Melanie Tschugmall, of Zurich Switzerland, has been energetically and perseveringly pursuing three basic pillars of business: Digitalization Enthusiast. Entrepreneurial leader. Diversity enabler. These principles allow her to repeatedly leave her comfort zone, evaluate emerging trends, and engage in lifelong learning. She currently works as a Global Business Strategy Expert and Strategic Program Lead at a big tech company, operating at the intersection of technology, people, and strategy. Previously, she has held various managerial positions in service companies and holds a degree in tourism management and a Master’s in strategic marketing with a focus on behavioural economics. She is currently pursuing her EMBA in corporate strategy. The metaverse and leadership are passions of hers – an interesting combination that led to this article.
Let us assume that the metaverse will prevail on the same scale and with the same disruptive force as the Internet. How must individual managers position themselves to lead in a multidimensional world, to empower employees, and to foster cognitive diversity?
In the metaverse, three dimensions have greater relevance and should be considered more strongly than ever: the war for talent and skillset; diversity, inclusion, and equity; and digital ethics.
The war for talent and skillset
The war for talent has intensified in recent years, especially in specialist and technical professions. With the expansion of a new technological dimension from 2D to 3D, employees who can not only program the former but also operate and interact with the latter are in demand. In addition to finding these experts on the market, managers must ensure that their existing employees are digitally upskilled.
Manager becoming part of the ‘fringe benefit package’
Leaders must play an exemplary role on the one hand, and on the other, they must navigate the metaverse, think ahead, and move forward with an open mind. Overall, companies and leaders need a plan to become even more appealing as employers for early talents among Generations Y and Z. In the new war-for-talent environment, managers must increasingly see themselves as talent scouts and behave as such while also acting as ‘salespeople’ on their own behalf. This means working on their personal digital branding and creating a clear USP for themselves as managers. Managers are increasingly part of the work-attractiveness package, so to speak, and must see themselves as a ‘fringe benefit’.
Managing in a digital ecosystem thinking beyond existing team structures
Since universities may not be able to meet the demand for new qualifications swiftly enough, companies and managers will have to resort to alternative paths. Especially in the first years of transformation and experimentation, companies will need significant innovation power from tech experts to take on Web 3.0 and build the skills themselves. There will also be new forms of freelancing and people moving into lateral jobs, similar to when Web 2.0 arose. For managers, this means that on the one hand, they will no longer equate their team with direct reports; they must think increasingly in terms of an extended ecosystem and even virtual digital teams. This evolution requires a different organizational setup, a stronger intellectual agility, and an acceptance of pragmatic workarounds.
Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity
The rapid development of technology and the resulting increase in complexity also apply to the development of the metaverse. This means, if not proactively managed, millions of people without the capacity or enough opportunities to adapt will be left out. At the same time, it is vital that the effective users feel heard and included, meaning a psychological safe space must be created. Centring diversity and inclusion in the metaverse is relevant – not only because it is the right thing to do, but especially because it simply makes sense from a business perspective to have the lowest possible barriers right from the start, which allows for dynamic innovations later on. Looking ahead, two dimensions must be distinguished from a manager’s perspective: firstly, how a manager can create a diverse and, above all, inclusive metaverse within the scope of possibilities, and secondly, how a manager can act inclusively in such an environment. Companies should have a diversity guiding principle for the whole staff to avoid the same mistakes that led to today’s current inequalities (e.g., most AI is programmed by men, leading to one-sided output and cognitive aspects).
How to create an inclusive team interaction
To be an inclusive manager, it is crucial to manage and interact with the team in a hybrid way to prevent letting anyone from falling behind and to equalise the playing field. A manager must ensure that the virtual team working zone lacks barriers to entry to perform and challenge the status quo. The joint virtual environment should be acceptable to all team members and should contain a mutual agreement on relevant issues such as information sharing. It also helps to have guiding principles on how to work together and maybe even a common ‘playbook’.
How to work inclusively in a virtual world
Inclusivity is not only related to the metaverse but is also a necessary goal for a modern manager with a focus on a high-performing team. First, a manager must assess the team’s skillsets, backgrounds, and aspirations. From this starting point, an effective manager should design a strategy, ask the right questions, and, at the same time, appropriately use these respective superpowers to reach the team goal in a hybrid world.
This article concludes with a point that is fortunately gaining increasing visibility and awareness. Digital ethics are not specific to the metaverse – in fact, they should already be an integral part of all AI and blockchain projects, from a business, social, and technical perspective – but they are not emphasised enough. For example, there is the question of to what extent relevant, intimate biometric, physical, and behavioural data can be collected at all. The extension of the workplace to an immersive environment makes this issue more complex and sensitive. So does how the user is affected by the involuntary sharing of that data, because a lot of data is also shared unconsciously. Another issue is ensuring the integrity of the manager as well as that of the individual team members and to being able to make decisions that are as unbiased as possible. Finally, a crucial consideration is the aspect of digital crime in the metaverse, such as sexual harassment or racism in the working environment. The new level of immersive experience has introduced a need for the next level of laws in the corporate world. For the respective manager, this means addressing digital ethics and the war for talent, as well as inclusion and its effects on their team and aspirations.
Leaders – be ready to lead in a new, fully fledged hybrid world!