As devices like Fitbits, Google Glass and the soon-to-be-released Apple Watch gain traction in the consumer marketplace, companies are making the business case for wearables in the workplace. Employers increasingly provide gadgets like activity trackers to employees, in hopes that the devices will keep workers sharp, healthy and more productive.
In Aberdeen’s recent survey, “Service Mobility: The Right Technology for the Tech,” just 6 percent of field service workers said that they use wearable devices on the job. Yet 20 percent of organizations showed interest in adopting the technology during the next 12 months. As employers roll out wearables in the field, they’ll need to manage workers’ concerns and expectations with the technology. If companies fail to collaborate with field service techs in the process, they’ll likely miss out on the productivity gains and customer experience benefits that employees crave.
Pros and Cons
Wearable technology can positively impact workers both in their personal and professional lives, Aly Pinder Jr., senior research analyst at Aberdeen, tells Field Service News. “Mobile devices like smart watches, cameras, or glasses have the ability to provide technicians with data at the point of need,” he says, adding that personal trackers also empower techs. “In your personal life, it is fun to track the number of steps you take every day or monitor sleep patterns.”
Tracking employee data, and making adjustments based on analysis of that data, has done wonders for company performance. UPS is one example. The delivery giant tracks drivers’ every movement. Sensors in the trucks know when a driver opens the door, whether he buckles his seatbelt and how many times he backs up the vehicle. It’s valuable information. One UPS driver tells NPR that he used to make 90 deliveries per day, but after making adjustments based on his data, he now makes about 120.
While employees may be ecstatic when they receive that free Nike FuelBand, they’re likely less enthusiastic when they learn that companies also have access to the personal data that devices collect. Here are four ways for companies to mitigate techs’ concerns with wearables:
- Gain Buy-In:Companies shouldn’t just throw wearables at their employees and demand to see results. Adoption needs to be a collaborative approach, Pinder says. “Organizations must be mindful of technicians who may feel like the service organization is tracking too much. The key is to gain buy-in from the field that these tools are meant to improve productivity and performance, and not a way to penalize,” he says.
- Be Transparent about Where Data Goes:Employees shouldn’t have to question where their data goes. Several Google employees say that “as long as our data is held and analyzed by our own HR Department, we trust them,” John Boudreau professor of management and research director at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and Center for Effective Organizations, writes in HBR.
- Construct Safeguards:At ConAgra Foods, Vice President of Human Capital Analytics and Reporting Mark Berry says, “We want to know our employees as well as our customers.” Yet he tells HBR that the company has safeguards for the types of data that can — and cannot – be collected.
- Understand Legal Implications:Check with an attorney before you implement insights from wearables. “You need to be extremely careful that your step counts don’t have anything to do with money, position, or promotion,” Suzanne Lucas, a writer with more than a decade of HR experience, writes in Inc. “Hiring John instead of Jane because you’re pretty sure he can get his step count up to beat the neighboring department, may result in a lawsuit from Jane.”
No matter how employers explore wearable technology’s application int he field, Pinder says that it must be tied to business goals. “In order to avoid this technology going the way of a fad, it must improve a worker’s productivity while also directly enhancing the overall customer experience,” he says.