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When will (or did?) wearable technology come to your workplace?

Wearable Technology

Wearable technology is not new, but the increasing functionality and decreasing size of wearable devices are spawning a growing industry.  Devices are increasingly smaller, more intelligent, and more wearable than in the past. They can collect more information including location information through GPS or access points and employee biometric data such as movement, heart rate, sleep patterns, and fatigue.  Sensors can be embedded almost anywhere – such as on an employee’s uniform or even on tiny stickers on a person’s skin.  Employee data from wearable tech can be combined with data from other sources to provide real time visibility into worker productivity and availability.

There a lot of vendors in this space and the global market for wearable tech is anticipated to grow from over $9 billion in 2014 to over $30 billion by 2018.  As the variety and volume of these devices increases, organizations are taking notice of potential benefits of newer wearable technologies.  We recently conducted a global study to assess worker attitudes toward wearable tech.  You can read the results of our Wearable at Work survey here.

Some of the highlights we found interesting:

  • US adoption of wearable technology for personal use is low compared to other world regions. Only 13% of all US respondents use wearable technology in their personal life, with Bluetooth devices and fitness monitors leading the way compared to 73% in China, the highest ranking region surveyed.l
  • 82% of adults in India and Mexico, and 81 percent in China, have worn technologies such as headsets, smart badges, and barcode scanners for work-related activities, while only 20 percent of U.S workers have done so.
  • 87% of worldwide respondents see at least one potential personal work benefit (U.S. = 61%) with improved safety for staff and customers rating high overall.

We’d love to hear from you about your thoughts on wearable technology in the workplace.  I’m co-hosting a tweet chat on Monday, December 1 at noon  with Stowe Boyd,  lead researcher for the future of work and work technologies at Gigaom Research.  You can join the tweet chat at #WearablesAtWork.

Relevant links to learn more about wearable technology in the workplace:

Wearable Technology Set to Take the Workplace by Storm - Gigaom Research

US Perception of Wearables at Work Lags Rest of World – Gigaom Research

Will the Workplace Lead Wearable Technology Adoption? – Forbes

Kronos Brings Bio-Tracking Wearable Tech into the Workplace - BostInno

Presentation on the Future of Wearable Technology – Joyce Maroney








On the anniversary of my mother’s death – lessons she taught me about work

joyce Midd graduationToday is the 4th anniversary of my mother’s death.  The picture here was taken on the day of my graduation from Middlebury College in 1978.  I remember feeling very hot on that unseasonably warm day, and glad to have the ceremony over with.  I’ve always loved this picture, though, because you can see in my mother’s smile how proud and happy she was.

I’ve written before about career advice here (see links below), but I haven’t shared the advice that my mother gave me.  Mum was a homemaker throughout my childhood and high school years.  She’d started college before she married, but left without finishing in order to join my Dad at his Army post in Seattle during the Korean War.  When this picture was taken, however, she had finished her degree during my college years and had a BA in Education from Boston University.  She worked for a few years in the local public school as a special education teacher.

Although she wasn’t a working woman for most of her life, her approach to life taught me a lot about how to be successful in work (and life).  Although she mightn’t have thought I was always paying attention, I was.

Here are a few of the work and life lessons my mother taught me:

  1. You can learn to do anything you want to do.   My mother believed she could do anything she applied herself to.  She built furniture, sewed wedding gowns (and repaired them for last minute panicked brides), made seat belts for our cars long before the government mandated them, trained dogs, cooked haute cuisine, wired lamps, made costumes for local theater companies, volunteered, went back to college in her 40′s and pursued all of her interests with passionate focus.  I never saw my mother hesitate to try something new.  I’ve often thought about that when faced with new opportunities that seem daunting.
  2. Fight your fears – and your own battles.  Mum stood up for herself and for us kids.  She showed us the power of appearing brave, even when you didn’t feel that way.  She once saved our home in Newfoundland during a raging forest fire.  The firefighters had told her the house needed to be abandoned to the fire, and they moved on to more salvageable properties.  My mother stood on the roof and doused the house and yard with water from our well until the fire had passed.  I learned that “fake it till you make it” can be a pretty good strategy.
  3. Look out for other people, particularly the underdogs. She was all about treating people with kindness and respect – and that’s what people remember her for.
  4. Believe in the possibility that things will get better.  Although she had tough times as a child and as an adult, I never saw her give up.  She was always convinced that there was a path to a better outcome.  She believed that optimism is a mighty shield when things get tough.  She was right.
  5. Morals aren’t situational.  Though not conventionally religious, she was always clear on the dividing line between right and wrong.  She taught us to do the right thing, even when it was hard.

Rest in peace, Dorchester Riflewoman.

Top Ten Career Tips (2008) - Learned from my Dad and learned myself the hard way

Are Myths About Your Career Holding You Back? (2014)



HR (Helpfully) Off to The Side

creelmannarToday’s guest post was written by Workforce Institute board member David Creelman.  David spends a lot of his time thinking and writing about the role HR plays in helping organizations maximize the potential and contributions of their employees.  In today’s post, he talks about how sometimes the best thing HR professionals can do is to give people the tools they need to thrive and then get out of the way.

One of the major trends at the recent HR Tech show in Las Vegas was HR applications that were not directly aimed at HR. In other words, these are HR-related software applications that are aimed at either the employee or manager as the main user. This is a trend of particular import to HR leaders involved in workforce management, where the space has always been led as much by operations, and even finance, as HR.

By HR applications not aimed at HR, I don’t mean the familiar employee or manager self-service functionality. Self-service was usually about pushing some administrative work off of HR and onto either managers or employees (presumably because it made more sense for them to do it themselves). What interests me are applications that help employees or managers with their work or personal lives in a way that sits to the side of HR.

One example is career-planning software where the employee owns the data. They can take the app with them as they move between companies. HR enables this by getting employees started and paying for the app, but after that it’s not HR leading the career planning; HR is off to the side while the employee manages their own career.

An example directly related to the workforce space are apps that allow an employee to see who is on their shift and to swap shifts. While of course HR and operations have the ability to create restrictions on who can swap shifts with whom, fundamentally this is about HR giving a great tool to employees and then stepping aside – all the while taking employee self-service and scheduling empowerment to the next level.

A management example is those apps that focus on setting and tracking goals rather than focusing on the performance appraisal cycle. HR departments need appraisal for its own purposes, but the day-to-day management of goals is the domain of managers. Again HR is off to the side, enabling this capability rather than being directly involved.

What I want HR leaders to take away from this is the idea that they have a role in people issues that goes beyond things that involve HR processes. HR can create an ecosystem of tools that empower employees and managers. HR off to the side may have more long-term impact than HR in the midst of things.