How the Workplace Will Change in 2018

How the Workplace Will Change in 2018

Over the past few years, we have witnessed a marked acceleration in the pace of change in the workplace. Each year brings with it new innovations, ideas, and passing fads, as well as social, political, and economic events that affect employers all across the world. 2017 was no exception: Tight labor markets driving competition for talent, concerns over automation and displacement amid the growing embrace of new technologies, the first year of the Trump administration, and the rise of the #MeToo movement were just a few of the many events and trends that impacted the working world last year. In 2018, we anticipate that some of these developments will continue to reverberate, while new challenges and opportunities will arrive.

Here are some of the major developments that employers can expect to see this year, in the US and around the world:

The Sexual Harassment Reckoning Will Only Grow

In the second half of 2017, revelations of sexual harassment, misconduct, and assault poured out of Silicon Valley and Hollywood, sparking a long-overdue conversation about the treatment of women and the harboring of known abusers in these male-dominated industries, as well as in politics, media, and other fields. Powerful men, from Hollywood moguls to tech CEOs to members of the US Congress, were toppled by multiple allegations of sexual misconduct ranging from inappropriate workplace behavior to outright assault. Organizations in all sectors are facing unprecedented public attention to their sexual harassment policies, how diligently they enforce them, and whether they uphold an inclusive and respectful work environment. If the reckoning didn’t come to your industry in the past few months, it likely will this year. Business leaders in corporate America and around the world will have their past and present behavior scrutinized, and some will be exposed as abusers and face strong public and investor pressure to step down. Addressing toxic workplace cultures that enable sexual harassment will become an issue of even greater concern for directors and HR leaders. Companies can ill afford to close their eyes and hope for this problem to go away on its own; time really is up.

The Private Sector Will Lead the Way on Raising the Minimum Wage

Congress is unlikely to take action to increase the federal minimum wage in 2018. Some states will raise their minimum wages, as will some cities, while other states will take action to preempt local hikes. Meanwhile, companies will take it upon themselves to increase their pay floors in order to attract and retain talent in a tight labor market. As large employers of low-wage hourly workers like Walmart and Target increase their own minimum wages, other companies will need to follow suit to remain competitive.

Technology, Social Media, and Journalists Will Continue to Bring Transparency into Company Culture

Companies’ cultures and employer brands are in the spotlight now more than ever before. The decisions, approaches, policies, and beliefs through which companies manage their employees will play a dramatically larger role in how consumers and investors (not just candidates and employees) view the company. In 2018, this will put pressure on companies to manage their employer brands through HR as aggressively as they protect their consumer brands through PR.

CEOs Will Be Forced to Take Stands on Political And Social Issues

Throughout 2018, the political polarization and dysfunction that has prevailed in Washington, D.C. recently will almost certainly persist, while gender equality, diversity, immigration, LGBT rights, and other issues with major workplace implications will remain hot-button topics. While some CEOs have already found their voices when it comes to responding to the news of the day, others will feel pressure this year from customers, employees, and investors alike to be more vocal about their beliefs and to back them up with concrete actions within their companies.

AI Will Play a Bigger Role In Hiring, Raising the Risk of Algorithmic Bias

The use of AI and algorithms in hiring decisions has already grown dramatically. In 2018, companies will continue to adopt these technologies, but many will also begin to recognize the danger of algorithmic bias. While these automated solutions have shown promise in terms of improving quality, efficiency, and even fairness in the recruiting process, they also run the risk of harming diversity in the workforce by replicating biases that already exist within the company.

Adoption of Wearables in the Workplace Will Increase

In 2017, 3 percent of companies introduced wearable technology in the workplace, giving employees smart badges to monitor their behavior in order to track productivity and identify inefficiencies in the use of office space. In 2018, as more companies adopt technology that can track the location and behavioral data of employees, companies will begin to use this data to redesign workspaces, schedules, and workflows to maximize employee productivity. As these technologies become more mainstream, employers may not have to worry as much as they think about employees resisting their implementation, but should think carefully about how much actionable insight they are gaining by monitoring their employees.

More Employees Will Change Jobs Due to a Lack of Respect

While compensation continues to be the top driver of attraction for candidates globally, respect was the the fourth most important driver in our Global Talent Monitor Report for Q3 2017. In 2018, the labor market will continue to remain tight and employees will feel that they have enough control to speak openly about the lack of respect or appreciation. If companies aren’t able to provide increased compensation or opportunities for growth, they should look at ways to improve employees’ sense of respect in order to retain talent.

Microsoft Adding AI to Its HoloLens Headset, Eyeing Workplace Use

Microsoft Adding AI to Its HoloLens Headset, Eyeing Workplace Use

On Sunday, Microsoft released plans for its second-generation HoloLens headset, announcing that the next design of the augmented-reality glasses will incorporate a powerful AI coprocessor. That AI will allow the device to independently analyze sensory data, including what a user sees and hears, without needing to send that data off to the cloud. This will save processing time, making the device faster and more powerful while still preserving the user’s mobility. (For a deeper look at this type of device-native AI technology, read this Bloomberg piece.)

Microsoft’s news also came just a few days after Google’s announcement of a new Glass Enterprise offering. Lisa Eadicicco goes over the differences between the devices for Time:

While the basic concepts behind HoloLens and Google Glass overlap, in execution they couldn’t be less alike. Google Glass is meant to be physically insubstantial like a pair of literal glasses, only noticeable when someone needs it for a specific task. It displays a small virtual screen above the wearer’s eye, which can be glanced at without disrupting other visual tasks. The new version is even friendlier, able to clip onto existing eyeglasses and rendering the technology more accessible for those who need prescription glasses or protective eyewear in their jobs (though it must remain in wireless range of a smartphone to work properly).

HoloLens, by contrast, is much more immersive, since it can display larger graphics that fall within the wearer’s field of view. And unlike Glass, it’s also a functionally holistic device, unconstrained by reliance on smartphone or virtual-reality-style computer tethers to operate. All of HoloLens’s necessary computing components are baked into the headset.

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The Coming Age of Employee-Monitoring Tech

The Coming Age of Employee-Monitoring Tech

The Boston-based employee analytics company Humanyze has been using “sociometric badges”—wearable “people analytics” technology that tracks workers’ movements, body language, tone of voice, and other indicators—to make surprising discoveries about the workplace since its founding a few years ago. They found, for example, that teams who eat lunch in large groups tend to be more productive, and a profile at Co.Exist late last year laid out some other interesting findings:

Its favorite example comes from one of Bank of America’s call centers, which suffered form the usual problems of burnout and higher turnover. A stint wearing badges revealed that the most productive workers frequently shared tips and frustrations with their colleagues. So the company recommended ditching individually staggered breaks in favor of 15 minutes of shared downtime. This supposedly less efficient arrangement—no one is manning the phones—led to shorter calls and lower stress while increasing productivity by more than 10%. “If you can use data to figure out things that are pinpoint small and easy to implement,” says [CEO and co-founder Ben] Waber, “they can have order of magnitude effects.”

Two of his favorite tools are cafeteria tables and coffee machines. In one case, simply increasing the size of table from four people to 12 and instituting company-wide lunch hours led to individual productivity increases as high as 25%, thanks to better communication within teams and larger social networks. In another engagement, Humanyze helped Cubist Pharmaceuticals (since acquired by Merck) increase sales by 20 percent, or $200 million. Badge data revealed when Cubist’s sales force increased their interactions with coworkers on other teams by 10%, their sales also grew by 10%. To increase mingling among teams, the company replaced many small coffee stations with several larger ones, imperceptibly seeding the encounters it hoped to see.

Humanyze has already sold thousands of these badges, which Weber says are “like a Fitbit for your career,” to large companies, and it’s looking to expand its reach. Next month, the company is releasing a new badge that’s just slightly larger than a credit card, Thomas Heath reports at the Washington Post:

Each has two microphones doing real-time voice analysis, and each comes with sensors that follow where you are in the office, with motion detectors to record how much you move. The beacons tracking your movements are omitted from bathroom locations, to give you some privacy.

“Within three or four years, every single ID badge is going to have these sensors,” predicted [Waber]. “We are only scratching the surface right now.”

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Your New Wellness Coach Could Be a Bot

Your New Wellness Coach Could Be a Bot

Robin Mestre, the principal strategic advisor at Google for Work, takes to the pages of Fast Company to discuss how machine learning technologies are transforming our approach to workplace wellness, offering ways to automatically encourage or enable healthier behaviors:

Broadly speaking, the biggest potential advantage to bringing in machine learning for on-the-job health is that it’s all about putting data we already have into action in real time. Fitness trackers do that to a certain extent already, and many of them are designed to use that data to help modify users’ behavior (though some are skeptical as to how successfully).

But not all tools based on machine learning are wearables, and many can still give you in-the-moment nudges in subtle, helpful ways (that don’t make you feel bad about yourself). A recent one that we’ve built here at Google is the Goals feature of Google Calendar, released last month and meant to help people find time for their goals—whether that’s going to the gym or wrapping up creative projects on schedule. After answering a few simple questions like “How often”? and “Best time?” Google Calendar finds the optimal window in your schedule and automatically reschedules if a conflict comes up.

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