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How the Internet of Things May Impact HR Technology

Mobile and cloud computing. 3-D printing. Data analytics. These are just a sampling of high-tech terms and concepts that are rapidly becoming the new corporate vernacular – in HR circles as much as anyplace.

With our society seemingly becoming technology-obsessed every waking moment of every day, HR professionals have no choice but to adapt to innovations in processes from recruiting and hiring to payroll and benefits management. One intriguing concept that’s garnering a lot of media attention these days is the so-called “Internet of Things” (IoT).

The IoT, as defined by Techopedia and cited in a recent HR Bartender blog post, seems simple enough: “…a computing concept that describes a future where everyday physical objects will be connected to the Internet and be able to identify themselves to other devices.”

The post provides some examples of “wearables” and app-controlled devices that are often associated with the IoT: fitness and activity trackers; smart thermostats that can respond to weather forecasts; Web-enabled lights. It makes perfect sense when applied to consumer products, but how is the IoT impacting the HR business?

The blog post rightly points out that adapting to the burgeoning IoT ecosystem is about more than just the products and widgets that companies are bringing to market. It is also about connections, partnerships and adapting HR skills to recruiting and training talent who have become mobile app-driven job seekers. Then there are all matter of data security and privacy considerations for when a company’s internal HRIS, payroll or workforce management systems inevitably become part of the IoT ecosystem. 

Taking the 'Human' Out of Human Resources?

Another recent blog post from HR Zone contends that the IoT has the potential to subsume the “humanity” of HR jobs that will be overwhelmed in the near future by a preponderance of “things” and technological innovations.

While that may seem draconian, the IoT does seem to be practically taking on a life of its own. The post cites a prediction that, within five years, more than 50 billion “things” will be connected to the Internet, with four-fifths of those being mobile devices. There’s no doubt that HR roles will be increasingly dominated by digital enhancements, especially when it comes to recruiting hyper-connected potential hires.

What’s more, with a formerly hot area like search engine optimization (SEO) fading from front burners and data analytics becoming a more sought-after knowledge and skill set, some HR jobs could be consolidated in favor of individuals who are proficient in, say, Google analytics and marketing automation knowledge.  

But that may be the tip of the iceberg for IoT disruption in the workplace. On top of recruiting practices, areas like benefits administration and organizational safety will be faced with IoT integration. Members of the workforce bringing personal fitness devices, Internet watches or Google Glasses to the office will necessitate enhanced information security and personal privacy policies at organizations across the nation, and perhaps worldwide. There will be no let-up in the need for proactive management and evolving operating procedures in order for companies to remain competitive and ahead of the IoT curve. 

The Internet of Me

Well-known HR editor and HRE blogger Steve Boese discusses some “transformative macro-technology” trends he encountered in a recent technology report issued by leading consulting firm Accenture (“The Accenture Technology Vision 2015”).

The trends he highlights are accompanied by real-world examples of corresponding HR innovations. One that is particularly eye-catching is billed “The Internet of Me,” which takes the IoT concept a step further by integrating increasingly personalized products and services into corporate culture.

As an example, he cites HR start-up BrandAmper’s development of a unique application that more closely aligns individual employees’ and customers’ personal brands with the overall corporate branding message. It may seem to be a futuristic concept, but one that we may be hearing more about because it represents a potential win/win scenario for employers and employees alike. 

The IoT is but one aspect of an explosion in technology that will no doubt dominate more of the budgets and mindsets of HR organizations in the foreseeable future. As co-chair of HRE’s annual HR Technology Conference, Steve Boese feels strongly that HR technology and innovation are very much at the forefront of the technology evolution in our culture. The next five or so years will tell if he’s right.

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