Through the HR Glass, Darkly

Steve Boese Audacious Ideas, HR Tech, HR Technology, Innovation, Steve Boese

If you had to pick, what one new or emerging technology would you expect to have the most significant impact on work and workplaces in, say, the next 5 years?

Some of the likely guesses are probably things like corporate Bring your own device” programs that empower workers and corporate IT departments alike, the emergence of cloud-based and consumer-like applications for HR and Talent Management that are being adopted by enterprises, or perhaps even the continued growth of social tools and technologies inside organizations.

While BYOD, the rapid growth and rising popularity of HR applications delivered in the Cloud, and the plethora of tools that have hit the market to better connect employees and enable them to collaborate and innovate much more seamlessly than ever before, (and free them from the clutches of their email inboxes), are all examples of newer technologies that are indeed impacting organizations, I would say that all of these technologies combined are not going to affect work and workplaces as much in the next five (or maybe ten) years as wearable technologies (think Google Glass and the like) will drive change and transform work.

And for the smart, savvy, forward-thinking HR and Talent pro like yourself, getting ahead of this technology rather than being caught behind, (or simply unaware), might mean the difference between driving the future of work and your workplace, and simply being taken along for the ride.

Am I over-hyping Google Glass and other wearable technologies for the sake of getting people to read this post?

Well, take a look at what some others are saying about wearable technology and the workplace:

Gartner – Smartglasses still remain an emerging technology in the enterprise and less than one percent of companies in the US have implemented smartglasses, although Gartner predicts that may increase to 10 percent during the next five years for companies with offsite workers, such as field service personnel and inspectors. The introduction of lower-priced, consumer versions of smartglasses will further help adoption such that in 10 years, perhaps half the companies that would benefit from using smartglasses will give them to at least some of their employees who could make use of them.

Josh Bersin – “This week we saw a prototype recruiting application for  Google Glass built by TMP Worldwide. It is truly amazing: imagine interviewing a candidate while Once you open an account at an Online Casino , all you have to do is go to your Moneybookers account and transfer the money to your chosen casino . a peer listens in, then sends you a message in your glasses asking you to pose a different question.

Another example is the Hitachi Business Microscope, a location aware device that attaches to your employee badge. It measures “interactions” with other employees and plots charts to show who interacts with who during the day. One company reported that it improved performance after a merger by showing employees who had been interacting well with the other team and who had not.

While products in this space have not emerged yet, we anticipate that next year we will be discussing “wearables” and “location based devices” as the next big trend in workplace and workforce technology.”

Steve Boese – (ok, yes, I am quoting myself, that is allowed) – “I do think the horse is just about out of the barn, at least on these technologies themselves. Many organizations will indeed see these kinds of wearable, always-on, always-tracking, always-recording devices as a simple extension of phone, network, and email monitoring that is generally accepted and expected in the workplace. Most employees have adapted to this reality by generally keeping personal, controversial, and potentially inflammatory content off of corporate devices and networks. But what happens once the corporation extends “monitoring” to the person, and not just the tools the person uses?

Well, that is a different situation entirely.

Whether or not it takes two years or  ten, it seems to me that we will almost certainly see more tracking, monitoring, and recording of workers of all types—from service providers out in the field, to customer service folks, to information workers at the corporate office, and who knows, maybe even to the big shots in the big offices, too.”

Got all that?

Gartner is going to convince your CIO that wearable technology is going to help unlock billions in profits. Bersin is going to tell your CHRO that the ‘high performing’ companies and the organizations that are going to win the future will embrace wearable technology faster and more comprehensively than the laggards. And little old me? Well, mostly, I will be the guy telling you “I told you so” in about five years when you find yourself interviewing for your next job and some 25 year-old recruiter is staring at you from the other side of the table, looking at you through the HR glass, darkly.

But feel free to ignore this technology trend. Maybe it won’t catch on.