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Kill the sacred cows of the new workforce

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A study has revealed a link between an employee’s ownership of their career and the means of how they expand that career. While employees like good coffee, more than 60% of them would prefer improvements on their desks, says CHRIS BUCHANAN, Dell Director – End user computing – Africa.

A happy employee is a productive employee. So we decided a few months/years ago to give our sales teams something that would make them happy. We turned our break room into a modern Silicon Valley enclave, complete with foosball tables and a barista. Really nice stuff and the staff were very keen for it.

If only I had known better…

To give you an alternative perspective, let me ask a question. Where is the world’s largest cemetery? You may hazard a few guesses, but would any of them be Facebook? Everyday, 10,000 of the social media giant’s users die. That’s incredible – and unheard of. It challenges our perception of the world around us.

But do we bring these new perceptions into our organisations? Not nearly often enough. We still treat workplaces with the same thinking as we always did. And yet the workers of today have very different expectations.

I’m a customer experience guy, with a love for technology. I enjoy it when humans are uplifted and can do more for themselves, especially with the right tech on their side. But I continue to be amazed how the small things, such as the aesthetics of a device, can excite an employee – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

What Employees Really Want

Dell recently completed a multi-year study with Intel and the Institute For Future Technology. The results were astounding. Here’s a sample: 32 percent of graduates today will turn down a job if they don’t feel the tech they are provided with will enable them to do the job properly.

Not foosball tables or baristas (though I must add our staff are very happy with those additions!).

The study revealed a clear link between an employee’s ownership of their career and the means of how they expand that career. While employees like good coffee, more than 60 percent of them would prefer improvements on their desks than nice amenities.

This is where the technology comes in. This is an opportunity for IT managers everywhere.

Here’s another question: if you can improve someone’s desk, what would you add? There are many good ideas, but what about headphones? Absurd! Everyone has headphones! Except they don’t – the study shows that many employees see a good pair of headphones as the perfect cure for a busy and noisy office environment. It helps keep them focused.

The same for dual monitors. A second monitor can boost employee productivity by 19 percent. Combine that over a week and it’s nearly an entire day’s extra productivity.

Small Things Matter Most

One of my ongoing challenges in an organisation is the way IT treats employees. We technologists give lip service to the fact that we should be treating our employees as customers. When someone arrives, they might get the device they need only three days later, and then they get the model based on management levels. Little consideration goes into what people are going to do and how they will be productive.

Humans are becoming digital conductors. You don’t think about electricity anymore – it’s just there and you switch it on. That’s the way modern workers look at technology – it’s expected.

The effect goes beyond gadgets on desks. How long does it take to sign up a new employee? They would normally have loads of paperwork to process, which means they are not hitting the ground running. Yet it is certain their CV was sent in an electronic format. If your IT systems could capture that information digitally, it would preempt their paperwork and get them started faster. Everyone will thank you for that one.

Employee journeys are becoming as important as customer journeys. You want to retain good talent and enable them to excel. You don’t really have a choice, because they expect this. The good news is that you already have the power to make those changes, providing you understand the workforce.

Empower The Personas

There are five general personas in most companies: Desk-centric workers who spend half their time as a desk, corridor warriors who spend half their time in meetings, the on-the-go pro who travels a lot, remote employees who work from home, and specialised employees who operate in special environments such as remote audits of sites.

These are not carved in stone, but they give a general idea of who works for the business and what they need. Meeting those needs in practical and often simple technological ways helps keep them productive and motivated.

To tap this momentum, you need to step out of traditional thinking. Get rid of your sacred cows: a nice break room is not as important as multiple monitors or reliable remote access. Change your mindset and then query the digital readiness of your organisation. Get it to the cutting edge.

Study your workforce’s digital maturity levels and engage with HR – they know better than everyone which personas are inside your walls. Finally, create employee resource groups to give feedback. Employees are not meant to be only seen and not heard. If they have your ear, they can help you see the future.

I don’t regret our new break room. In fact, it’s pretty great. But back then I thought you had to go big to impress your workforce. That’s a sacred cow, the old way of thinking. Many small gestures are better than a few big ones. People remember the small touches that technology can deliver.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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