that kind of reaction, speaks volumes over the survey uplift that we’ve seen.”
While talking about insights into ethical considerations, Horn explained that going into this Accenture had to consider many things, including being ready for some of the unintended consequences. Guided by Accenture’s chief legal officer, the team agreed before the launch that they did not actually need to change the code of business ethics with clauses very specific to the metaverse. However, after a few months of use, the team reflected that they did need to “clearly remind people every time they enter one of these worlds that all of our standards, our values, our ethics, etc. … follow them into the metaverse,” Horn said.
Lastly, Arnold asked, “What types of jobs come from new technologies like VR and AR?”
Zumwinkle responded, “Think of the demand for the skills that are now required to build the kinds of world like the one that you just saw. In many ways, these are a carry through of skills that exist in the gaming industry today. And while the gaming industry is a pretty robust industry in and of itself, now imagine that you take the demand for those skills that used to be somewhat contained within the gaming industry and you start to thread it across companies, organizations, etc. You're seeing a massive demand for those skills.”
It was a great immersive learning experience for all who attended and in the closing chat, the positive audience response is reflected in this comment, “I've read a lot about Accenture’s new orientation, and it was really exciting to see it in ‘real’ (virtual) life! Thank you so much for the tour and insights about how Accenture is using VR!”
This event was hosted by the Business in a Digital World Initiative in the Opus College of Business in partnership with the Graduate Business Student Association. See the members of these St. Thomas offices and initiatives below.
The event was co-sponsored by: Women in Business, Society of Human Resources Management, Beta Gamma Sigma, and LEAD Club.
Business in a Digital World:
- Kristina Schatz, executive director
- Lisa Abendroth, academic director
- Calli McCartan, innovation coordinator
St. Thomas moderator: Kathy Arnold, VP and chief human resources officer
University of St. Thomas Graduate Business Student Association: Jennifer Fitzgerald, St. Thomas co-chair of the external relations committee and Talent Acquisition Partner, WuXi AppTec
- Lori Zumwinkle, senior managing director and North America retail industry lead
- Allison Horn, executive director of global talent
Accenture metaverse tech team:
- Eric Neumann, North America retail lead for metaverse
- Flora Yiakras, consulting analyst
- Nicholas Wolfgram, innovation senior manager