Impact of Big Data & IoT on Employee Engagement

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A sneak peek into the future: 

It’s a bright sunny morning and I am getting ready to go to work. This is October 2024. I wear my sociometric badge and my smart watch, I pick up my tablet, smart phone and my home controlling device. As soon as I wear my badge and watch, I get a notification saying most of my meetings are in a specific location and it makes sense for me to get there.

I also get a recommendation saying my productivity is better when I sit in open areas where there is exposure to sunlight and so the specific work places that are potential options get popped up for me to choose my seat.

I get into my driverless car and feel amazed about how my car is navigating through the different roads and traffic. My car parking app shows me open slots that are available and it directly communicates with my car. Once my car parks itself I get to my desk that is well lit. I get into a couple of meetings, one of which was good while the other was difficult.

My smart watch pops up a message based on the communication received from my sociometric badge saying my emotions are not great and I need to calm down before I get to my next conversation given that it’s an important client meeting. With my headphones on and a short calming music piece later, I feel better. The mood-o-meter that is integrated with my watch shows a green indicating that I am all set for the client meeting.

My doctor called me last week saying my BP is slightly up and I needed to take a few medicines. My smart watch had indicated to him about my health condition even before I realized that there was an issue. Thanks to my organization which made it compulsory for all employees to have smart watches for multiple reasons a couple of years back and strived for us to opt in to it.

I have my appraisal discussion in the afternoon. I hear no surprises. It’s because in the last two years, I get indicators when I perform very well, patterns of behaviors that need work and areas I need to focus on with respect to learning through all my connected platforms. So my manager has become my coach in helping me to reflect on those and charter the course of action. Gone are the days I dreaded those performance discussions. I feel much more comfortable and look forward to these conversations. Thanks to cognitive and deep learning that have enabled this experience to me while being invisible and non-intrusive.

I start back home. While in my car, I switch on my dishwasher and washing machine. I recalled that I have got my home cleaned with the smart mop through my connected home device while I was coming to work. I reach home and it looks spic and span!

Some reflections:

Does this sound like a dream or a near time reality? Internet of Things (IoT) enabled through sensors and connected devices aided with the patterns emerging from several unrelated sets of data can definitely make this as a reality in the very near future.

A lot of study around millennials was conducted and a number of perspectives were provided as to how organizations need to change their processes to meet the expectations of this workforce. We have witnessed organizations moving away from performance ratings, learning programs becoming virtual or online and recruitment strategies going through a significant shift in response to these studies. In the last two years there are several studies around how technology will disrupt the current ways of working across different fields including HR. Big data, IoT, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud, Blockchain are all technologies that are being worked upon simultaneously all around us and are changing the way we will operate in future without our own knowledge. The effects are unseen right now until they reach a ‘tipping point’. It’s important that we take them seriously, selectively forget our past and thereby prepare ourselves with fresh perspectives for a successful technology driven future. The future is not very far away but RIGHT NOW!

So how does Big Data, Analytics and IoT affect employee engagement?

In the above illustration, we can see that the employee actually has a few smart devices, some of which also have sensors. While they look simple from the outside, there is a lot of complexity involved in the background. All these devices are connected with each other. There is constant data gathering, processing, trends brought out and they help the employee take decisions for herself. She could decide on her seating locations based on productivity patterns, keep her emotions in check, have meaningful performance conversations as she was getting constant indications about her own productivity & performance and create her own learning charter. She feels so empowered because she makes all her decisions and they are aided by real time data. This clearly indicates that there is a positive correlation to her engagement with the help of Big Data, Analytics and IoT. There is more to this than only Big Data and IoT from a Technology standpoint. There is Edge computing, cognitive, Block chain and machine learning all working together to create a seamless experience to the employee.

So what about privacy & how do organizations prepare themselves?

It is definitely viewed as potential lack of privacy as these devices gather a lot of personal data and organizations may have access to these. So organizations are suggested to consider the following.

  1. Clearly understand why a certain set of data will be required and have employee buy in before such major decisions on workplace wearables are made.
  2. Have data aggregations available at a larger level only (and not individual levels) in such a way that top level management gets to understand patterns to make data driven changes at an organizational level.
  3. Individuals can get patterns only basis their data and access need to be restricted to anyone else.
  4. Constant sensitizations to be undertaken where positive results are being articulated and be honest about learnings.
  5. Have a high focus on cyber security as well as ensure that data storage happens in private cloud so no ‘outsider’ gets access to employee data. Leverage Blockchain technology as well for this purpose.

How should HR professionals gear up for this changing environment?

HR professionals’ role could go through a significant change as they could be dealing with advanced technology enabled environment, varieties of workforce which could include robots and gig workers in addition to full time employees, business models that are constantly evolving and data that is real time. So it’s important for HR professionals to be tech friendly and be in the forefront of this changing environment. They should enhance their capabilities in technology, reading insights from real time data, becoming virtual culture experts and partnering with business leaders in dealing leadership development, risks and major business changes.

Closing thoughts:

The world is moving towards predicting and acting instead of figuring out and reacting. For that to happen it is extremely critical to embrace new technologies and reimagine our future in every sense. We may not have all the answers when we start but human intelligence in combination with AI and a number of other technologies together can find them along the way. Get Set Go!!

“The number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn’t think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential.” – Steve Ballmer


Author- Janani Prakaash is an Associate Vice President- Talent in a multinational company. She has over 12 years of HR Business partnering experience across product, services and Consulting organizations. She has partnered with senior leaders on strategic aspects including but not limited to workforce planning, diversity & inclusion, business transformations, change management, leadership enhancement and competency development to name a few. She is also a yoga and fitness enthusiast. Janani is a trained classical music singer and Veena player. She  focuses on these arts as well as writes articles on varieties of topics when she is not working.

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