While Web 2.0 revolutionized how we interact with each other online, Web 3.0 is a paradigm shift from a centralized Internet to a decentralized virtual world underpinned by blockchain technology. Innovative technologies from NFTs (digital assets) to blockchain (digital verification) to metaverses (virtual worlds) are already changing how we work and live, and it’s only the beginning. The demand for remote and hybrid work, coupled with the desire for an improved employee experience, have made innovative organizations incorporate these new technologies to appeal to the modern employee and consumer. I see this shift as Work 3.0, where the workforce is embracing these technologies in order to share, meet and play. Today’s workers have Zoom fatigue and are disengaged in their work, so Work 3.0 is a solution to reinvigorate how we work and live forever.
While Web 3.0 is in its infancy, the future is bright. When it comes to the metaverse specifically, Citi predicts it will be worth $13 trillion by 2030. The largest companies in the world see the opportunity here, and those that ignore it will be left behind. Facebook, for example, changed their company name to Meta to make a statement about what the future holds and their position. The earliest metaverse that I experienced back when I started my Web 2.0 journey was Second Life, which foreshadowed the workplace applications we would see from future metaverses such as virtual recruiting for real world jobs. In my company’s study with SoFi, we found that 42% of employees would like the option to receive performance rewards in the form of NFTs. The gold retirement watch is out, and NFTs are in for this new generation. There are so many applications of Work 3.0 that haven’t been conceived yet, but leaders I’ve connected with are already experimenting and piloting their solutions as we speak.
A conversation with leaders about Work 3.0
Since 2020, I've highlighted the leaders championing the corporate social responsibility (CSR), diversity and inclusion, remote work, mental health, gender pay equality, financial wellness, virtual learning, and post-Covid workplace experience movements. Today, I'm focusing on Work 3.0 because a growing number of companies are investing in Web 3.0 technologies to transform, enhance and modernize their workplaces.
I spoke to four executives at major enterprises to hear their perspectives around this timely topic. These leaders include Alex Kaplan (Global Leader, Blockchain and AI for Industry Credentials, IBM), Micah Collins (Senior Director of Product, Meta), Elizabeth Bieniek (co-founder of Webex), and Jeremy Dalton (Head of Metaverse Technologies, PwC UK).
In what ways will Web 3.0 technologies (e.g., metaverse, NFTs, crypto, AR/VR, smart contracts, AI, blockchain) improve the workplace and enhance the employee experience?
Alex Kaplan (IBM): Web 3.0 will provide a more personalized, enriched and productive workplace. Core to these changes is the ability of these technologies to tailor the experience to everyone’s needs with a focus on easily completing the task at hand. Today completing the task at hand requires working across multiple systems to get something done.
As an example, let’s say I want to schedule my vacation. Today I’d have to access the HRMIS to see how many vacation days I have left, block the time off in my calendar and time management system, request my manager’s approval via email and the HRMIS, and tell my email to schedule an out of office message, and delegate any critical activities to one of my team members.
In the future, I would have a chat with my HR bot and tell it that I planned on taking 5 days of vacation, and it would query the HRMIS to confirm I still have 5 days of vacation time, query my calendar, and time management system to suggest 5 day windows that are available, automatically request and process the approval from my manager and then inform my email system, calendar and team members that I will be out of the office. A web 3.0 approach takes 7 tasks across 4 systems and combines them into one discussion with the HR chatbot, which handles all the rest.
Micah Collins (Meta): The metaverse and VR technologies allow for a collaborative experience that lets people come together to work in the same virtual room, regardless of physical distance. Meta Horizon Workrooms, our VR workspace product, is designed around the idea of improving people’s ability to collaborate, communicate, and connect remotely.
This will lead to teams being able to do anything, whether remote or in-person, from brainstorming or whiteboarding an idea, working on a document, hearing updates from their team, hanging out and socializing, or simply having better conversations that flow more naturally.
Elizabeth Bieniek (Webex Hologram): Humans are social creatures; so much of what we do centers around relationships. The beauty of advanced Web 3.0 technologies is that they aren’t trying to replace human interaction: they’re enhancing it.
Take the idea of “remote collaboration”: most of us focus on the “remote” part and can’t get past the feeling of separation. We’re reminded that we are on the other side of a flat, two-dimensional screen separating us from our colleagues, and it’s a very visible and poignant disconnection.
But when you apply Web 3.0 technologies like AR and holographic interactions, people can move beyond flat experiences to come together in more natural and authentic ways. Being able to smile, laugh, shrug, share objects, point, gesture and genuinely interact with your content and colleagues, even when you’re remote, removes isolation barriers and allows employees to be fully present and fully engaged.
Jeremy Dalton (PwC): The best way to think about this is as two layers:
An experiential layer represented by the metaverse, a virtual world in which we can collaborate remotely with our colleagues in a far more powerful way than has been possible until now. This will be bolstered by virtual reality (VR), the most immersive way to experience a virtual world, which has benefits in, among other areas, both soft skills and practical skills training.
Similarly, augmented reality (AR), which provides an overlay of digital information and objects that can be anchored to the real world, can be used for everything from improving remote assistance between colleagues to presenting unaided instructions on complex operations.
An information layer built on blockchain technology that encompasses crypto, smart contracts and NFTs. This will allow organizations to work more efficiently with one another through a transparent, shared and decentralized database of information.
What are the biggest challenges when implementing Web 3.0 technologies, and what can be done to increase adoption?
Alex Kaplan (IBM): Implementing Web 3.0 requires organizations to be clear about the desired outcomes they want their employees to experience as they try to get things done, e.g., go on vacation, hire someone new, transfer someone into their department, register for benefits, etc. This presents a user experience challenge to ensure the new approach is simple, comprehensible, and effective. Behind the scenes, there is a lot of technical work on systems integration and engineering that allows disparate technologies to share data with each other and automate the required business actions.
It’s also critical to ensure that data privacy and informed consent are engineered in by design. The single greatest risk to adoption is lack of use. As a result, adoption requires change management to educate employees on how the changes benefit them, how their personal information is being protected, provide clear and simple directions for using the new system, and continuously improve the user experience based on real-world use.
Micah Collins (Meta): Understandably, it’s hard for people to visualize all the possibilities that Web 3.0 technologies will open up for us. Right now, as with any change, education and exposure will be hugely important in helping end users understand the building blocks of our vision, and appreciate the experiences unlocked by these emerging capabilities. Having continuous conversations with the visionaries and engineers behind the technologies, as well as communicating our vision for the future with end-users, is a huge focus now.
When it comes to adoption specifically, we recognize that we’re not going to get everything right from the get-go. At Meta, our entire process revolves around getting users involved from the beginning. This includes opening up new core technologies in our Presence Platform to developers so they can start building these capabilities into their apps. We are also investing in bridging our VR experiences to existing 2D experiences to meet more users where they are and ensure experiences are inclusive of users who have not yet, or cannot, adopt VR.
Elizabeth Bieniek (Webex Hologram): Cutting-edge technology shouldn’t make things more difficult. It should translate to more sophisticated experiences that are easier for the user. When we start by focusing on adoption, it’s easy to overlook the most basic element: the people. We can get so caught up in the exciting new capabilities of our technology that we forget the focus shouldn’t be on the technology, it should be on the experience the technology enables. Does it allow people to better understand one another? Does it help eliminate confusion? Build rapport? Establish trust?
Adopting new technologies should streamline processes and eliminate redundancies. It should improve security without adding complexity. And, most importantly, it should make experiences simpler and more intuitive. Rather than starting by asking: “How can I get my workforce or customer base to adopt this new technology?” Instead, we should be asking: “What value does this technology provide to my workforce or customers?” When we start here — thinking about people first — we’re much more likely to have successful adoption.
Jeremy Dalton (PwC): A lack of long-term innovation appetite. Far too many organizations are firefighting day-to-day operational battles, leaving little capacity to dig into the opportunities presented by Web 3.0 technologies (or any other emerging technology for that matter!). For those that do, the next barrier to successful implementation is complexity: the definition of Web 3.0 is as wide as it is deep — so much so that individuals specialize in its component areas.
Once you understand how these technologies come together to add value to your business, recruiting the right talent in the right way represents another challenge; getting other parts of your organization aligned is another; the list goes on… In a nutshell, this stuff is hard and there are obstacles every step of the way. But with the right mindset, resources and effort, this too can be overcome. A great way to begin is to start experimenting: run Web 3.0 programs with the primary aim of learning and iterating. You don’t have to spend millions to gain priceless knowledge.
What Web 3.0 tools and skills should the workforce be learning right now to take advantage of this digital transformation?
Alex Kaplan (IBM): The good news is most employees in most companies are already using almost all these tools in performing their jobs, and in their personal lives they are equally using many of them. However, these Web 3.0 tools are leading to a convergence of the physical and digital worlds amongst other equally profound changes.
Interviewing is a great example of the convergence of the digital and physical worlds. Today a recruiter sits in a room with an individual and discusses their previous experience and career interests. Tomorrow that individual will sit in their home and be interviewed by an avatar whose conversational skills are indistinguishable from a person, and it is likely more knowledgeable about the applicant than the human recruiter is today.
That is the convergence of the digital with the physical world. Preparing for this world requires building trust and comfort in these new ways of interacting. The more technologically savvy and experienced a person is today will be a strong indicator of how prepared they will be for this future.
Micah Collins (Meta): There’s going to be a learning curve for all who adopt Web 3.0 technologies, due to the fact that there are so many more possibilities in this new world. When talking specifically about the metaverse and world of VR, today we have users hosting meetings in VR, and some customers helping train employees in VR; but you can imagine that the possibilities extend far beyond that.
For example, in 3D design, learning how these accessible new computing modalities and collaboration environments can accelerate the creative process, as well as how all of these new software interfaces represent new applications for 3D design skills, would be something that’s important. There are also certain skills that will help people be successful in this space, especially as it continues to evolve and take shape. Learning how to use body language to amplify messages they want to communicate, getting comfortable bringing your authentic self into the world of VR and becoming dexterous switching between the laptop screen in front of you and the virtual tools around you — all these skills will allow people to both jump into opportunities in VR with confidence, and also able to help their organization identify projects that would benefit from VR.
Additionally, if someone is interested in learning about how to adapt to the imminent metaverse shift, there are many sources online from the leading companies shaping its future. For example, we have online resources available to get people up to speed, like our Help Center.
Elizabeth Bieniek (Webex Hologram): I don’t believe the emphasis should be placed on users learning new tools and skills. I’m very bullish on extensibility and interoperability and believe the right technology will seamlessly integrate with existing workflows and will meet your employees where they are. Rather than requiring users to learn more tools, as Web 3.0 technologies advance, they will also fall more into the background.
I believe true digital transformation is using technology to optimize everything that is not essentially human, so less focus can be put into how to use various tools and more focus can be applied to human connection, creation and the evolution of thought. How do we communicate in an effective way to convey meaning, show respect, achieve understanding, build trust, and unify actions? By embracing the basic tenets of interpersonal skills and the older, more fundamental skills of effective communication, today’s workforce will excel through, beyond and because of this digital transformation.
Jeremy Dalton (PwC): This very much depends on which direction each individual in the workforce wants to take. There are three main categories of skills that differ wildly from one another, but any organization requires all three to implement a truly successful Web 3.0 program: business skills, creative skills, and technology skills.
As you can imagine, depending on which area of Web 3.0 you’re interested in, the tools and skills differ wildly. While this list is far from conclusive, here are a few notable mentions focused on the technology category:
- Game engine technology such as Unity and Unreal
- 3D artistry that focuses on the design and animation of 3D assets
- User experience (UX) design, particularly for VR and AR applications
- Solidity, a popular smart contract programming language
But remember — nothing can substitute for firsthand experience with these technologies!
Can you name some practical examples of how Web 3.0 tech is already being used at your organization?
Alex Kaplan (IBM): IBM has one of the most advanced uses of AI in support of HR that exists today. As an IBM employee, if I need to learn more about my benefits, promote one of my team members, file an expense report, etc., I work through the HR Chatbot. This chatbot has automated and streamlined almost all of the questions and assistance most employees and managers need to handle what used to be their interaction with an HR specialist.
In addition, the HR chatbot is proactive in notifying an employee or manager of an action that needs to be taken and then guiding them directly to that action. As an example, when an employee hits a service anniversary date, the Chatbot automatically notifies the manager and recommends actions the manager can take to celebrate the anniversary date. The underlying technologies behind the HR chatbot are effective and efficient and have made all of us more productive.
Micah Collins (Meta): Horizon Workrooms is our virtual reality space for teams to connect, collaborate and develop ideas together, regardless of physical distance. It includes support for VR and 2D participants. We’ve had a huge variety of different teams internally using Workrooms for their everyday work meetings for a while now, and we’ve learned a lot about what makes a great work experience and improved Workrooms accordingly. So far, we’ve been able to host meetings in VR for our distributed teams, can whiteboard ideas and look at documents together, or even high-five each other — while we’re physically apart.
Elizabeth Bieniek (Webex Hologram): At Webex, we aren’t just using Web 3.0 technology, we’re driving it. Just months ago, we introduced the world to Webex Hologram — the industry’s first real-time, photorealistic holographic collaboration system. Webex Hologram lets our customers go beyond the limits of video conferencing to deliver a truly immersive experience. It allows users, who could be thousands of miles apart, to interact, design, build and share intuitively, naturally, just as they would if they were face to face in the same room.
For example, when McLaren Racing’s Formula 1 teams arrive at an event and start the days-long process of building their racecar onsite, if a part needs to be upgraded or re-engineered, Webex Hologram brings together on-site technicians and off-site engineers to fix the problem in real-time. They can work with a holographic representation of a physical part — say an engine component — examine it from every angle, convey precise sizing and relay hands-on instructions for assembly, all in a time frame that was virtually impossible before. This is design at the speed of racing. This is the future of work.
Jeremy Dalton (PwC): PwC globally has been experimenting with and deploying these technologies for many years now. A few highlights include:
- In My Shoes, a VR experience designed to tackle unconscious bias. This is in the middle of being deployed to all 24,000 PwC staff in the UK and has been used by numerous clients around the world.
- Virtual Park, a metaverse we use to engage with students interested in joining PwC in a way that works for them.
- A sustainability-focused VR experience produced in the Netherlands that uses both VR headsets and dome projection technology to bring to life the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- An AR application to guide an Indonesian client’s field engineers on how to maintain and repair their heavy equipment.
- A VR personality assessment that assists with recruitment built in collaboration with the Austrian Institute of Technology.
- An internal pilot program that provides cryptocurrency based rewards for sharing knowledge and completing training modules.
If you're interested, you can read about a few more at www.JeremyDaltonXR.com.
What is your vision for the future of Work 3.0?
Alex Kaplan (IBM): Technology's role is to augment human talent, reduce work activities that interfere with our ability to deliver to our fullest potential, and open up access to resources that have often been denied to certain communities. We envision work that is more challenging, fulfilling, safer, open to all, and provides a family-sustaining income. Work 3.0 is about leveraging the advanced technologies we have at our disposal today to accomplish those objectives.
Micah Collins (Meta): Our vision for the future of work in the metaverse is an inclusive environment for all workers, where they are able to harness the power of being together, virtually, maximizing creativity and creating a space where all feel welcome and connected. We’re excited about the potential the metaverse has to provide better access to knowledge, peers and opportunities no matter where you live, the nature of your work, or where you are working from. At Meta we believe the metaverse will empower us to finally decouple physical location from work opportunities. And we expect this will have far-reaching benefits for individuals, society, the economy and the environment.
But to ensure we’re building a future for the many and not the few, we must provide bridges between 2D and 3D, creating experiences that are device agnostic and can be accessed in different work settings. This is vital so that every worker — including those that work hourly or on the frontline — can participate. A more equitable future of work is in sight: now is not the time to leave people behind. For businesses, it will enable people to feel truly present, productive and connected, regardless of physical presence. Hybrid and remote work is here to stay and there’s a rapidly emerging need to support that shift with technology like Workrooms that brings people together. Meta’s goal is to build experiences that will help make work more connected, collaborative, flexible and accessible than ever before.
Elizabeth Bieniek (Webex Hologram): The future of Work 3.0 is going to be about human-centric collaboration. Hybrid and remote work experiences are here to stay, and still emerging Web 3.0 technologies are offering us a treasure trove of new and superior ways to interact with one another. I’m personally excited about the simplification of these experiences as they become smoother and easier for the user. For example, I anticipate security and login processes will be streamlined and passwordless, allowing my identity to be continuously authenticated across all of my tools. I also envision using AI to instantly curate information — historical and predictive — that will make me smarter and will carry over across the multiple platforms and applications I use.
When it comes to multi-dimensional experiences, I’m looking forward to simpler hardware. AR headsets will soon more closely resemble a lightweight pair of reading glasses, and as 3D displays continue to develop, they will render wearables unnecessary altogether in some cases. We’ll also improve transitions between 2D and 3D interactions so you can seamlessly navigate between them without feeling jarred from one to the next. I’ve also been bullish on haptics since the beginning. Touch is the first sense we develop as a human — it’s how we understand and make sense of the physical world around us. Once that becomes pervasive and integrated into virtual experiences, everything levels up.
Jeremy Dalton (PwC): I look forward to the day when it is not unusual to see a VR headset on employees’ desks, meeting in the metaverse is an everyday occurrence, and we have mastered the balance between the physical and digital world.
Thanks for reading — don't forget to join the conversation on LinkedIn and let me know your thoughts on this topic!