Wearable Tech and HR Help Desk
Dwane Lay
February 24, 2014

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The future of HR Shared Service is, almost certainly, already here.  We are barreling along a course of turning our clothes into our mobile workspace, built upon the foundation of Google Glass, smart phones and tablets.  While I, for one, welcome our robot overlords, it’s worth thinking about what an HR Help Desk team will look like in a few years, assuming we can extrapolate what has come before.  So here are three examples of what the future might have in store for us all.

Google Glass

We’ll start with the easy one.  Visual recognition of employees, including their history, any open issues (assuming you have it tied into your sweet HR case management system, of course), and how best to proceed.  Sound familiar?  Maybe you recognize this visual?

 terminator-vision

 

That’s right.  Terminator vision.  You’ll know upon meeting someone in the hall what their story is.  This one isn’t all that far away.  Applications were available a few years ago that would get you started, so this is less about the future and more about putting it into use.  So far, Google has been resistant to adding facial recognition software to glass, but you can only stave off a killer app for so long.

(As a side note, and completely through the whims of the universe, I was accepted into the Google Glass Explorer program as I was writing this post.  I’m sure I’ll circle back on this one after wearing them for a while.)

Fitness Trackers

Wellness programs have been all the rage for the last few years, and the changes coming via the Affordable Care Act promise ongoing attention in this area.  Many programs are well intentioned, but fall apart at the execution stage.  Sure, we can track expense reimbursement to show you pay for a gym membership, but how do we know you are going?

Enter wearable fitness trackers like Fitbit, Nike Fuel, and TalkBand B1.  No longer is the benefit of the doubt the best we can do in making sure our employees are as healthy as we would like them to be.  Now we can ask for proof.  While HIPPA laws might keep us from getting too specific, aggregate data could certainly be used to judge the effectiveness of these initiatives.  Will this lead to smarter HR programs around wellness?  Maybe.  Will it help drive HR to be more data focused and better at regression models?  I sure hope so.

Data Data Everywhere

Let’s not forget the myriad of wearable USB drives on the market, from cufflinks to necklaces and almost anything in between.  Will this make HR a more productive place, or give us better insight into the needs of the employee?  Probably not.  What it will do, though, is force us to be more security conscious, better at protecting information, and much more cautious about who has access to information.  When anyone can download and store data after only a few seconds alone with your unlocked laptop, the access to data granted HR could become a security nightmare.

We’ve always been the protector of personal information, the buffer between an employee’s work and private lives.  That means the profession needs to be better educated on security overall, especially when it comes to personally identifiable information (PII).

Changes on the Horizon

With the rapid acceleration in this field, the changes in the workplace in HR tools and security threats will evolve at blinding speed. Does this have an impact on the HR Help Desk team?  Just think through how many calls per day your team receives, and the level of verification required before information is given out.  In most organizations, not just HR, the front line often gets the least amount of training, which can lead to unintentionally giving out sensitive information to the wrong people.  Take a look at this post as an example of helpfulness gone wrong, and you can see how important education will be in this area.

So does wearable tech make sense for your team?  Maybe.  Making them more mobile (so that data is not left laying around) and better educated about technology overall (so they are aware of the dangers) are big steps.  Taking them without diving into the wearable pool can be difficult, and you could miss out on some wonderful opportunities to make the team more effective.  Being aware of the trends and the responsibility of the HR team to protect data is the best way to stay ahead of the curve.

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