What Kind of Technology Is Coming to the Workplace?

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By Genevieve Douglas

Aug. 11 — The workplace will be greatly transformed by innovative devices that may use virtual reality, mixed reality and capture data, according to consultants.

Not only can technology change how employees do their jobs, but also how they are trained, evaluated and interact with co-workers, Patrick Riley, a partner in talent, rewards & performance at Aon Hewitt, said Aug. 11. Employees are used to work stations with computers, phones and other devices, Riley said, but in the future, these separate technology devices will be rolled into one. “The technology will flow with us as we live and work,” he said.

For example, many employees currently wear badges to get in and out of office buildings, but that could be expanded with future wearable technology devices that have employees' bio I.D. data, so that “these devices know who we are and can access our information,” Riley said.

Additionally, virtual reality will dominate how remote employees work in the future, Riley said. Virtual reality technology has the ability to bring the collaborative, team feeling of the office to workers who might otherwise feel isolated. This will enable workers to be more engaged, more included and more collaborative, Riley said.

To transform the way technology is used in the workplace, however, the devices first must gain traction in people's personal lives, Don MacPherson, also a partner at Aon Hewitt, said Aug. 11. MacPherson likened the adoption of technology to how the Internet began in people's homes but now has become an integral part of the way companies do business. “It’s an invaluable tool at work, and I see the same thing happening with these technologies,” MacPherson said.

According to Riley and MacPherson, the success of new technologies will likely be determined by how they affect the individual and the overall business. These kinds of technologies will produce vast amounts of data on employees and the work that they do, MacPherson said. To that end, data privacy will be a critical topic that organizations need to talk through when implementing new kinds of technology, he cautioned.

Riley and MacPherson spoke at a webinar sponsored by Aon Hewitt.

Technology and HR

Not only will new devices affect how employees do their jobs, they will also affect how employees are evaluated and measured for performance, engagement and even corporate culture, MacPherson and Riley said.

For example, HR will likely see a “big de-coupling” of performance management and compensation, Riley said. Bonuses will no longer be determined by an annual review, and performance will be assessed on an ongoing basis. New devices could also give managers concrete data gathered throughout the year to show an individual how he or she is being evaluated, he added.

When it comes to employee engagement, new technology will also have a tremendous effect, MacPherson said. “I would imagine that by 2020 engagement will be deeply embedded in the way we look at the employee experience,” he said. MacPherson also predicted that HR's annual surveys of employee engagement “will absolutely be a thing of the past.”

According to Riley, technology advances will also most likely have a big impact on measuring behavior and interactions with other employees. These devices will enable HR to measure culture from many different perspectives to get a fuller picture of what it’s like to work in that environment, he said. That kind of data can also be used to create a profile of what characteristics the top employees possess at any given company, which can be used in recruiting decisions and strategies, he said.

Start With Training Programs

It’s best to start the implementation of new technologies in employee training programs, Sunny Webb, senior R&D principal at Accenture Tech Labs in San Francisco, told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 11.

This implementation strategy helps employees understand the true benefit of the technology, while still allowing for mistakes by keeping the use of the devices internal, Webb said.

Webb, who was not a part of the webinar, said that mixed reality devices are on the rise to be the next hot technology device. The technology maps out a user’s environment and places contextually relevant information in that physical space.

The goal is to allow the user “a more natural experience to blur the physical reality with the digital world they are working in,” Webb said.

Another added bonus of evolving technology is that every iteration of a device makes it increasingly more available to consumers by being cost effective and smaller for individual use, Webb said. That affordability will make the investment in these devices a near-future possibility for many employees and employers, Webb said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington, D.C. at gdouglas@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Harris at tharris@bna.com

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