Your employees walked into the office this morning with Internet access strapped to their wrists or adhered to their palms in the form of a mobile phone, but it’s not just your workers that are connected. Their smart devices are accessing and sharing data through the Internet, too. This relatively recent phenomenon where everyday objects are connected to and communicating through the Internet is known as the Internet of Things (IoT), and it’s the next big thing for employers to ponder.
Fitness trackers and smart thermostats are probably the most common examples of IoT technology today, but by 2020 it’s predicted that there will be more than 30 billion devices operating within the IoT. The ramifications of our devices generating and sharing such massive amounts of data are so mind-boggling that a think tank, appropriately named the IoT Council, has formed just to contemplate a world where our homes, offices and cities are run by smart technology.
Focus on the impact
While the broad implications are fascinating, employers and HR managers should focus their attention on the immediate potential impact of the IoT on their companies, employees and HR practices. Imagine, for example, a company’s project planning system communicating its hiring needs directly with a recruiting system. A candidate’s skills and experience could be automatically matched to a job’s requirements and a new hire could be extended an offer and on-boarded all through a mobile device.
Similarly, real-time data about workloads could help companies better manage staffing needs. A shift worker, for example, could be automatically notified by text when he or she should clock out. And the exact time an employee arrives or leaves could be automatically tracked and entered for more accurate accounting of work hours and overtime.
IoT technology could allow a truck driver’s vital signs to be continuously monitored and sound an alert when a slower heart rate might indicate sleepiness. IoT technology could also give managers and employees tangible performance data, making an employee’s self-evaluation and a supervisor’s assessment more authentic and aligned.
But no nirvana
Don’t assume, however, that the IoT is a surefire futuristic nirvana. As effective communication between things evolves, advanced automation and robotics will have a greater potential to disrupt the existing workplace and displace jobs. Employee privacy issues become a valid concern as employees’ whereabouts and movements are more closely monitored through smart devices. And, not surprisingly, there is a greater risk of corporate security being jeopardized when a company’s data is being automatically accessed by and shared among devices.
With the promise of increased automation, the Internet of Things could quite literally change the face of a company’s workforce. To say the rules are changing is an understatement — the IoT is a whole new ballgame. Perhaps the biggest challenge for employers will be staying attuned to the human element in Human Resources.
John Allen is president and COO of G&A Partners, a Texas-based HR and administrative services company that manages HR, benefits, payroll, accounting and risk management for growing businesses.