The explosion of technology available to people outside the workplace is forcing employers to keep up with their employees’ digital expectations within it. In our 2018 Digital Employee Experience Survey, CEB, now Gartner, found that 74 percent of employees say they expect more access to state-of-the-art technology at work today than three years ago. However, these technologies can take different forms: Motorola’s modular phones, for instance, offer a multitude of features ranging from camera styles to gaming platforms, while the Light Phone markets itself as a “dumb phone” with features limited to calling and texting.
Both of these phones are at the leading edge of mobile technology, but they offer their users dramatically different experiences and are marketed to different sets of consumers with different preferences. HR leaders face a similar challenge in choosing from the growing range of options available to them how to most effectively deliver technology to their own consumers: employees.
When deploying new digital technologies, most HR functions focus on making as many digital solutions available to employees as possible. Many accomplish this by putting their HR resources into an app, providing “on-demand access” where all information is available anytime and anywhere. Just like we as consumers are used to having access to most types of information on demand outside of work, replicating that experience internally for employees has a certain appeal for organizations.
However, the results of an on-demand approach don’t live up to employers’ expectations: Our latest research on digitalization has found that deploying HR solutions through on-demand access only generates a 4 percent impact on employee performance, at most. This is better than no promotion of digital tools at all, but despite its intuitive appeal, in practice the on-demand approach overwhelms employees, confronting them with too much information and too many choices about how to use HR solutions.
Fortunately, there’s a better way.
A group led by former Tinder CTO Ryan Ogle has launched Ripple, a mobile competitor to LinkedIn. Rather than try to match up with LinkedIn’s growing list of features, however, the new app is focused solely on networking and includes a number of interesting features.
For one, Ripple hopes to gain from its mobile capability is the opportunity to take advantage of proximity. Users will be able to find potential contacts nearby and also start networking events using the app. This new offering, which originated from an internal hackathon at Tinder and eventually spun off into its own company, will be able to draw information from your LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook profiles and also—perhaps controversially—allow you to take pictures of people using your smartphone and find their profiles.
Ripple will also employ the swipe function popularized by its dating app cousin, but Ogle insists that Tinder is a lot more than swiping and plans for Ripple to include more detailed profile information such as job history, education, etc. without going to a new screen.
“People have misconstrued why Tinder succeeded,” Ogle tells TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez. “Certainly, the swipe was interesting, engaging and fun. But the reasons why Tinder succeeded were far deeper than that. We thought a lot about the psychology of networking and the problems… what holds people back and prevents them from achieving what they want to achieve.”
In order to fill a shortage of programmers, tech organizations have taken to hiring out of coding bootcamps, which advocates also see as a way to improve the diversity sector’s talent pipeline. Learning to code is widely perceived as the steadiest meal ticket available in today’s job market, with so many employers desperate to overcome the programming skills gap. However, not all tech jobs are coding jobs; with the emergence of software that allows people to build applications without writing code themselves, Fast Company’s Cale Guthrie Weissman explores the opportunities this has opened up for non-coders to do technical work:
Heather Bryant, a young woman who lives in Los Angeles and works at the company Sodexo, does just this. Her official title is a “technical solutions director,” and one of her primary roles is building apps. Bryant, however, has no background whatsoever in coding. In fact, she went to school for sports journalism. Sodexo describes itself as a “contract management services provider.” In laymen terms, that means they set up all the extraneous needs of a business—be they janitorial services, painting, catering, anything infrastructure related, etc. One of Sodexo’s primary functions is creating applications that help project management. These apps help streamline how information is recorded and how it’s presented to people on a team.
Bryant’s job is to help build these applications. Her company uses a program called QuickBase, which is a platform for app building. It automates all the technical parts to make it possible for a layman to build at least a rudimentary business application. Before Bryant took up her role, Sodexo had outsourced app building. Her first role at Sodexo was in data entry, but one day she found herself playing around with an application that just wasn’t working right. After a lot of trial and error on the QuickBase platform, “I was able to rebuild the application how I thought it should be built,” she says.
“Telemedicine” is a big new thing for employers these days and only getting bigger, no matter what the skeptics tell you. Some organizations are exploring its potential for mental health services as well; Mark McGraw at HRE takes a look at the emerging field of “telemental health”:
Healthcare law firm Epstein Becker Green recently conducted a state-by-state analysis of legal issues related to telemental health, finding that new interactive audio and video platforms, computer programs and mobile applications are “driving [a] boom” in telemental health, with a “significant increase” in mobile applications related to mental health. The Epstein Becker Green report cites recent estimates suggesting that 6 percent of all mobile health applications developed are focused on providing mental health services to users, with another 11 percent devoted to offering stress management services.
The remote nature of telemental health makes it ideal for many workplaces, says Rene Quashie, senior counsel in Epstein Becker Green’s healthcare and life sciences practice, and one of the study’s authors. …Still, it’s fair to say that a stigma still exists around those dealing with such issues.
Telemental health, however, may provide needed encouragement to employees who are hesitant to seek help from their employers in confronting those issues, says Amy Bergner, the Washington-based senior director of healthcare and benefits at PwC. “I think it’s probably a question of comfort for some, because maybe a person is more comfortable [addressing mental health issues] with a remote provider,” says Bergner.
Wall Street Journal reporter Rachel Emma Silverman highlights some examples of employers that have already adopted this technology:
Blendoor Site Screenshot
Sherrell Dorsey at The Root shines a light on the mobile job-matching app Blendoor, which its creator Stephanie Lampkin built “out of the frustration at not being taken seriously in the tech industry despite boasting an engineering degree from Stanford, and an MBA from MIT Sloan”:
Coding since the age of 13, Lampkin worked hard to develop her skills and expertise in the tech field. When she went to apply for a data analytics role at Microsoft after having worked for the tech behemoth for several years, she was turned down with the suggestion that she’d be a better fit for a sales or marketing position.
“We’re moving the word diversity, which has become highly diluted, from our vocabulary and exchanging it with the word merit,” Lampkin told The Root. Lampkin, like most highly qualified candidates, knows she has the qualifications to be successful in the industry but may not necessarily fit the traditional mode, which has led to the disproportionate representation that top tech companies are now being criticized for.
For the last two years, Lampkin has been grinding away to get Blendoor off the ground. She has since developed several strategic partnerships with IBM, Intel and Apple. Blendoor, operating akin to platforms like LinkedIn and Monster, draws companies who pay upwards of $400 to advertise available positions for candidates who subscribe to the service for free.
I think this is a great idea: It’s one of many different products out there focused on getting more diverse candidates into the tech sector (which certainly needs a lot of help). It makes me think, though, about the criticism of “apps for the 1 percent.” These apps connect highly qualified candidates to available jobs, but they don’t necessarily help companies source talent from underrepresented demographics through non-traditional pipelines—e.g., former inmates who learned to code in prison, or graduates of lower-tier schools who are just as good as Ivy Leaguers but don’t often get a second look.