IoT for Workforce Effectiveness

By Dedeepya Ajith John November 15, 2018
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Modern technology like the Internet of Things (IoT) has provided organizations with an opportunity to enhance the effectiveness of their workforce by increasing the efficiency of their processes and employee productivity. IoT can provide hassle-free integrated processes that require little or no human intervention and create a seamless flow of information that leads to an accurate delivery of products and services. Along with other technological innovations such as artificial intelligence and big data analytics, IoT is set to deliver a digital transformation in modern organizations.

IoT is a network of smart physical devices, such as wearable fitness trackers, home appliances, virtual assistants and autonomous vehicles. They are embedded with software, sensors, actuators and an internet connection enabling these devices to collect information and share it. This network is constantly growing, and it is predicted that the IoT device management market will be worth $5.1 Billion by the year 2025.

The recently concluded SHRM India Annual Conference 2018 included a highly informative session on 'IoT for Workforce Effectiveness,' and featured several eminent business leaders discussing the role of IoT-based technology and workforce effectiveness at their organizations. The panelists explained initiatives that their organizations have taken to incorporate modern IoT technology on their work floors, and discussed future plans for utilizing IoT tools and technology to create a more effective workforce. The event was moderated by Sidharth Gupta, Founder and CEO of Blue Dolphin. Panelists included Anjali Chatterjee, Vice President- HR, Tata Communications, Prashant Sharma, Global Head – Talent Management, U-Flex and Sanjay Sharma, Head – HR, Hindustan Zinc.

How are Organizations Embracing Transformational Technology?

The need for gaining speed and creating a competitive advantage in the market is gearing organizations across industries to take notice of technological advancements. Large organizations are already deploying transformational technology to enable their workforces to work more effective. For example, Tata Communications has implemented an end-to-end Robotic Process Automation (RPA) for their compliance needs. This removes the need to manually audit thousands of documents, many of which are highly important legal and government paperwork. Implementation of RPA has enabled them to bring in more accuracy and transparency to their process.

For younger organizations such as U-Flex, their experience with transformational technology is relatively new and the process is still underway. When U-Flex initiated the deployment of systems such as Oracle, they were faced with resistance by their partners because introduction of any automated process brings in high transparency and accountability to the system. This leads to an initial resistance from people in using it. However, with proper training over the years, U-Flex has successfully managed to adapt their workforce to the institutionalization of technologies like Oracle and SAP Success Factors.

The need for technological adaptation is especially critical for a mining company like Hindustan Zinc. They have transformed from a PSU (Public Sector Undertaking) to a private entity, and that transformation brought about significant changes in its adoption of technology. Initiatives like sensors on the shop floors, remote control mechanisms at the mining sites and biometric registration of employees have enabled the company to provide a high degree of safety for their workers.  They have also introduced an Integrated Transport Management System (ITMS) for the transport of mining products and by-products – a task that requires a high degree of precision. The technological interventions took the company years to iron out the teething issues. To ensure a company-wide acceptance of any technology, Hindustan Zinc brought about a change in the employee mindset through training and workshops.

Steps towards IoT Technology Adoption

The IoT adoption process usually involves a detailed procedure that starts with discussions on various choices of IoT-based tools and techniques. The organization tries to understand what a technology can do for them and how it can lead to workforce effectiveness.

Once the decision is made to deploy a technology, the organization shortlists the  potential vendors. They also finalise the time period under which the technology needs to be deployed  and the method of deployment. For example, they may need to decide if the deployment would be preceded by a UAT (User Acceptance Testing) or a pilot before launching it on a full scale. The entire process can take several months to several years depending on the complexity of the deployment and the geographical spread of the organization.

As the next steps to an imminent adoption of IoT technology, organizations are now gearing up for more nuanced ways of bringing about workforce effectiveness. For example, in the next 2 years, Tata Communications is looking to automate its entire recruitment process through deployment of IoT-based chatbots. A chatbot is software that can interact with humans via voice or text mode. The chatbot will be able to sift through resumes, shortlist candidates, connect with them and conduct screening interviews. Thereafter, it will schedule the next line of interviews with hiring managers and send offers to the selected candidates.

This system will relieve recruiters from the arduous task of scheduling interviews and help them evolve within their roles. Chatbots are also better learners than humans and will be able to ask better interview questions than an HR recruiter. It is a perfect example of how IoT-based tools can revolutionise the workplace, improving effectiveness by several leaps. For Tata Communications, it will be an expensive deployment that would take significant development and would be piloted before a widespread launch.

U-Flex is also moving towards adoption of IoT technology on their manufacturing floors. For example, deployment of IoT-based sensors will be able to predict failures in factories.

Hindustan Zinc also has already created an in-house tech innovation cell with experienced employees serving as advisors. These advisors explore the best technological practises around the globe and across industries. The company is now in the process of customising some of those tools and techniques to implement them within the organization.

Impact of IoT Adoption

In addition to enhanced workforce effectiveness, IoT adoption will also force organizations to look for workers with skill-sets that are in sync with the technology they are using. With IoT tools automating several tasks, there will be a change in the workforce within each organization. People would be hired based on their skills for a specific project. There will be more project-based hiring and a higher number of freelancers in the system. Data privacy will also become critical as HR systems will store employee data through IoT devices. Over a period of time, there might be changes in regulatory laws to answer the challenges posed by this change.

According to a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review, many companies that have already deployed IoT based systems are reaping the benefits: 58% of respondents said that it increased the collaboration between employees; 62% said that IoT increased their customer responsiveness; and 54% believed that it improved employee productivity.

IoT will not only streamline business processes, it will also support an organization's workforce and make them more productive and effective. When a company can gather information about their employees, customers and services, it can alter their ways of functioning and make them more effective in everything they do.

Not only are organizations finding  the Internet of Things tools effective, their employees are also warming up to IoT devices in their personal lives. Wearable devices like fitness trackers can collect various details about the health and physical fitness of employees and help them stay healthy. In fact, a research paper by Deloitte states that modern employees are increasingly dealing with the pressure of mounting emails and longer work hours. Hence, just like athletes on the field, they also need tools for tracking and improving their performance.

Do you want to know how IoT can create avenues for improvement in workforce effectiveness? Do you wonder how various organizations are incorporating IoT into their processes? Do you want to know how IoT is directly linked to your organization's workforce effectiveness?

If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, watch the session on 'IoT for Workforce Effectiveness' conducted recently at the SHRM Annual Conference 2018.

Click here to watch the session now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFj0dRXmf5s

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