Microsoft has added a series of new AI and mixed reality services to its enterprise software product line Dynamics 365, VentureBeat reported last week, including tools based on its HoloLens augmented reality headset:
Mixed reality services from Microsoft for the workplace were first made available in preview in May and will become generally available in the coming weeks, a Microsoft spokesperson told VentureBeat. Remote Assist allows technicians and experts within companies to see what frontline workers can see, then help them solve problems using HoloLens while they work with their hands. It’s a scenario as old as the corporate VR/AR craze itself.
Layout, another mixed reality tool, helps people visualize the placing of items in commercial or industrial settings, working with 3D models to resize, move, and quickly edit layouts with real-world scale. Companies like Chevron currently use Remote Assist today for facility inspections.
The new AI services include a program to help sales managers analyze and improve their associates’ performance, as well as new customer service and market research tools. Microsoft first began presenting the HoloLens as an enterprise tool last year, when it unveiled a second-generation design incorporating a powerful AI coprocessor. That announcement came within a week of Google unveiling the enterprise version of its own AR headset, Google Glass.
The applications for these mixed-reality devices are wide-ranging, with some companies already using them in manufacturing, shipping, and health care. One of the clearest use cases for VR and AR in the workplace is in learning, where it offers a way to immerse new employees in real-life work scenarios with drastically lower risk and expense than real-life immersion training. Walmart has been among the vanguard of large employers experimenting in this area; last year, the retailer announced plans to expand VR training to all 200 of its training centers after a successful pilot project. Now, it’s taking its commitment to VR training one step further and planning to deploy Oculus Go headsets at each of its 5,000 stores to allow for more frequent training, TechCrunch reported last week:
Google has developed a new feature for its G Suite of enterprise software that will enable managers to track whether and how employees are using various G Suite apps such as Gmail and Google Docs, the tech giant revealed this week. The tool, called “Work Insights,” is now in beta after being previewed with a small set of business customers, and will allow administrators to “gain visibility into which teams are working together and how they’re collaborating” and “review trends around file-sharing, document co-editing, and meetings to help foster connections, strengthen collaboration and reduce silos.”
To protect employee privacy, Google added, Work Insights only produces aggregated data analytics for teams of ten people or more, so admins will not be able to monitor individual employees’ use of G Suite apps, but will be able to see, for example, how many employees in a given business unit are using Google Hangouts.
The move looks like part of Google’s efforts to make G Suite more competitive against Microsoft’s enterprise technology collection, Office 365, CNBC’s Jillian D’Onfro noted in reporting the news. G Suite had 4 million paying customers as of this past February, whereas Microsoft counts 135 million active monthly commercial users of Office 365, which made its own Workplace Analytics feature generally available in 2017. Workplace Analytics also only uses aggregated and de-identified data to provide insights on a team, not individual, level.
A group of job seekers, backed by the Communications Workers of America and the American Civil Liberties Union, filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Tuesday against Facebook and nine employers who they say used the social media site’s demographic targeting features to discriminate against female candidates in job ads, the New York Times reports:
The employers appear to have used Facebook’s targeting technology to exclude women from the users who received their advertisements, which highlighted openings for jobs like truck driver and window installer. The charges were filed on behalf of any women who searched for a job on Facebook during roughly the past year. …
The lawyers involved in the case said they discovered the targeting by supervising a group of workers who performed job searches through their Facebook accounts and clicked on a variety of employment ads. For each ad, the job seekers opened a standard Facebook disclosure explaining why they received it. The disclosure for the problematic ads said the users received them because they were men, often between a certain age and in a certain location.
The job search website CareerBuilder has rolled out a new mobile app that uses artificial intelligence and augmented reality to help job seekers apply and employers find candidates more quickly and easily, VentureBeat reported last week:
The mobile app has some attention-grabbing features. It can build your resume, apply to jobs on your behalf, and show augmented reality views of job openings at the businesses you walk by. It also helps you develop the skills needed for a better-paying job.
And for [employers], the mobile app shows the real-time supply and demand trends for talent you need. It instantly builds your job descriptions, automatically matches your job openings to candidates who are more likely to respond, and runs campaigns to engage them.
CareerBuilder’s mobile app is the latest in a series of new technological innovations search engines and job boards have unveiled in the past year to simplify and streamline the job search process and to provide prospective applicants with additional information about organizations and roles. Google’s built-in job search function was launched in the US last year and has since expanded to India, Canada, and the UK. The search giant has also developed new tools for recruiters, including an AI-powered candidate discovery feature and its Cloud Talent Solution product, which it made publicly available last month. Facebook has also added a dedicated job search functionality, which it has rolled out in 40 countries. The Japanese HR conglomerate Recruit Holdings, which owns Indeed, made a deal to acquire Glassdoor earlier this year.
The Future of Jobs 2018, a new report from the World Economic Forum, includes the organization’s latest forecast of how automation will reshape the future of work. As soon as 2025, the report predicts, more than half of “all current workplace tasks” will be performed by machines, up from 29 percent today. That doesn’t mean the world is facing the mass displacement of human workers by machines: The report predicts that automation will create 133 million new jobs by 2022 even as it destroys 75 million. It does mean, however, that employers and governments need to be proactive in readying the workforce to perform the higher-skill jobs AI, robotics, and other emerging technologies will create, according to a statement from the WEF:
Based on a survey of chief human resources officers and top strategy executives from companies across 12 industries and 20 developed and emerging economies (which collectively account for 70% of global GDP), the report finds that 54% of employees of large companies would need significant re- and up-skilling in order to fully harness the growth opportunities offered by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. At the same time, just over half of the companies surveyed said they planned to reskill only those employees that are in key roles while only one third planned to reskill at-risk workers.
While nearly 50% of all companies expect their full-time workforce to shrink by 2022 as a result of automation, almost 40% expect to extend their workforce generally and more than a quarter expect automation to create new roles in their enterprise.
The WEF reached its headline figures by extrapolating from the companies it surveyed, where executives predicted a decline of 984,000 jobs and a gain of 1.74 million jobs between now and 2022. The report also finds that all industries are facing significant skills gaps, with regard to both technical skills and “distinctly human skills, such as creativity, critical thinking and persuasion.” Reskilling and upskilling the workforce for this change is “the key challenge of our time,” WEF Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab said in the statement.
Microsoft is planning a new, $570 million Canadian headquarters in Toronto, GeekWire reported last week, becoming the latest in a series of major US tech companies to announce large-scale investments in Canada:
The Redmond, Wash., software giant announced plans to build a massive new Canadian headquarters in Toronto, promising to invest $570 million in the facility. Microsoft expects to move into the new facility, located at 81 Bay Street, in Sept. 2020. The company will relocate its current Canadian headquarters and several other offices, dispersed through the country, to the new headquarters.
Toronto is having a bit of a moment on the global tech stage. Google sister company Sidewalk Labs is developing a plan to create an innovation district on the Toronto waterfront as a proof-of-concept for technologists who believe they can improve urban planning. Google plans to relocate its Canadian headquarters to Toronto as part of that initiative.
The very next day, Uber also revealed plans for a new Toronto office, announcing that it would spend around $154 million to build a new engineering hub there, doubling its Toronto-based tech workforce to around 500 employees. The ride-sharing startup will also be expanding its self-driving car operations there. These latest moves will further boost Toronto’s profile as one of Canada’s leading tech hubs, particularly for emerging technologies like artificial intelligence. Major tech companies have been investing in Canada at a steady clip over the past year, also including Salesforce, Alphabet’s DeepMind unit, and Facebook. Toronto is also the only non-US finalist for Amazon’s second North American headquarters.
Dr. Eddie Obeng delivering a keynote at ReimagineHR in London (Gartner)
At the start of his keynote session at Gartner’s ReimagineHR summit in London last week, British organizational theorist, educator, and author Dr. Eddie Obeng offered a glimpse of the fast-arriving virtual workplace. A wearable mouse attached to his wrist, Obeng gave the audience a tour of a 3-D classroom projected on the screen, walking to different chalkboards and interacting with his colleagues present in the virtual room while actually participating from a remote office. In this way, Obeng illustrated the potential of flashy new technologies in shaping the future of work.
In our HR research practice at Gartner, however, we know from hundreds of calls with HR leaders and professionals that when many of them see this flashy technology, they say: “We’re not Google, we’re not Amazon; we simply can’t afford this level of digital enhancement.” They want to know what the future of work means for them: What can they actually do with the resources they have? When Obeng asked the audience to share some of their fears about the digitally-enabled presentation he was showing them, they said it would be “impractical,” “too techy,” and “too expensive” for them to implement.
But Obeng very quickly challenged the audience by telling them to forget about technology, that we’re using it all wrong. New technology, he asserted, is of limited value if we don’t rethink the processes by which people work. Technology may be changing around us, but our habits and behaviors have not. Our habits and practices are deeply ingrained, and as a result it is difficult to imagine what the future should look like; instead, as he put it, we “imagine the present, but shinier.”
Relating his topic back to HR, Obeng noted that everything about our organizational structure and talent processes, from compensation and benefits to learning and development to the hierarchical org chart, is designed for the world as it used to be, when organizations were able to see what was coming. Today, that’s impossible: Change happens faster than we and our processes can adapt. A senior leadership team making all decisions for an organization, Obeng said, can process about the same amount of data in an hour as our mobile phones can in a minute. Rather than trying to simply move faster, we need to reimagine the way we move.