Category Archives: mobile technology

A Call for Digital Mindfulness

Is social media ruining our lives? I guess ComPsych would say so — gone unchecked, that is.

That’s why the Chicago-based employee-assistance-program-services provider is offering a new training course to its more than 33,000 organizations covering more than 89 million people worldwide focused on tackling the problem.

The course is designed to enhance people’s “digital mindfulness,” which suggests — in the words of Dr. Richard A. Chaifetz, founder, chairman and CEO of ComPsych — that “people examine priorities and set limits around time spent on social media so they can be more effective at work, and also find more satisfaction in life overall.”

In a survey of more than 1,200 respondents, ComPsych asked employees how many times, per day on average, they checked social media while at work. The telling result: Almost 20 percent said they check it more than 10 times during their workday. Specifically, their answers were:

  • “0 times per day” — 12 percent
  • “1-5 times per day” — 60 percent
  • “6-10 times per day” — 10 percent
  • “10-plus times per day” — 18 percent

This, according to Chaifetz, is no light-hearted or laughing matter. As he puts it:

“Social media can be a significant distraction both at work and during personal time. This leads to lack of focus and a constant changing of gears that can negatively impact performance, relationships and the ability to be fully present.”

Those taking the course, he says, will come out able to understand the impacts of consumer and digital overload, identify priorities and ways to simplify their lives, and recognize how becoming digitally mindful can lower stress and improve their well-being.

Granted, many of us need to be using social media as part of our jobs. Here at HRE, we’re tweeting, sharing stories and posting on LinkedIn, and checking our Facebook site or others’ for pertinent news.

But the message of the survey and course is a good one and shouldn’t be ignored: Keep it under control lest it control you. In the words of the course description:

“In today’s digital age, people are exposed to a vast number of choices about what to read, watch, listen to or purchase. The result is that people often are more distracted, confused and stressed by the increasing complexity of consumer choices and online social-media activities.”

Whether I do anything with its course or not, I’m glad ComPsych is raising this red flag.

Adapting in the Digital Age

A recent Deloitte survey finds nearly 90 percent of business leaders saying that building the organization of the future is their top priority.

That’s good.

Less encouraging is the number of companies—11 percent—reporting they are ready for this undertaking, which will require them to “completely reconsider their organizational structure, talent and HR strategies to keep pace with digital disruption,” according to Deloitte.

In its 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report, the New York-based provider of audit, consulting, tax and advisory services polled more than 10,000 HR and other business leaders. Many of them feel that the human resource function is indeed struggling to keep up with technological progress, with just 38 percent of HR professionals rating their department’s digital capabilities as “good” or “excellent.”

I recently asked Josh Bersin, principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte, how HR might have fallen behind in this department.

“What I think happened is that, especially over the last three to five years, the way people get work done has radically changed,” says Bersin. “Yet the way we write job descriptions, the way we functionally set up the organization and so on is a throwback to the 1950s or ’60s.”

HR functions that hope to keep pace in 2017 and beyond must “operate in a digital way, and be more innovative and creative,” says Bersin. “[HR must] deliver solutions that are focused on productivity, not just programs.”

There are signs within the Deloitte report, however, that suggest a growing number of companies—and their HR functions—are adapting to the digital age.

For example, the survey finds that 56 percent of firms are redesigning their HR programs to rely more on digital and mobile tools, with 33 percent saying they already use some form of artificial intelligence applications to help create a more technologically advanced work environment.

“HR and other business leaders tell us that they are being asked to create a digital workplace in order to become an ‘organization of the future,’ ” says Erica Volini, principal at Deloitte Consulting and national managing director of the firm’s U.S. human capital practice, in a statement.

“To rewrite the rules on a broad scale, HR should play a leading role in helping the company redesign the organization,” says Volini, “by bringing digital technologies to both the workforce and to the HR organization itself.”

One way CHROs can achieve this goal is to “start redefining HR as a ‘productivity enhancement department,’ ” adds Bersin.

“Culture is important, and it’s important to have a solid employment brand, and it’s important to recruit the best talent. But the bigger problem most CEOs and CHROS have is getting their organizations to function and operate in a more networked world. And when HR rolls out programs that [employees] don’t feel enhance their productivity, workers don’t use them.

“There are certain things—regulatory training, compliance, for instance—that HR has to do,” continues Bersin. “But outside of those things, if an HR program or initiative isn’t something that helps employees add value to their jobs, you have to rethink whether it’s the right thing to do.”

Back to the Future for Healthcare

Value-based care. ACOs. Narrow networks. Consumerism. These were just a few of topics explored in depth at last week’s National Business Group on Health’s Business Health Agenda 2016 conference at the J.W. Marriott in Washington. But if there was a single thread running through these sessions and many others during the two-and-a-half-day event, it was the increasingly important role technology is playing these days as a disrupting force.

Consider this: It wasn’t a huge surprise to see the NBGH and Xerox Human Resource Services (the former Buck Consultants) unveil the findings of a study titled Emerging Technology to Promote Employee Wellbeing, one of three research projects released at the event.

Looking at four key areas—gamification, mobile technologies, wearable sensors and social media—the study of 213 employers found significant growth in all four areas, with mobile, not surprisingly, leading the way. When the survey was last conducted three years ago, just 16 percent of employers were using mobile apps to engage employees. In this latest study, that number jumped to 50 percent.

The study also revealed that wearable technologies climbed from 16 percent to 34 percent over the three-year period.

Social networking, meanwhile, grew by 50 percent. “People are increasingly relying on others to get their information,” said Scott Marcotte, client technology leader for Xerox HR Services.

Also, as might be expected, mobile topped the list of future senior-leader priorities, with 50 percent of the respondents citing it as a prime focal point over the next year. Many also predicted that texting will be an increasingly important part of their strategy going forward.

As for barriers to adoption, the respondents cited competing business priorities, the lack of buy-in and support from senior management, the lack of a guaranteed return-on-investment (and ways to measure technology’s impact), and confidentiality and privacy as significant hurdles.

“Technology is also enabling employers to more successfully reach family members,” Marcotte pointed out. He noted that more and more of the companies he’s been working with are “creating hyper-personalized experiences for the spouse,” distinct of the employee.

Of course, you would think the Internet and mobile technology would represent today’s best ways to get educational resources into the home and involve the family, right? But at a session titled Leveraging Technology to Reach the Home, several speakers suggested the next frontier might actually be the television. (Though one conference session on narrow networks featured Back to the Future in its title, I couldn’t help but wonder if that phrase might have been better suited for this one.)

In an effort being led by Kaiser Permanente and Comcast, just out of beta, employees at a handful of employers (Comcast, IBM and Lowe’s Cos.) are beginning to deliver information directly into the home through TV apps.

“People are consuming video on their phones and other devices, but the fact is that many are still watching a lot of TV,” said Chris Stenzel, vice president of business development and innovation at Kaiser Permanente.

Participating with Stenzel on the panel were Marc Siry, vice president of strategic development at Comcast Corp.; Lydia Boyd Campbell, director of global integrated health services at IBM Americas; and Bob Ihrie, senior vice president of compensation and benefits at Lowe’s Cos. (Ihre, by the way, will be participating at two sessions at HRE’s Health & Benefits Leadership Conference later this month.)

All the panelists believe TV has the potential to make healthcare engaging and interesting for the entire family.

Maternity was selected as a pilot for the program because it represents a significant percentage of claims and is a time when families are really engaged in the health system. Videos are delivered to the employees’ TVs based on the stage of the pregnancy—so employees and their spouses/partners are delivered content that’s meaningful to them at that moment. The system knows what to deliver based on the due date, which is the only personal information that needs to be offered up to provide the just-in-time information. (Netflix-like binge watching, however, is still an option for those who prefer that approach.)

Television, of course, isn’t the only legacy device that’s attempting a comeback in the world of healthcare. Let’s not forget the 500-year-old watch, which many are predicting, thanks primarily to the Apple Watch, will someday be a major force in wearables.

That promise isn’t lost on vendors such The Vitality Group, which used the conference as a platform for officially announcing a program that enables “Active Rewards” members to fully fund their Apple Watches by meeting monthly targets over a 24-month period. (The founder and CEO of Vitality Group’s parent company, Discovery Group, Adrian Gore, also delivered the opening-keynote address at the NBGH event.)

Alan Pollard, CEO of The Vitality Group, told me the results of the program in South Africa have been “phenomenal,” with the early data revealing that Vitality members using Apple Watches are more physically active than those using any other fitness devices.

In the United States, early adopters of the new Vital program include Amgen, Lockton and DaVita HealthCare Partners. (The program is also available to consumers through Vitality’s arrangement with John Hancock.)

Google’s ‘Mobilegeddon’ Comes Tomorrow!

It’s hard to say exactly what’s all in store for employers when Google unleashes its massive search-algorithm update tomorrow, but from 178976393 -- mobile technologythe buzz out there about it, sounds like everyone will be impacted.

For the record, here is Google’s official announcement on its site about its new mobile-friendly-ranking system starting April 21 — complete with a helpful guide toward making your website mobile-friendly. Though … in all honesty, of course … if you haven’t started this yet, you will definitely be behind the eight ball when it comes to website user-ability and “bites.”

In short, Google’s algorithm change is tailored to favor sites suitably optimized for mobile use by increasing the search engine’s emphasis on mobile-usability as a ranking factor.

In super short, if you are not a mobile-friendly site, ranked thusly by Google (mind you, the company is not exactly forthcoming about how this will be measured), you run the risk of getting bumped down in search-result stacking.

Advice out there for employers is a bit scanty, since this is posting a day before update launch, but I did find this piece from iCIMS, stressing just how imperative it is for all career sites to take this mobile-friendly ranking — and mobile-friendliness altogether — very seriously. It quotes Chuck Price, founder of Measurable SEO:

“Because you don’t have a mobile-optimized site, you’re going to get bumped down from position one or two to the third page, and suddenly you’ve lost all of your organic traffic. That’s a big deal.”

Perhaps the best analysis of what this update means comes from this recent piece by Jayson DeMers on the Forbes site. In it, he makes no bones about its potential impact:

“The search giant seems to make near-constant updates to its search protocols. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this upcoming April 21st update is something like the last few we’ve seen—a data refresh or some small tweak that leads to almost imperceptible changes in search rankings for only a handful of businesses.

“Unfortunately for currently non-optimized businesses, this doesn’t appear to be the case. With one of Google’s own recently explaining that this latest algorithm rollout is set to have a bigger impact than either Panda or Penguin, and considering Panda and Penguin are the biggest algorithm updates we’ve ever seen from Google, this new mobile update could completely change how we look at search.”

This, from Search Engine Watch, lays out many particulars all companies should keep in mind when it comes to mobile-friendly modifications you should have made by now, but better late than never. I especially like its reference to “Mobilegeddon.”

Kind of says it all.

A Downside for Health Apps?

appsThis year’s Health & Benefits Leadership Conference saw a host of vendors and experts touting the benefits of the smartphone in promoting employee health. Checking in with apps such as MyFitnessPal (an app for tracking calories and diet) or the FitBit activity tracker will “engage” (that crucial word!) employees in their health like nothing else, they say.

Not so fast, cautions a new article in BMJ, a British medical journal. The BMJ piece features opposing viewpoints from two doctors: Dr. Iltifat Husain, who oversees a review site for medical professionals, writes that apps can help doctors hold patients accountable for their behavior. In a counterpoint, Dr. Des Spence, a Scottish general practitioner, argues that health apps encourage healthy people to unnecessarily record their normal activities and vital signs, ultimately turning them into “continuously self-monitoring neurotics.”

Health apps, Spence writes, are untested and unscientific and should be viewed with skepticism. “Make no mistake,” he writes. “Diagnostic uncertainty ignites extreme anxiety in people.”

This caution is warranted: The New York Times notes that federal regulators have been cracking down on health-apps vendors who’ve falsely claimed, among other things, that their products could accurately analyze skin moles for potential melanoma.

“If an app claims to treat, diagnose or prevent a disease or health condition, it needs to have serious evidence to back up those claims,” the Federal Trade Commission’s Mary K. Engle told the paper. In other words, although health apps clearly have the potential to get employees more focused on improving their health, they should also be wary of apps that claim to diagnose or treat a health condition.

Gazing Into the Crystal Ball

As 2014 draws to a close, folks — as you might expect — now have their eyes set on 2015, and are figuring out what might be in store for their organizations as far as HR and the workplace are concerned. For this final post of the year, I did a quick search of the web to see what  people are predicting for next year. For your reading pleasure, here are a few of the things I stumbled upon. (Feel free, of course, to click on any of the links to see the sources’ full list of predictions.)

159188661Establishing a “chief of work.” Peter Andrew, workplace strategy director for Asia at real-estate company CBRE, predicts in Fortune the addition of a new position: chief of work. Most C-suites have not added new roles since the chief-information-officer title took hold about 20 years ago, but CBRE’s research suggests that’s about to change. For one thing, Andrew writes, companies today have human resources, IT and real-estate all acting separately and, often, unwittingly working against each other. He suggests that a chief of work would coordinate all that, with an eye toward building a culture that attracts top talent. Finding the most efficient balance between full-time employees and a growing army of independent contractors, he adds, will also be in that individual’s wheelhouse.

The rise of mobile assessments. From website CPA Practice Advisor: Mobile assessments will be increasingly tapped for selection, performance management, and training and development decisions. Technology, including social media and social collaboration, is changing the science and practice of selection, recruitment, performance management, engagement and learning, the article says. And I-O psychologists, it continues, will work to design assessments that are valid and reliable, regardless of how and where they are delivered.

Every child born in the next 12 months will learn coding as a core subject. Increasingly, Samsung writes, governments are recognizing that computer literacy is a fundamental, basic skill and are incorporate coding into their curriculums. For example, the UK, it says, launched a new computing curriculum during the current academic year, in which children as young as five are taught programming skills. In 2015 and beyond, Samsung predicts, such education innovations will gradually become the norm, with businesses, educators and governments working together to raise skills across Europe. Longer-term, it says, this trend will help spur the use of internships, as businesses recognize that they can benefit from welcoming young, computer-literate people into their organizations. “The need for employees to be computer literate,” Samsung says, will result in a wave of coding schools that will help longtime employees learn coding quickly.

Honesty will become a revered leadership trait. In a Forbes article, contributor Dan Schawbel predicts that “companies are going to start embracing transparency more next year as younger generations are demanding it.” Leaders, Schawbel writes, won’t just have to be good at inspiring and educating; they will have to be able to instill trust through honesty. “It’s only natural that people would want to work under leaders who are open about what the company is doing [and] where it’s heading in the future, and give honest feedback regularly,” he writes.

Niche becomes the norm. Korn Ferry’s Futurestep unit predicts “niche will become the norm” in talent acquisition.Now that organizations grasp the power of data,” Futurestep says, “next year, the challenge will be to prove ROI on all activities using analytics.” Organizations, it notes, need to be clear on the touch points that fit best with the types of candidates they are looking to attract. To that end, it says, interest and demand in creating functional talent communities is becoming top of mind as businesses strive to target hard to reach groups.

“Niche talent requires niche strategies,” says Chong Ng, president of Futurestep’s Asia- Pacific operation. “Whether it is businesses seeking high-demand talent such as STEM candidates, or organizations located in high-potential growth locations looking to specifically attract local talent back in the country, employers need to be more sophisticated in their attraction and retention methodologies in order to find and keep candidates.”

Companies will set new hiring priorities. Website Customer Think predicts employers will pay a lot closer attention to soft skills in 2015. “In the past,” writes Marcelo Brahimllari, “candidates were hired for open positions based primarily on their skills and experience. The ability to ‘do the work’ was traditionally valued over other skills.” But with more competition for jobs and deeper talent pools today, Brahimllari says, many employers are considering candidates’ so-called “soft” skills just as much, if not more, than education and experience. Employers, he writes, want to hire applicants who fit with the culture of the organization and share in its values. Traits such as honesty, flexibility, positive mind-set, creativity and leadership skills, he says, are being looked upon as being just as important as the ability to crunch numbers or write code.

Look forward to seeing you back here in 2015! Happy New Year!

Christmas Gifts for 1 Million: Jobs

There’s a movement afoot to put a million people to work by Christmas that does seem a bit outside your standard hiring 482134293 -- job seekingapproaches. First off, understand, this is not a company looking for employees. Nor is it a mere job fair. This is a relatively new organization known as Apploi, a jobs app and ecosystem that’s been traveling the country and hosting events aimed at helping job seekers find work.

It’s last week-long event in the Chicago area culminated this past Thursday, Aug. 28, in a final event at the city’s House of Blues. The event featured an information and training session, networking opportunities and meetings with hiring managers. That event capped off a week in which job seekers, using the app, were able to apply to jobs with a number of big companies in the region, including UNIQLO, Best Buy, Cinnabon, Piercing Pagoda and Forever 21.

Working under the banner and social hashtag #Million4Christmas, Apploi’s goal, according to its release is “to increase access to jobs for people across the United States and even beyond, while providing training and career advice to those looking for jobs in retail, service and support.”

Here is a video from an ABC News special in December of last year explaining how the app works. As its release states, it “transforms the initial point of capture for job seekers, allowing companies to see personality and soft skills up front, through video and audio questions; hire talent quickly, both through filters and screening tools and instant communication; [and] also provides greater access to people who previously couldn’t apply, due to lack of Internet, or who didn’t know about opportunities.”

Its public kiosks, it says, are available at companies, as well as job centers, community centers and colleges, workforce centers, and libraries in cities and towns throughout the country.

Exactly how this plays out and how the jobs are to be tallied and verified remains to be seen. As Apploi CEO Adam Lewis says, “helping 1 million job seekers find work by Christmas is, by no means, an easy task.”

On first impression, though, the effort seems to be one that can only help all involved, employers included.

Transforming Learning Through Mobile

Of course, it only seems natural that Qualcomm, which produces the chips used in mobile devices, would be leading the way in the move to mobile learning.

168769841During yesterday’s opening-day morning keynote at i4cp’s 2014 Conference at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Tamar Elkeles, vice president of learning and organizational development at Qualcomm, shared some of the ways Qualcomm (which has 31,000 people around the world) is applying learning to mobile devices.

Elkeles advised those attending the conference not to get left behind. “Mobile is not a fad,” she said. “It’s changing how we live, how we work and how we play.” (In the world of learning, Elkeles’ insight and advice carries a lot of weight.)

As the next generation of workers enters the workforce, Elkeles said, they’re not going to put up with sitting through a training class. They’ll be entering the workforce having done everything on mobile. So they’re going to expect that’s how learning is going to occur at any employer they work for.

One interesting stat she shared: Ten percent of those between ages 0 and 1 are using mobile devices. That’s right, 0 and 1. True, she said, they may not know how to read yet. But, holding up a single finger, Elkeles explained that’s all one needs to navigate the world of mobility, even if it’s limited to launching a Disney YouTube video.

Another stat she shared: By 2015, more than 300 million pre-K-through-12 school children will have mobile devices.

Referring to those now entering the workforce as the App Generation, Elkeles said these workers are beginning to transform the way Qualcomm thinks about its culture. Today, it’s one-size-fits-one, with people wanting their information right away.

What’s the best way people go about getting information these days? Google Search, she said. “You don’t go to the HR person. You don’t go to the policy manual. You go to search.”

In light of that, Elkeles added, Qualcomm has eliminated thousands of webpages that can now be accessed on search.

Elkeles told attendees she doesn’t know where things are going, but “we’re definitely at the beginning of something that’s big, and we know it’s going to be very disruptive.”

Apps represent the future of learning at Qualcomm, particularly for areas such as:

  • Employee orientation. (Let them download the app, before they’ve even started.)
  • Leadership development. “Your executives are mobile employees anyway,” Elkeles said.
  • Mandatory training. (Every two years, a certain number of folks at Qualcomm have to get recertified on sexual-harassment training — so by putting the training on a mobile device, they can now do it at the airport.)
  • Audio/language training. Elkeles cited the example of Café Coffee Day, an Indian coffee chain that uses an audio app to teach baristas English-language skills.

Elkeles walked attendees through a few of the apps Qualcomm has created, ranging from the entertaining (where an employee can create a photo image that shows him or her standing next to the company’s CEO) to the bit-more-practical (and also the most popular) Qmap, which enables employees to find their way around Qualcomm’s main campus and other global facilities.

Silent Majority Speaks Out

We’ve all experienced it, many of us probably more times than we’d like. There we are, sitting in a meeting, when all of a sudden we hear an annoying ringtone. It could be Beethoven’s 5th or something far worse. A second or two passes before one of your colleagues pulls out his or her iPhone or Android to take a call, scurrying to the door with an excuse-me look on his or her face. Not a good moment for that person or for his or her colleagues.

Worse yet, that person might be us.

158344061Uncivil behavior in the workplace can take many forms, but a case could easily be made that the misuse of smartphones and other mobile devices ranks somewhere near the top of the list of most repeated workplace annoyances.

It’s therefore no surprise to find more and more researchers studying these behaviors, with the latest coming from Peter W. Cardon of the Marshall School of Business (at the University of Southern California) and colleagues at Howard University. Their research, published yesterday in the Business Communications Quarterly, is reportedly one of the first studies (if not the first) to look at how attitudes toward these behaviors break down across things such as gender, age and region.

As might be expected, the findings confirm that most people consider such behaviors unacceptable, with 76 percent saying checking texts or emails is a no-no at business meetings and 87 percent of people saying that answering a call is rarely or never acceptable in such a setting.

Even at more informal business lunches, most (66 percent) consider writing or sending text messages rude.

If you notice more women shaking their heads in disgust than men, there’s probably good reason. The researchers — who questioned 550 full-time working professionals earning $30,000 a year or more — found men were nearly twice as likely as women to consider mobile-phone use at a business lunch acceptable. (More than 59 percent of men said it was OK to check text messages at a power lunch, compared to 34 percent of women who thought checking texts was appropriate.)

Before you reach for your silence button, though, it’s also worth mentioning that the findings offer a  glimmer of hope to those who think these behaviors aren’t all that bad.

Younger professionals were nearly three times as likely as older professionals to think tapping out a message over a business lunch is appropriate—66 percent of people under 30 said texting or emailing was OK, compared to just 20 percent of those aged 51 to 65.”

Which raises the troubling (at least to me) question: How different might things look 20 years from now?