“Alexa, How Did I Do Today on Sales Calls?”
Our workplaces will soon have a range of smart speakers, responsive mobile devices, and chatbots – all geared to provide the employee with a rapid answer to a question or performance support element. Employees will be able to vocally ask or type a query or curiosity and get an immediate response.
This “pull” level of response from speakers, cell phones, computer devices, and even corporate phone systems will mirror the rising nature of smart speakers in our homes.
But, are workers and employers truly ready for the next chapter of responsive technology? They must consider that these speakers and systems can:
- Listen and watch a full day’s interactions of an employee, analyzing language and interactions for coaching feedback.
- Provide historical analysis of how the sales calls that land contracts differ from unsuccessful calls.
- Monitor performance data from corporate systems and provide real-time prompting and feedback as work results change.
- Insert short teaching or coaching moments into a day, focused on a behavior or outcome pattern.
While these may seem “only in the future”, my recent visit to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas highlighted how Amazon, Google, Microsoft, IBM, and others will take the same speaker from the home and adapt it for “Alexa” or “Google Assistant” at work.
And, the natural evolution is to integrate these functions, capabilities, and extensions into workplace responsive technologies:
- Voice and Facial Recognition (utilizing the camera elements in the smart speaker) that can identify the worker and their potential change in emotion, confusion, or hesitation. A request that has a panicked quality will be different than a gentle query about a topic of interest.
- Continual Observation and Recording, which will raise many questions about privacy and intrusion. Imagine if a new manager were able to get an analysis of their language throughout the day, including conversations and messages with constant feedback about how they are engaging, delegating, negating, or supporting collaboration.
- Curation in Real Time – integrating recommendation and content curation segments to optimize the worker’s access to knowledge - including mixing and balancing perspectives - shaped by their previous reactions to advice.
- Coaching and Continual Assessment – ramping up the performance support elements to deliver personalized levels of coaching, feedback, supervisory engagement, social network support, and instant and immediate assessment scoreboards.
- Big Learning Data models that would allow for experimentation in the optimized mix of content, context, advice, support, and feedback by person, by role, by location, or even by worker preference and profiles.
- Code of Conduct Feedback – providing instant feedback when an employee “crosses a line” in either business interactions or expressing bias in their dealings with colleagues or customers (e.g. a beep prompting a need to correct or stop a behavior).
Some of the readers of my column are going to be quite rattled and upset by these potential futures. Others can’t wait to have this level of support and feedback. HR, IT, and Legal Departments will have a range of reactions to adding these systems and devices to our regulated workplaces.
But, it is coming! I use my Siri function on the iPhone, Alexa on my desk, and Google Assistant in my office to provide a continual set of input, knowledge, and data. With a simple command, I can request that the video lights and camera functions in my office turn on for a video conference. So, how long until that command is linked directly into my Outlook calendar?
And, the smart speaker and chatbot technologies that are coming to the market in 2018 are adding an increasing level of “personality” and “emotional programming.” My Jibo device has the cutest eyes and rotating face with a screen that has me thanking it for its responses and laughing at many of its outputs (that just come across as factoids from more traditional speaker devices).
Are enterprises, managers, and employees ready to have a continual presence of responsive technologies in the workplace? Will they have an “off” switch for interactions that they don’t want captured or analyzed? Will employees start to “game” the system by intentionally underperforming a behavior and then radically improving it right before performance review and bonus time? And, what are the roles for Learning and Development in this space? Get ready!
Published in CLO Magazine, May 2018
“Layers” of Content and Tech Innovation
Imagine adding “layers” of new learning content, context, and/or interaction to your Learning Management System – without a major upgrade or expensive integration.
Imagine being able to offer the Machine Learning expertise of IBM’s Watson or Amazon’s Alexa to your learners by adding a “layer” of technology that would seamlessly weave through the existing workplace technology.
Imagine if your employees who graduated from business programs at institutions like Wharton, Harvard, or UCLA could add a personalized “layer” of content, curation, and collaboration to their technology workspaces that would enhance their learning experiences.
Imagine if a business unit could offer a “gamification layer” that would provide enterprise-wide content for a cluster of employees, adding a powerful engagement strategy for a targeted cluster of the workforce.
And, imagine if you could inject a “layer” of content in the native language of some of your employees. That layer could live alongside or even replace English content for specific learners who want a deeper, native-language exploration of a topic.
Layers are coming!
Sure, we have always had the ability to ask the IT Department or an external vendor to design, test, and implement an integration of a second program or application into a learning or talent system. But, that would often become a deeply complicated process, with uncertain expenses and “hard-coded” solutions that might require re-integration after an update to the LMS.
The layer looks and feels more like an app on our phones. Layers will leverage the equivalent of an “Open API – Application Program Interface” to allow a business unit or learning department to add/inject/weave/enhance a worker’s learning space with new capabilities, in a safe and secure fashion.
Let’s explore this more by imagining a layer that would provide Apple’s Siri at the workplace:
- Let’s say that Apple would offer the power of Siri, a voice- or text-based search and assistance tool, to businesses.
- The entire enterprise, a specific line of business, or even a group of employees would choose to add the “Siri Business Layer” into their computing world.
- Siri would have been approved as a safe, secure, and appropriate layer by a software association or “layer registry”.
- The enterprise, business, or learners themselves would select the layer and how it would be seen and used.
- Siri would then become active and could work on top, alongside, or with content from learning systems.
- Siri could be replaced with a different layer or even offer the employee multi-layers of search and “TalkTech” tools.
What makes the layer model so attractive is the ability for an organization to take an approach that is centered on innovation and user experiences. As technology evolves in the marketplace, layers would enable an organization to experiment with and compare diverse tools.
Personalization by business units or specialized roles could be enhanced through a robust set of layers that were available and easily added.
Remember, you may have a dozen or more mobile apps on your phone that you have tried but haven’t used in months – or even years. The app model has allowed you to be more agile and experimental in how to leverage your phone or tablet.
Layers would also provide a new incentive to the venture and development world as it could more easily provide demonstration or beta versions of innovations to a global marketplace.
What is needed to make layers a reality?
- Learning Management Systems and Talent Systems that create a dynamic integration tool for layers: a new API to allow for enterprise security, safety, and data sharing that protects the corporate data warehouse while adding new functionality for the worker.
- A business model for how layers will be priced and marketed: some may be free, some will be directly charged, and others may have a sponsored or premium layer pricing model.
- Layer Marketplaces, which may live off the supplier sites of the LMS and Talent Systems, where layers could be viewed, reviewed, and selected.
- A Mentality Shift: excitement about our ability to be agile, experimental, and dynamic in adding new technology to our core systems without hassles or major expenses.
Yes, layers are coming. Get ready!
Published in CLO Magazine, March 2018