I was recently working with some SAP SuccessFactors customers on new workforce structure options for them. As expected, talk quickly turned to how we can use workplace technologies – robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT) – in their workplace.
What surprised me, though, was their apathy to these changes; not that they do not see this change coming but how ambivalent they are to the pace of the change and its impact. We can all see the impact of automation and technology in industries such as manufacturing and automated production lines. I think it’s come to a point where we now have robots building robots that are building the factory that will build these robot-building robots.
I shared scenarios of the future workforce structures enabled by the use of technology. For example, using artificial intelligence and machine learning in call centers will make the workforce smaller but more expert-focused, with high-level knowledge workers in it.
This concept was welcomed by those in the room, but then they asked, “how long until this technology will be here?” Well, the answer is: it’s here now – and these workplace technologies are ready to go. We then discussed IoT, using wearable technology to improve product supply chains … I’m sure you see the picture I’m painting.
Really, this post is a call to action for my fellow HR professionals. To say organizational design just got an injection of technology and this world of Big Data and technology is still relegated to the realm of science fiction is a mistake – it’s very much here and in use right now! Moreover, all practitioners need to know about it or risk getting left behind.
Here are some areas where you can start to bring these new workplace technologies into your organization’s workforce planning;
- Augmented reality: Best showcased by the mad craze of Pokémon Go, this tech is now being used everywhere from heavy industries to retail. I can think of two areas where augmented reality can be useful for you. From a learning perspective, it’s a great training medium. It’s also becoming a productivity enhancer for large-scale infrastructure projects like those used by engineers.
- Wearable tech: Let’s take a simple and well-known example: the Fitbit. Wearable technology like this can be used to allow employees secure entry to your facilities or to pass information between employees based on geographical location or level of approval.
- Virtual reality: At my company, we are adding a virtual onboarding experience solution. Imagine walking through your office or factory before you get to the first day of your job, take a tour of your company’s offices around the world, or get hands-on experience to learn to do certain tasks and activities on machines you have not physically seen yet.
- Big Data: Big Data can be presented in a virtual boardroom displayed using a headset. The data is sorted by moving your hand, and specific information becomes available at a single swipe.
The days of pervasive smart technology are here. HR has the opportunity to harness this, rather than be scared of it. Digital should be at the core of – not separate from – your workforce strategy.
Learn more about how automation and artificial intelligence will affect the workplace in Robots: Job Destroyers or Human Partners?
This blog was originally posted on HRM Online.