Wearables in the enterprise…
Wearable’s. We’ve all heard of the term. And for the majority of us, whenever we hear it, Google Glass will be the first thing that comes to mind. Or, for the more health (and fitness) conscious amongst you – Nike Fuel bands.
Now, whilst many of you may have been following the development of wearables, an even smaller number of you will have been using them, and an even smaller number again will have been using them at the company you work for. But that might all be set to change – Particularly the using of them in your business part, and so this is what we are going to give attention to in this post.
Firstly, let’s be clear on exactly what wearables are… In the simplest sense they are small electronic devices that users wear, either directly on their body, in their clothing, or on top of their clothing. Unlike a smartphone where users have to stop what they are doing to interact with it, wearables do not require the user to change their behavior, as they can continually interact with it without necessarily knowing, meaning they can do other tasks when the wearable is in operation.
A wearable is made up of three key components:
1 – A sensor.
2 – The transmission of the data being recorded by the sensor.
3 – Presentation of the data, which should inform actions.
Types of wearables:
There are now many wearables available, but they can be categorised into six main areas; Glasses, Clothing, Smart Bands, Jewellery, Smart Headgear, and Watches. Within each category there are further sub categories. But we’ll leave that up to those of you interested enough, to find out what they are.
Examples of use for employee engagement.
1. Employee wellbeing
A popular way businesses are currently making use of wearables, is by providing their employees with tracking devices in order to monitor their health levels. BP is a good example of this. They offered their employees the use of FitBit, which is used to measure a range of personal health metrics. BP gamified the wearables experience by creating the ‘One-Million Steps Challenge’. It led to employees changing their behaviour in order to maximise the amount of walking they were doing (to amass points), ultimately benefitting their health – Which for BP is great, as it will lower healthcare premiums.
Virgin Pulse is another new personalised wearable fitness device focused on employee wellbeing. You can read more about it here.
2. Employee Training
The best way of learning is to learn as you do. Smart glasses can give employees training instructions, so they can gain valuable experience doing their actual job. Plus it gives managers the ability to measure how employees are doing during their training program.
Further potential uses.
The potential of wearables in the workplace is massive. Employees working in manufacturing or engineering roles can have guides and teachings displayed to them, which they can interact with hands free, when they are undertaking their work. This offers huge benefits for the safety and productivity of the employee.
Logistics is another area where wearables are a great fit, with many companies now realising this. Warehouse pickers can be directed straight to a product, or the tracking of machinery and operations can be analysed to look for advancements in efficiency.
Finally, employees who have customer-facing roles can be much better equipped for communication. They can immediately understand all of the customer’s vitals, and access requested information immediately. A great example of this can be seen here, from Virgin, who equipped some of their cabin crew as part of a test.
Factors to consider
Barriers to entry
One of the benefits of Wearables in the workplace is an increase in employee productivity. Yet if employees also use the wearables for personal communications there is a danger that because wearables are always on them, distractions could be high, meaning productivity could be low. Think Google Glass, and how messages that are served to them are in view at all times.
The arrival of new technology will always raise a concern over privacy and security, especially so with wearables, due to the high volume of data. Plus, do employees want to be constantly monitored by their employers? Are employees and also customers happy to be on camera? Can IT support the huge volumes of data that wearables will provide? And are there resources available to interpret it? These are some of the issues that need to be given careful thought and planning.
No business need
That is the reason many give as to why wearables are not being used in their company. It’s fair to say that whoever offers this as a reason has done so with little to no experience of using wearables, and has not gone through the challenging part of thinking how wearables could enhance the way employees carry out functions.
How to aid adoption?
Identify a group of ‘guinea pig’ employees, who will experiment with the wearable devices and report their findings. This type of training will help to educate company leaders on the role wearables can play in the business, and also help to develop employees. Clearly then the goal is to demonstrate the business value of wearable technology.
Three key design points for best practice:
1. Less is more.
Keep everything simple and to the absolute minimum: Wearables are used very frequently and in each instance for a short period of time. Content and user experience must be kept to the point, so that their real life actions, informed through the wearable, can take place as fast as possible.
Wearables are all about communicating information that will help employees change their behavior. It is not a tool to use to try and force behaviour change. Because wearables are always on the user, you must be careful when it comes to notifications and alerts. The best wearables are those that the user hardly knows they are wearing.
Wearables do not work in isolation. They must be a part of a bigger network of devices, tools and software. For example, even though the wearable will be responsible for generating a notification, the response to this may be better served through another device.
Now is the time to reconsider how work could be done / improved through the use of a wearable device. It’s important to always remember that wearables are a completely new technology, and not just an extension of the smartphone. So you must think beyond the capabilities of a smartphone. Being a frontrunner in understanding how wearables could be used in your business could give you a big advantage over your slower competitors. If you need help with identifying ways of utilising wearables in your workplace, then please do get in touch.
Until next time…