I knew this class would be a little different than the norm after reading the syllabus and seeing I would have to (finally) join Twitter. The first session definitely reinforced that feeling as Prof. Kane reassured the class numerous times that students can expect to be confused and unsure of themselves for the first few weeks of the term. I think that’s kind of an apt metaphor regarding the use of emerging technologies in general though. For example, this pandemic has forced my mother to kind of “get with the times” and learn how to use FaceTime. While she figured out how to use the app fairly quickly, she was so hesitant to even try it at first. New things are scary, even when in reality they’re not scary at all. Now my mother’s biggest problem is positioning the phone so we can actually see her face.
Seeing the rate at which new technologies are developed and how old technologies are being applied in novel ways, it is both a frightening and exciting time to be alive. I think by now we all have this image drilled in to our skulls.
While I will never be the kind of person who is among the first to start utilizing the latest tech, digital platform, etc., I also don’t want to be unnecessarily resistant to them either. I hope to exit this class knowing how to teach myself about new technologies and assess them critically, without pre-framing “new” technologies as “scary” (unless my critical analysis shows them to be truly frightening).
I work in Human Resources and it’s fascinating how new tech/reappropriated tech is reshaping the field. From payroll software to how a firm stores employee records, digital transformations are quickly transitioning the HR function from paper pushing to focusing on people operations (hence why I think so many companies have done away with “HR” and rebranded it as “POPs”). A quick look at my LinkedIn Inbox shows 5 HR software companies have had their sales reps contact me in the last 30 days.
Now HRs major focus is on employee/manager development, HR investigations, employee engagement, Total Rewards (compensation, benefits, etc.), among other areas. Digital tech is finding it’s way into improving those areas as well, from online learning portals making remote onboarding a breeze to software enabling the centralization of HR Investigations (and thus aggregated analysis on issue types, time to close, etc.). For example, the company I currently work for has a partnership with an organization called Virgin Pulse (https://www.virginpulse.com/). Essentially, the Virgin Pulse platform is the same as Fitbit. Virgin Pulse’s aim is to improve employees health and wellbeing and benefits the company’s bottom line in two ways: 1) healthier employees mean lower health care costs, and 2) it acts as another employee engagement touchpoint (app hosts competitions, promotes company organized fitness events, etc.) and more engaged employees are less likely to leave the firm. When I worked at MIT they had an annual 10 week “GetFit” challenge for pretty much the same purposes. However, I’d never have imagined transplanting that program into an app and making it a year round initiative even though I have had the Fitbit app for over a decade now.
As an HR professional, I think utilizing technology like this to cut costs and improve the employee experience is great. However, it could raise concerns regarding employee privacy. Also, the app enables you to decrease some of the amount employees pay per month for their health insurance coverage by completing challenges or logging meals/exercises, which could raise concerns surrounding fairness. A large portion of the workforce work closer to 60 hours per week, and a number of them are truck drivers, putting them at a disadvantage in terms of available time to spend completing challenges or logging activities within the prescribed time frames. While I think the overall aim of the program is good, it – like many other technologies – still has some kinks to work out. Hopefully this class will prepare me to anticipate these kinds of kinks early on and/or develop habits to mitigate their effects.