By Andrew Kupperman, SHRM-CP
Picture this: the business you work for provides you with a tool that allows you to do anything and everything you need from a single interface. This tool is similar to HAL 9000 from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but without the malfunctions and antagonism that would lead to your entire team’s demise. Let’s call our tool WIT (Work Information Tool).
WIT is similar to Siri or Alexa that we already have a technical familiarity with from our personal lives. It can answer questions you might have as an employee, such as those pertaining to your benefits, the tasks you need to complete, or your net pay last period. WIT can also provide you with meaningful statistics and analyzations regarding your performance and provide suggestions on trainings to improve productivity. Automating repetitive tasks is even something WIT can help with, such as sending template emails to clients. And, like Siri and Alexa, there are going to be times WIT can’t directly help, but it will at least be able to get you in contact with the right person with the click of a button.
Now you may be thinking, WIT would be a revolutionary tool and a game changer for many businesses in terms of freeing up their employees and resources to focus on the things that actually grow the bottom line. You might also be asking when will WIT be available for the masses and how much will it cost? The answer to these questions is sooner than you think, and not cheap. Technology like this already exists in its early stages within the Enterprise segment of business, but it takes a lot of time and energy to build this type of tool in an effective and impactful way, making it a tough investment to rationalize for small businesses.
The first iPhone came out in 2007, a mere 11 years ago. If you think about how much technology has progressed since then, then it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a tool like WIT could be purchased and implemented at a reasonable cost within the next 5-10 years for all types of businesses. So what does this mean for businesses today? It’s tough to say based on the industry you’re in, but one thing is certain – you can’t just ignore it.
As newer generations and mindsets enter the workforce, they are going to expect their work experience to echo their personal life. Business leaders need to figure out how to provide this kind of work experience in order to get the most out of these employees. This type of technology is important to that, but it’s not the key. The business itself needs to alter its mindset to be able to adapt to and accommodate change. Areas that have traditionally been the “back bone” for more administrative tasks of a business, such as HR, IT, and Finance, will need to take on a more strategic role to support the workforce in understanding how this technology can help them focus on living their best work life. Direct supervisors will also need to understand their role in leading by example by being the stakeholder in change for the staff they lead.
Technology like WIT sounds amazing, but it’s not quite here yet for the masses. So what does a business need to do to prepare? First, talk to your leaders about the change that is coming. Have honest conversations and develop a flexible strategy about how the business will adapt to any change it might encounter. Discuss the expectations for each business unit in order to make that change a success. If your leaders understand and have a say in this, they will be more likely to buy-in to the change and better equipped to help the rest of the business adapt.
Lastly, make sure you understand what your workforce is looking for in their work experience. You never know what kind of innovative ideas already exist in the minds of the people that keep your business running strong, until you give them a voice. Remember, a tool like WIT isn’t innovation in of itself. People drive the true innovation, so make sure they are equipped to handle the change that is coming.