People & Leadership

How the Internet of Things will change HR

Aadil Bandukwala explores the opportunities and challenges that the Internet of Things will present for HR and People leaders.

Aadil Bandukwala, marketing director APAC at HackerRank, explores the opportunities and challenges that the Internet of Things will present for HR and People leaders.

A little more than a decade back, Thomas Friedman published an international bestseller called The World Is Flat.

The title of the book was a metaphor for viewing the world as a level playing field in terms of commerce.

Fast forward to today and we’re in a world where technology has connected the entire planet and has brought millions of people online and helped them connect to each other.

This isn’t just about people, however, it’s also about devices.

As the cost of getting access to the internet gets cheaper by the day, efficiencies that businesses are bringing to our world are also helping drive down the cost of devices such as mobile phones, routers, and wi-fi-enabled equipment such as printers, speakers, scanners and thermostats.

If you look at how people are adopting technology and smartphones, it’s evident that a significant proportion of the population today uses Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant to help manage their lives, in the form of listening to music or news of their choice by talking to devices.

In smart homes today, lights, air conditioners, refrigerators and more can be turned on and off simply from your smartphone. Fitness fanatics sport Fitbits, Apple Watches and Android Watches to help keep a pulse on their workouts.

What’s clear is that people are increasingly comfortable interacting with machines and having them as part of their daily lives.

The Internet of Things (IoT) helps to create an ecosystem for people where they can – thanks to the power of the internet – use their mobile phone and devices to get things done, not only conveniently but also very efficiently.

It’s simply making lives easier for humans in today’s technologically enabled world.

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The opportunities IoT presents in HR

With the likes of Amazon Echo, consumers have the ability to converse with devices across multiple touchpoints and services.

Imagine the same in the world of work.

Employees will soon be able to experience and interact with devices, platforms and services across the workplace that will change the way they engage with software.

Interacting with software and devices with a keyboard will soon be passé.

Speech, voice and signals are the next big wave of communication that will dominate how we get work done thanks to the advent of IoT and rapid strides we’re making in artificial intelligence, cognitive platforms and neural networks.

Data and privacy

Businesses today are leveraging one core asset to sell, market and transform their business – data. How this data is managed, stored, sold and accessed therefore becomes critical.

With the cloud becoming mainstream, HR and People leaders increasingly need to be able to create conducive environments by partnering with their chief information officers (CIOs) and information technology partners so their teams can access, use data and provide insights from data that they’re cleared to access.

With regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), this places critical responsibility on People leaders, not only to ensure business outcomes that comply with GDPR, but also make sure their customers’ objectives and data are always secure.

Virtual and augmented reality

Just like business interaction has evolved from physical meetings to virtual ones using apps such as GoToMeeting, Skype, FaceTime and even WhatsApp, People leaders must realize that a significant portion of communication in the future will be via virtual and augmented reality.

Think about it.

Instead of travelling to the office and commuting for job interviews, candidates can give an interview in real time as if they were physically present in the office, thanks to the power of augmented reality.

The challenge for HR and People leaders will be to understand such futuristic use cases, prioritize what can and what cannot be implemented, and then create sustainable ways and processes to make things happen based on their use case.

Strategic workforce planning

People leaders often create scenarios of how different teams and people processes can be augmented to drive business results.

As the proliferation of devices increase and humans begin to depend on devices far more, thanks to technologies such as Google duplex, strategic workforce planning will have to also encompass a key element of visualization of what the future looks like in the form of artificial intelligence, catering to customers’ needs with and without human involvement.

This can lead to drastic time and cost gains for the enterprise.

Is IoT currently being utilized within HR?

Forward thinking organizations have already taken a leap of faith and begun experimenting with IoT.

For instance, Deloitte Canada recruited a set of volunteers to wear sociometric badges – measuring location, voice, and movement – to assess which aspects of work were positive and negative.

The devices could hear voice tones and deduce when people were under stress.

The data-based system correlated factors such as ‘who is in the meeting’, ‘how much time are we spending together’, and even ‘who is pushing back in his chair’, with employee stress levels and other measures of productivity.

The results of the project gave Deloitte Canada insights such as:

  • Cross-disciplinary teams are higher-performing and more engaging than when service lines work alone (on many accounts, Deloitte often has consulting, audit, and tax professionals working independently)
  • Offices with more windows and more light promote more ‘happy people’ than spaces that are more closed-in and private
  • Employees tend to prefer to work in smaller groups and working physically closer to others increases enjoyment and productivity.

Deloitte Canada used these findings, and others, to redesign all of its major offices and teams.

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Benefits of IoT at work

There are multiple benefits of leveraging IoT in the workspace.

For instance, by deploying powerful analytical tools and algorithms, it enables companies to make informed, data-driven business decisions that lead to predictability, increased productivity and profitability.

Employee health and wellness is a big priority for businesses today, as, really, the only constant in organizations is people – everything else is variable.

History has taught us that when businesses take care of their people, people take care of business.

My top five tips for HR leaders to embrace IoT

Now’s the time for the HR function to move from being a cost center and transform itself into a profit center, and IoT presents the perfect opportunity to do so.

Here’s my take on how to get there.

1. Human beings – not human resources

People are more than the skills they pick up, their work experiences, or the designations they hold. In order to build anything that lasts – be it a company, a social movement or an institution – we need to connect on a level beyond all that.

We are human beings with aspirations and values, not human resources.

HR needs to fundamentally understand and work towards a way of unlocking human potential within every member of their teams – this is where technology and IoT can help in a big way.

2. Be visionary

Take bold and decisive steps towards your IoT people strategy and agenda over the next five to ten years.

3. Leverage design thinking

It’s critical for HR to bring in design teams and people who have a solid background in design to relook at their current people process with an IoT lens and basis-defined objectives to redesign the talent journey.

4. Empower people, not things

HR’s focus when looking at their IoT roadmap should be to give people a platform to express themselves and get stuff done.

It’s important therefore to focus on empowering people in whatever way possible.

5. Deliver insights to businesses helping them take decisions in quick-time

With their investment in technology and IoT, HR should determine how to manage, analyze and create meaningful insights from the abundance of data that connected devices create.

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Preparation is key

The first thing HR must do is partner with CIOs and understand the possibilities that IoT has to offer to them.

Step two is put a framework in place to collect, harvest and maintain data points across people and devices to ensure they can be turned into insights.

Step three is where the rubber meets the road, use those insights and demonstrate business impact.

Should HR be excited or cautious about IoT?

Excited all the way. There couldn’t have been a more exciting time for a People leader.

With technology having so much to offer and the possibilities endless, HR and People leaders have a fresh canvas to paint and express themselves.

New age technologies such as IoT, artificial intelligence and machine learning are on the cusp of completely transforming the way we work and live.

It is imperative that HR and People Leaders take note of this. Visualize the sheer possibilities that these technologies have to offer and take that leap of faith.

One day or day one – it’s time to decide.