Four Technology Trends that Truly Serve People

May 15, 2017      By Adam Rogers

Supporting major cultural shifts while taking advantage of incredible new technologies will be the key to thriving in the rapidly changing, and often disrupted, modern business environment.

Here are a few of the potentially most impactful emerging and maturing technologies that will transform how HR and business leaders serve employees in 2017, and the coming years. Note that, regardless of the technology, putting people first is a must in 2017, as your people grow increasingly comfortable explicitly telling you, their employers, about their expectations of working within your organizations.

Perceptive and Smart Technologies

Providing people with more information and access to the valuable stuff

Core to truly serving people with technology are smart and perceptive technologies that can derive sentiment from simple text and action patterns taken in the context of daily work. In particular, the ability to proactively provide useful reminders and a deeper understanding of data, allowing employees to take actions that not only advance their work decisions but also their knowledge of themselves and their goals outside of work.

Much of these new voice-interface interactions and smart sentiment-analysis solutions are arising in response to the slimmed-down capabilities of self-service systems that forced employees and managers to “serve themselves” from a limited set of actions and information deemed appropriate for casual technology users. The prevalence of technology in everyone’s life makes these limitations increasingly inappropriate.

Configurability Reaches New Heights

Nimble, flexible solutions that support the way people really work

People are increasingly rejecting the traditional binary constructs of self-identification, and a new vernacular is taking hold in the popular culture that is making its way into the workplace. This makes system configurability an absolute must for modern organizations, who must accommodate new definitions of how employees identify themselves so people can be true to themselves at work, as they are in their lives outside of work.

Also, as teamwork replaces “command and control” workforce structures, new work paradigms are emerging that center on more fluid notions of work, jobs, and the people who perform them. Being able to come together as a working group, having the organization acknowledge that grouping, and even being able to reassemble the same combination of successful colleagues, becomes a work imperative beyond simply tagging an individual’s work-group affiliations for identification.

Finally, provisional or non-permanent workers will make up more than 40 percent of the workforce by 2020. These workers will have more flexible and virtual work schedules—a necessity in a global workspace with 24/7 connectivity—and fill short-term assignments. Preparing organizations will require new, more extensible systems of helping manage people and work, bringing together knowledge of people and work systems—long silos of information in different technology solutions.

Cognitive Computing, Human-Machine Interfaces, and Ambient HR Enter the Scene

People-first, people-centered, inter-connected technology that augments our capabilities

I’m not a huge fan of the newest buzzword, AI (Artificial Intelligence). It has negative connotations, evoking the deadly HAL or marginally useful benevolent robots, as well as the idea that the insights from AI are somehow “artificial” or less than true. I prefer the more apt “cognitive computing,” which is simply technology that mimics (not replaces) human cognitive processes, augmenting human capabilities in terms of speed and volume data crunching, even avoiding putting humans in harm’s way.

Ambient HR refers to augmenting the ability of HR professionals to listen to the voice of employees (VoE), allowing HR to be in more than one place at a time and learn about the sentiment and “health of the organization” through distributed data-collection interfaces that capture human interactions with each other and with their surroundings. These new aggregations of cognitive-capable distributed technology will transform HR from traditional, mechanical systems of management that rely on people to selectively provide feedback in the industrial economy to a smart, human ecosystem.

Today’s workers want their leaders and organizations to hear their concerns, be open to more communication in context of their work, and to provide greater purpose and meaning in their work. Smart technologies—such as social media, cognitive computing, and distributed technology extending beyond mobile in the cloud—have unleashed extraordinary possibilities for people at work.

The Rise of Virtual Reality Experiences

A “day in the life” gets real

Wouldn’t we all love a crystal ball that we could look into to see what we are getting ourselves into? That is quickly becoming a reality—actually, a virtual reality.

Less than five years ago, virtual reality experiences were prohibitively expensive for organizations, other than gaming companies that could commercialize the experiences on a big scale. Today, creating a virtual reality experience is not only affordable for organizations (school districts are beginning to use virtual reality experiences to help elementary school children explore different careers), but it is an excellent way to connect with more tech-savvy candidates who want to be certain they are joining an organization that values technology (a recent study from The Center for Generational Kinetics showed a third of U.S. workers would quit a job if their company used legacy technology).

So, why not share a virtually real day in the life of the work experience you offer your employees?! It could make all the difference in getting that key person to join your team. 

For more of my thoughts on putting people first in the workplace, follow my musings on Ultimate Software’s Blog.

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