Virtual Reality in HR

Interview with

Matt Burns, Bento HR

Also an interview with Dick Finnegan, C-Suite Analytics, about the power of Stay Interviews

Segment One – Matt Burns, founder of Bento HR

Matt Burns discusses the fascinating incorporation of VR and AR into the world of HR and how it can completely change the way we experience work in terms of hiring, training, and beyond.  VR is NOT just for gaming anymore!

Segment Two – Dick Finnegan, C-Suite Analytics

Dick Finnegan discusses what many are calling the “Tsunami Turnover.” Stay interviews can be a game changer for employee retention, keeping employees working for your company beyond that initial 60-day “honeymoon” period. This discussion is a preview of Finnegan’s visit to you SHRM’s Tune in Tuesday conversation and his presentation at SHRM21.


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  • With The Pandemic, Things Shifted (7:36)
  • Make Work Better, More Human (8:52)
  • Intersections of Intimate Conversation and Colocation. (10:32)
  • More Synchronous Communication (11:35)
  • The Key Is FEELING (14:57)
  • Leaders Are Scared (16:59)
  • Specific Problems with Enterprise Learning (17:55)
  • Technology Is Expensive to Iterate (24:23)
  • Doom Loop (36:27)
  • The Glue HAS TO BE the Boss (39:11)
  • Stay Interviews, Forecasts, and Accountability (40:00)

NOTE: Quote times may be +/- 30-60 seconds different for the audio version.

Podcast Notes

With The Pandemic, Things Shifted (7:36)

Matt Burns admits he is not a technology expert. But with his passion for technology and after spending two decades in the corporate world, fifteen of those in HR, and the last five as an HR executive, he’s well versed in leading large digital transformation projects. Prior to the pandemic, he started his company, Bento HR.  He said, “when the pandemic, things shifted.  Organizations decided to do more “self service” things, and [change] became more acute in terms of the needs that organization had” (7:36). Through self-exploration, he recognized that immersive technology would be the future, and he learned how powerful technology could indeed be if it were appropriately employed.

Make Work Better, More Human (8:52) 

Unfortunately, technology isn’t explicitly taught in most curriculum.  Consequently, people who enter into the HR profession lack the technical knowledge which stifles innovation.  Burns says that “we wanted to help [companies] better illuminate the opportunities for technologies to make work better, more human…and we think virtual reality is a cool way about doing that.” It helps support broader work strategies.  VR can help answer the question of how to create a lasting and binding work culture when you no longer go into the office five days a week.

Intersections of Intimate Conversation and Colocation (10:32)

Virtual Reality is not just for gamers anymore.  Burns sees it as “a fantastic solution at the intersections of a more intimate conversation when you don’t have colocation.” Many business activities can benefit from more intimacy.  A few of those areas include:

  •     The recruitment process – here, you can “sit down” with new teammates.
  •     The onboarding process – get a better understanding of who to go to for what info.
  •     Learning and development – this is the discipline he believes will be the prominent place VR is used in the workplace.

More Synchronous Communication (11:35)

Burns says, “you can have more synchronous communication” when you employ VR.  You are entirely immersed in an environment with others, and you can engage on a more personal, intimate level. The exchange of information feels more personal than communicating through a screen and video conferencing. 

At Bento HR, employees engage regularly using VR:

  • All Bento HR employees have a VR headset.
  • Burns described how he made a sale as an avatar to another avatar, and the company saved thousands of dollars.  Rather than spend money on a flight, lodging, and other non-productive travel expenses, he engaged the potential customer using VR. He sent the client a VR Headset at the cost of $300 and $50 shipping costs, and the client returned the headset after the presentation!
  • Workshops and training – most events have been small groups at this point but Burns expects the size of the meetings and attendees to increase in the future.

The Key Is FEELING. (14:57)

“The key is FEELING,” says Burns about the VR experience. Instead of sitting in a meeting watching a PowerPoint presentation, you can experience it by immersion (stand in another person’s shoes.) You feel how someone else might feel if the experience was actually happening.

Leaders Are Scared (16:59)

In today’s society, “leaders are scared” to make mistakes in the workplace. If they say the wrong thing and offend someone, losing their job might be the least of their concerns.  With VR, they can do simulations of real-world situations. They are allowed to mess up in a “safe place” and learn from their mistakes. Think about how VR could revolutionize diversity and inclusion training or learning a new skill. 

Leaders can now be coached more privately, almost like a sports team that watches game tapes and replays of their upcoming opponents.  They are put into uncomfortable situations in a safe space through VR. The learning potential is endless.

Specific Problems with Enterprise Learning (17:55)

Burns says, “above all, I love VR because it solves specific problems with enterprise learning.” VR, simply put, offers better learning opportunities. The information can be disseminated more efficiently, and it can be learned in lasting and impactful ways.  With intention and an open mind, the experience will allow you to see the world and other people in a completely different way.

Technology Is Expensive to Iterate (24:23)

When asked why all companies have not yet signed on to implement VR in their workplace, Burns reminds us that “technology is expensive to iterate.” Companies are just not ready to invest in it yet. The perception of VR at this point is that it is a luxury item. But that’s not true. The gaming, pornography industries, and the military have been using VR for decades.  Burns believes that the next wave for VR will be concerts and sporting events.  It is a beautiful way to be immersed in the experience without the inconvenience and cost of attending. But VR allows you to experience the event as if you were there. 

Many big companies are seeing the benefits of VR in areas like training.  Rather than training people for two weeks through VR, they can reduce that time to one week.  Saving that much money for each employee when you train THOUSANDS of employees per year can mean MILLIONS of extra revenue for these large companies. 

When Burns was asked what he would be speaking about a year from now, he told Wolfe that he would expect to reminisce about the pandemic, discussing how mental health was impacted during the pandemic, and how VR was helping to build workforces for the future.

Doom Loop (36:27)

HR expert Dick Finnegan says that in the world of HR and retention, “these two words say it all – doom loop.”  Doom loop describes the trend that companies are currently experiencing where they hire new employees who don’t show up, ghost the employer, or quickly quit, causing HR to bring in more new people who soon quit, and the cycle continues. 

Typically this doom loop happens within the first 30-60 days.  Pre-pandemic many people blamed it on missed expectations and misrepresentation of the job during sourcing and interviewing. While still true, the doom loop is speeding up because there are so many job openings and too few people applying. For active job seekers, the opportunity to jump ship is plentiful.

The Glue HAS TO BE the Boss. (39:11)

Within that 60-day honeymoon period, the new employee has to become glued to the job, and “the glue HAS TO BE the boss.”  What employees talk about at the end of the day are the boss, co-workers, and tasks they do. But if they don’t like the boss, they are apt to simply find a new job. 

Bosses who perform “stay interviews” during that first 60 days are more apt to have employees who stick around.  Finnegan reported that one company he worked with put a system in place that drastically reduced their turnover rate from 50% retention to 80% retention of employees during their first 60 days on the job.

Stay Interviews, Forecasts, and Accountability (40:00)

This company charged the bosses (aka managers) with “stay interviews, forecasts, and accountability to get them to stay past 60 days.” The team leader conducted the stay interviews on the 5th and 30th days of employment. Recruiters and hiring managers then met weekly much like doctors completing grand rounds. They would discuss problems and concerns, recognize successes, and debrief problem hires. Retention increased during the first 60 days of employment by an astounding 30 percent.


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