When asked to consider how technology is transforming the world of work, an HR executive may point to advancements in applicant tracking systems, the growth of on-demand learning platforms and better employee analytics. These are just a few of the exciting new tools having a profound impact on HR, but what about the many broader technologies that are shaking up the status quo across industries?
From 5G and blockchain, to deep learning and augmented reality, these technologies are more than buzzwords. In fact, there are already proven use cases demonstrating these technologies’ promise in industries like retail, finance and healthcare. And there’s plenty of potential for them to transform HR as well.
With that in mind, here’s a look at the seven tech trends making work more connected and efficient.
1) Deep Learning
A form of artificial intelligence, deep learning uses algorithms that can learn without direct input from humans. If you want a computer to differentiate between pictures of toddlers and puppies, a person wouldn’t need to label specific attributes of both categories. Instead, artificial neural networks could send data through various layers, with each one defining key features of various pictures and, finally, pinpointing the right identifiers for classifying the images.
The technology is powerful when it comes to interpreting large amounts of disparate data and coming up with highly nuanced inferences about customer behavior. Case in point: Recruiters will be able to pinpoint promising candidates more efficiently, since they won’t be limited by the data in their company’s traditional applicant tracking systems. Instead, their deep learning-enabled technology will be able to aggregate and analyze data from social media sites like LinkedIn and other sources like personal websites or portfolios to gain a better understanding of applicants as individuals. "The deep learning can layer in additional data sets to provide insights into the next best steps," says Daniel Newman, principal analyst of Futurum Research.
2) Augmented Reality
With augmented reality, digitally generated images, sound and graphics enhance objects in the real world. While it has led to popular entertainment like Snapchat’s gender-swap lens and Pokemon Go, AR also is having an effect on how we work. For example, AR now makes it easier for teams to work remotely. At Braustin Homes, a San Antonio-based company that sells factory-built houses, customers can shop for one of the firm’s 24 home models entirely online or over the phone. Customers can take materials home with them, download an AR app and view floor plans of each model. For the staff, it means employees don’t need to meet customers in-person or at construction sites, saving them travel time and money and giving them the flexibility to work from wherever they want.
Workers can also use AR-enabled glasses to, say, perform a task that requires many steps without first having to memorize all those instructions. Instead, workers can use an AR-enabled headset to view instructions or tutorials through a display overlay— all while they work. Or an expert located at another location can offer guidance. The result for workers: More time to work on other, more challenging projects.
Bots can run automated tasks, enabling them to perform repetitive tasks such as sending emails or scheduling appointments at a higher rate than a human. While companies are already increasingly using these bots for internal processes, the next step iteration will be what Christopher Creel, author of Adaptive: Scaling Empathy and Trust to Create Workplace Nirvana, calls "intelligent chatbots." These bots use deep learning algorithms operating inside of collaborative applications like Slack. As a result, they can perform such tasks as collecting regular feedback from colleagues, doing away with the need for annual reviews. In addition, using natural language analysis, bots can coach managers on how to phrase feedback to be most effective. The upshot: a dramatic improvement in our performance as managers—and a more pleasant employee experience.
4) Conversational AI
Over the next few years, virtual assistants operated through voice commands like Siri and Alexa will become a lot more sophisticated. That’s because, with the next phase of artificial intelligence, the software’s algorithms will be able to consider context and make inferences. Thus, your digital assistant will not only be able to let you know when you have two conflicting meetings, but also help you prioritize your schedule based on, say, which person is higher up in the company hierarchy or other important factors. "You’ll have a continuous stream of conversation that’s more like talking to another person," says Newman.
So how will that impact the way we work? For one thing, the technology should significantly boost our day-to-day efficiency by taking menial tasks off the plates of workers. An AI-powered assistant can schedule interviews between candidates and hiring managers, for example, giving human HR executives more time to better prepare for innately human tasks, such as phone screen interviews. Plus, by sussing out potential political conflicts or other inter-personal considerations, it’s likely to improve our relationships within our organization and maybe even lead to quicker promotions, Newman suggests.
5) Municipal Broadband
A growing number of towns and cities are building and managing their own broadband infrastructure systems, offering the service to residents in a certain area. They’re particularly important for rural regions that commercial providers find too expensive to enter. For gig workers and freelancers in these areas, the systems can make it easier to work from even the most remote rural areas.
This next-generation cellular wireless technology promises faster speed, lower latencies (the time it takes for data to travel from a device to the cloud and back) and the ability to connect massive numbers of sensors and smart devices within a network. The impact on work will be substantial. For example, faster, more reliable Internet connections will improve remote communication and collaboration tools like video calls. In addition, there will be advances like enhanced virtual conference rooms, combining AI, connected objects and virtual reality. For instance, a speaker’s name and title might appear on the screen, a helpful piece of information for big meetings with many strangers. It all will make virtual meetings more like real life and further boost the ability to work remotely.
7) Distributed Ledger Technologies
Blockchain, often called a digitized ledger, contains batches of transactions linked to other blocks that are time-stamped and tamper-proof. While it’s widely known as the underpinning for cryptocurrency, the technology is also used for a wide variety of other applications, such as tracking the progress of a product through a particular supply chain. And that’s likely to have a larger impact on the workplace by making it easier to collaborate with everyone from vendors to banks. "You’re going to have a greater amount of trust in whomever you’re working with if you can track everything that’s happening without wondering about the integrity of the system," says Michael Biltz, managing director of Accenture Technology Vision. Plus, blockchain has the potential to add more transparency to recruiting and hiring, serving as a virtual resume that’s unchangeable and offers verified credentials.
As these technologies continue to evolve, it’s critical for HR to consider how they might transform and improve their organizations. After all, we spend too much time at work to miss out on opportunities to work better.
Image: Creative Commons
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4 Ways to Expand Your Social Media Recruiting Strategy
Social media is ubiquitous, and companies are using it in many different and innovative ways for enhancing their sales, marketing and customer services. So why is it then that many HR departments still fail to see social media as more than a job board? Outside of the office, the same HR people happily engage with friends on Facebook, share news and ideas on Twitter, look at pictures on Instagram and send snaps on Snapchat. But when they put their work hat on they seemingly forget why they use social in the way they (and hundreds of millions of other users) do every day, and resort back to just posting jobs (in a boring way) on social media! Of course there is nothing wrong with job posting, and it's often an effective approach to reaching an audience, but not all of the time. According to LinkedIn, only 12 percent of the working population are actively seeking new employment. So, if all you do is post jobs on your LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook page, you are consciously ignoring the other 88 percent of the working population who might be interested in hearing more about your company in general. Creating and sharing interesting content about your company such as employee stories or volunteer days help bring your employer brand to life. It might even trigger people to reach out to you and find out more about your job opportunities. In truth, mixing up your social media feeds with a variety of content will provide more depth and candidate engagement. Here are four ways to expand your social media strategy and engage with new potential candidates. 1) Candidate Sourcing With people using an average of more than five social networks, sourcing talent via social media makes absolute sense. Branch out from just using LinkedIn and look to sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to search for and engage with prospective talent. Try search tools like Followerwonk to search Twitter bios for keywords and job titles, a clever Chrome browser extension called Intelligence Search that easily searches Facebook and using the search bar at the top of Google+. They will help you identify new talent. If you are looking to build social media pipelines then try Hello Talent. It is a great free tool that allows you to build talent pipelines from many different social networks by using a browser extension. 2) Competitor Monitoring Social media is a fantastic source of information and data. By using tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, you can monitor the social media activity of your competitors. Both of these tools allow you to set up search columns, where you can enter things like keywords, hashtags, Twitter names and track when any of these are mentioned on sites such as Twitter. You can use the interact or use the insights accordingly. 3) Resources for Candidates Consider your Facebook page (or Twitter channel) as a real-time customer services channel for you to engage and communicate with both new and existing candidates in the recruitment process. Provide links to your social media pages to candidates at all stages in the process and encourage them to visit the pages and ask questions about any part of the process. You can also share useful information about working for the company, including locations, employees and other relevant news. 4) Live Recruitment Events Not everyone can attend the many recruitment events happening every month. But by using social media like Twitter, Facebook Live, Instagram and Snapchat, you can easily provide live commentary for these events you attend or host. Real-time video via Facebook Live and interaction via Twitter chats are superb examples of ways to regularly engage with a live audience of potential candidates. With social media firmly established in our working lives, I question how much more evidence HR departments will need to fully embrace this "new" form of candidate engagement. Photo: Twenty20
Cartoon Coffee Break: Unconventional Recruiting
Editor's Note: This post is part of our "Cartoon Coffee Break" series. While we take talent management seriously, we also know it's important to have a good laugh. Check back every two weeks for a new ReWork cartoon. Missed the Recruiting Trends conference? From the state of recruiting automation adoption, to the role that the human element still plays in recruiting, our recap covers everything you need to know. Header photo: Creative Commons
The Latest Office Benefit Is Tackling Student Debt
Modern companies are more than just employers — increasingly, they are also gyms, cafeterias and even laundromats. As perks like yoga class, free lunch and complimentary dry cleaning become the norm, companies continue to push the boundaries on ways to attract and retain top talent by providing much more than a paycheck to employees. The latest in the slew of new workplace benefits? Student loan assistance. In April, Chegg partnered with Tuition.io to give full-time employees extra cash for student loan reduction. Then in September, consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers announced it would provide up to $1,200 to help employees pay off loans annually. As a benefit, student loan assistance programs are certainly still in their infancy— one survey found that only 3 percent of companies offer such a benefit. But experts say that may soon change as companies seek to differentiate themselves in a competitive hiring environment. "We think student loan benefits are poised to be the next big benefit; similar to what 401(k) matching was when it was first introduced," says Dana Rosenberg, who leads employer and affinity group partnerships at Earnest, a lender that offers student loan refinancing and works with companies to create loan pay-down programs. The Burden of Student Debt Such programs could be extremely attractive to debt-laden Millennials. Around 40 million Americans collectively carry $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, and the graduating class of 2015 was the most indebted class in history with an average debt of $35,000 (a superlative they won't hold for long come May 2016.) For employers looking to adjust benefits to correspond to the changing demographics of their employee base, student loan programs hit the mark. "In 2016, our employees will be 80 percent millennials, and we also hire close to 11,000 employees directly out of school each year," says Terri McClements, Washington Metro managing partner of PwC. With student debt often preventing young people from participating in 401(k) plans and reaching traditional life milestones, the benefit could potentially make a large impact on employees' financial and personal well-being. A study from the American Student Association found that 73 percent of people with student loans reported putting off saving for retirement or other investments due to their debt, 75 percent reported delaying a home purchase and 27 percent reported it was difficult to buy daily necessities. "Student loans can be a very stressful thing to deal with, so if we can give our employees peace of mind, that's great," says Caroline Gennaro, corporate communications manager at Chegg. The Allure for Employers Student debt assistance programs aren't just attractive to employees, either. Rosenberg says there are significant benefits for the organizations that offer them as well. "Employers that offer programs to help their employees get out from under their debt load are seeing big benefits: increased retention, more competitive recruiting and, perhaps most importantly, happier employees who have additional cash flow to put towards their life goals," Rosenberg explains. Rosenberg says happier employees are more engaged employees, who tend to be more productive. Studies show that companies with high employee engagement experience lower turnover and have double the rate of organizational success than their less-engaged counterparts. Student loan benefit programs may also lead to a more diverse workforce, attracting employees whose financial backgrounds meant they had to take on more debt for their education. "Diversity and inclusion are also very important to us, so the ability to offer this benefit can help minorities who come out of school with a higher debt burden," says McClements. A Promising Response Companies say the response to their student loan assistance programs have been overwhelmingly positive. Chegg has had more than 80 people sign up since they started their program this summer, and they've already eliminated roughly 86 years of collective loan repayments for their employees. Companies are also finding these programs are a way to differentiate themselves from organizations that may offer more generic benefits. "As a company in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are always looking to attract the best and brightest in the industry, and this benefit is a big draw," says Gennaro. Photo: Shutterstock