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In the age of mobile technology, wearable devices like Google Glass and FitBit are redefining the way people move and, ultimately, interact. While some HR experts argue that mobile technology — specifically wearable — is redefining the way employees work, others believe it’s only a transitional technology. Nevertheless, companies are investing in different types of mobile technologies to improve employee collaboration in 2014.

One wearable that is on some company's radars comes from engineering and electronics company Hitachi. In 2007, it introduced the Business Microscope: a device that uses sensors to monitor and analyze how employees interact with one another — from how many interactions specific employees have with one another to the hand gestures they use and energy in their voices. Companies are now leveraging the technology to boost workplace productivity and reduce inter-team conflicts.

It may seem far off, but as Josh Bersin, principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte, recently wrote on Forbes, it's not as far off as it may seem. "While products in this space have not emerged yet, we anticipate that [in 2014] we will be discussing 'wearables' and 'location based devices' as the next big trend in workplace and workforce technology. Disruptive? You bet. These applications will challenge HR in many ways (privacy for one) but also give us brand new ways to improve how we work." 

Big Data in the Workplace

Business Microscope is just one of many examples of how companies are leveraging big data to better understand how to enable their employees to be more productive and efficient. And it seems to work...when used correctly.

According to H. James Wilson at The Wall Street Journal, one company used Business Microscope to merge two product-design groups that failed to communicate. The manager of one group was able to analyze communications and conclude that he was the problem since he didn’t interact with the groups much. As a result, the manager connected the groups and encouraged them to interact with one another and leverage the others’ expertise.

Tackling Privacy

Tracking when and how employees interact can push the limits of employee privacy if not communicated from the get-go. That’s the whole goal of the technology anyway — improved communication and collaboration. Talent management experts from Sociometric Solutions suggest three tips to be transparent about this type of technology moving forward:

  1. Tell employees what’s being tracked and analyzed
  2. Clarify that individual data isn’t seen, only aggregate data 
  3. Give them the option of participating, don’t make it mandatory 

 

Photo credit: Hitachi