Make It So

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In one of the versions of the television series Star Trek, the crew and passengers of the Starship Enterprise are able to use holograms to spend time in a virtual, life-like landscape. In this virtual world, the characters on the television show were able to interact with, move, feel, and talk to images in a way that wasn’t possible beyond a world of make-believe technological capabilities.

Fast-forward to the present day. What was once imagined in a sci-fi television show has become a reality. The use of holographic technology is quickly becoming a practical component of the workplace training and development toolkit. HoloLens technology allows for workers to interact with complex work-related processes in a virtual space.

Click here the link to view a clip of HoloLens technology in action.

Click here to read about HoloLens technology application in the workplace.

As we know through our training and development studies, repeated practice of a particular skill allows for increased self-efficacy and individual competence. In some professions or fields, however, opportunities to practice work-related skills may be few and far between, and there may be high levels of risk when trainees are still in the early stages of competency development.

Novice nurses, for example, have to apply theoretical learning in a live setting, which requires practicing techniques on fellow human beings. Construction engineers must be able to ensure that facility structures are sound as they transition from traditional paper design to brick-and-mortar buildings. If nurses or the engineers are able to see and feel what they are supposed to be doing by practicing in a virtual space, their transitions to live practice may be faster and more effective.

It seems that HoloLens technology will allow for repeated practice, not only for those who are new to their professions, but as an on-going training tool that can be used with minimal risk or damage during the competency development stage. Imagine how Human Resources-related training functions, such as Health & Safety practices (WHMIS training, Personal Protective Equipment, Lock-out procedures), could be improved through the use of virtual technology. What was once presented through a one-way lecture-style format, or an on-line training option, can now be offered in an interactive and virtually engaging way that is geared to individual learning and reflective practice.

It is just a matter of time until this too is actual, not virtual, reality.

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Identify five different training practices that could be developed through the use of virtual technology tools.
  2. How would these training practices improve self-efficacy and worker competencies?
  3. Virtual technology, such as HoloLens technology, may be an expensive training investment. Develop a plan that promotes the use of virtual technology in the workplace from a cost-benefit perspective.

Brain Learning

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Human beings have amazing brains. We are able to think, create, and produce at an astounding rate thanks to the thousands of cell-based activities that take place in our grey matter. Most importantly our brains allow us to learn, and to keep learning, well into mature adulthood.

In his article, Inside the Learning Brain, Nick Dam provides a framework for effective corporate learning based on the theories of cognitive neuroscience – brain learning.

Click here to read the article.

In order for corporate learning to take place, Dam confirms that adult learners must have an environment that allows for focused attention, high engagement, and single-tasking. At the same time, the environment that supports adult brains for effective learning is shifting rapidly through the ever-increasing intervention of external technology, especially social media.

The impact of this type of environment and its effect on learning is explored in the following clip: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains.

Both the article and the video clip support a common premise that we need to embed information into memory in order for learning to take place. This is called memory consolidation, which allows us to build knowledge; built knowledge allows for new learning to take place. This type of learning happens when our brains are allowed to be peaceful and focused. As we see in the video clip, memory consolidation and learning is becoming more challenging as our technology-driven brains crave the external stimulus of constant interruptions.

From a training and development perspective, the challenge for the Human Resources practitioner is to create the conditions and the space that enable effective learning to happen.

We need to work hard to figure out how to do this — but first, one more cute kitten video.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How much time per day do you give yourself for quiet contemplation, with no external distractions?
  2. Thinking of your own learning patterns. How much information have you retained from yesterday’s Internet searches?
  3. Are your work or study patterns focused on single-tasking or multi-tasking? Which pattern is easier? Why?

Chipping In?

Hand with digital images
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We microchip our pets. Looks like it’s time to microchip our people.

Human chip tracking systems have arrived. This technology is already implanted, implemented and being used in the workplace around the world.

Click Here to Read the Article and Watch the Clip

From the perspective of a ‘bio-hacker,’ the introduction of a microchip under the skin for employees seems to be a logical thing. An implanted RFID appears to make a human’s work-life easier by allowing for automatic interaction with numerous electronic devices. Employees can access the ‘internet of things’ without needing to remember passcodes in their brains or carry key-cards on their persons. Opening locked doors, turning on the computer or accessing a code-only photocopier now requires a simple swipe of one’s hand near the device and, presto, it works! It works because each microchip is coded with the individual employee’s personal identification.

Bio-devices such as microchips can measure and track anything and anyone.

This is where the ethical boundaries may start to become a bit fuzzy. If an implanted microchip is used by employees to access employer devices, it surely can be used by the employer to access and track employee behaviour.

When our pets get lost, they can be found thanks to microchip technology. When an employee is ‘lost,’ or absent from work for an unknown reason, will an employer resist the temptation to track the absent employee’s whereabouts through similar human microchip technology?

As HR professionals, we need to be ready to deal with the moral and ethical impact of this type of interactive and intrusive technology, today.

After all, we will be swiping open the doors to a very brave new world, tomorrow.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What types of employee tracking would benefit an employer using human microchip technology to monitor the workforce?
  2. Would you agree to have a microchip implanted in your hand as a condition of employment? Why or why not?
  3. What types of benefits are there for employees to have implanted microchip technology?

 

Faster, Better, Cheaper – Really?

Outsourcing concept with hand pressing social icons on blue world map background.
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“Optus cut jobs by outsourcing HR and finance teams.”

How can outsourcing HR and finance staff, in order to cut costs, be a sound organizational decision? For HR professionals, the headline in the article for this particular blog topic brings up some key strategic questions.

Click here to read the article.

First and foremost, the decision to cut jobs is financial. Given that the biggest expenditure on a corporate balance sheet is usually employee compensation, it is a natural correlation to make – cut the biggest expenditure to curtail the financial losses.

It is, however, a deceptively easy solution that does not always produce the desired result.

In this particular article, the outsourced HR functions are in the areas of data analytics and trend analysis. These data management tools are used by HR to promote organizational and business systems decisions and sound strategic planning. If HR is to deliver value on these strategic functions, of course, the search for the ‘fastest, cheapest, best’ solutions should be an ongoing part of strategic evaluation. These are critical functions that HR should be driving in order to provide technology based solutions that contribute to lines of business success and organizational growth.

Outsourcing routine, technology-based processes seems to offer an easy solution. It may be ‘easier’ but, as a long-term sustainable solution, it too may miss the mark in supporting organizational success.

On the other hand, digital systems integration and data-management platforms can harness the technical complexities of critical HR systems. Automated processes can be implemented internally to produce significant cost-savings and improve operational results.

Outsourcing appears to be a cheap and fast solution. Is it the right solution? In this case, we do not have the full account of facts and insights behind this specific organizational decision.

It does, however, emphasize the need for HR to understand and monitor technology-based systems. Further, HR must have an active voice as part of data based operational processes so that outsourcing any function (including HR) comes as one alternative in a range of sustainable solutions.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why do you think Optus is choosing to outsource as the preferred solution in this case?
  2. Identify four HR administrative functions that can be automated using current technology based solutions.
  3. As an HR professional, what advice will you give to Optus about the impact of outsourcing on employee engagement and morale?
  4. What decisions would you make about outsourcing HR functions in this particular case?

Is Technology the Great Equalizer?

Blind person using computer
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Most of us are able to access a myriad of information and training opportunities through the effective use of communication technology. Some members of our respective communities, however, are not able to access the same information and training opportunities because the technology is, for them, inaccessible.

The issue of accessibility to training, development, and employment is a huge barrier for persons with disabilities.  In many cases, this barrier can be eliminated through effective modifications or enhancements of technology, so that persons with disabilities can access training programs provided by technology-based delivery platforms and devices. When individuals who are disabled are given the tools to access training programs, they are able to access the future, just like everyone else.

Recently, a successful training program for persons with vision loss or who are blind, was implemented in South Africa.

Read an article on the training program

It is interesting to note that the resources used to provide training to persons who are blind or partially sighted are already available through Apple touch technologies. This availability knocks down a second barrier that gets in the way of hiring persons with disabilities. These technologies are not only available, they are also affordable. No longer do employers have to argue about the cost considerations involved in providing modified or adapted equipment for persons with disabilities. The technology is in itself adapted and modified to fit multiple employee needs without additional cost.

With accessibility and affordability obstacles out of the way, a disabled person who is trained in the effective use of technology should have fewer barriers preventing them from their rightful access to equal employment.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Identify three different types of accessibility functions that are available on your own personal technology devices. How do these accessibility functions assist persons who may be partially sighted?
  2. What types of technology based training programs do you think can be modified easily for persons with disabilities?
  3. As an HR Practitioner, how will you ensure that your workplace training programs are accessible to employees with disabilities?