Kienco Blog

Strategic Workforce Planning, the Future of Work, and Workforce Analytics - Articles, Thoughts, and Updates

Wearables: Hitachi wants to tell your boss how happy you are

Hitachi has created a biometric sensor for the workplace that will use your physical movements to calculate how happy you are, which should be available in Japan from April for around 100,000 yen (that's around $1,100 AUD or $840 USD.

The device uses your physical movements to impute a happiness metric, as Hitachi claims that they have been able to correlate physical movements with happiness.  We also know that there's a correlation between happiness and productivity - but in both cases, we don't know if it's causal.

I doubt that we'll see widespread adoption of these devices, but they could have some interesting implications for research - for example, whether a new office design, background music, etc. impacts employee happiness amongst a group of employees who have opted-in to the system.  It's one that may also be popular with the "quantified self" movement.  Would you wear one of these devices?


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Workforce Strategy and the Not To Do list

Workforce Strategy and the Not To Do list

Human Resources departments have finite resources of time, money, and focus.  When it comes to effective Strategic Workforce Planning, what not to do is as important as what to do.

Siri, Cat Videos, and the Atomisation of Work

Siri, Cat Videos, and the Atomisation of Work

Crowdsourcing may have profound impacts on the future of work, but it is really just another (tech-enabled) form of atomising the supply chain.  We've been atomising work for thousands of years, and Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations (1776) that influenced much of modern Economic theory made the case that the division of labour and economic progress are inextricably linked.  The difference with crowdsourcing is that the economic and geographic links between producer and beneficiary are less defined. (click on the post title to read more)

Forget 3D Printing - Skype Translator might be the disruptive technology of our time

Forget 3D Printing - Skype Translator might be the disruptive technology of our time

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, written in 1978, features an animal called the Babel fish - “small, yellow, leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the universe… if you stick one in your ear, you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language”.  

The etymology is from Genesis and The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9).  In that passage, all of humanity had a common language - and using that language decided that they would build a city with a tower that reached to the heavens.  As this was a threat to divinity, they were scattered and their language confused:

If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”- Genesis 11:6-7

I’ve been using Google Translate for years now to communicate with family in South America (to say my Spanish is limited would be generous), and it’s a fascinating case study in Big Data.  But I’ve been also following Microsoft Research’s work in this space since their early preview of the technology on the Microsoft Research blog.  What they have been working on is a powerful combination of three major technology advancements:

  1. Speech to Text;
  2. Automated Translation; and
  3. Text to Speech.

When you join these three technologies and add them into a well-adopted communications technology, you have a babel fish - and Microsoft has announced that they’ll be launching one n the form of “Skype Translator”, which will translate spoken languages in close to real time.  (And answer the question about why Microsoft bought Skype).

I talk and think a lot about disruptive technologies and the future of work, and it strikes me that a common theme in these technologies is that they are removing artificial barriers to location, time, cost, or access.  A true babel fish would remove all of them.  Although there are technologies that I believe will change a swath of industries over the coming years - 3D Printing, robotics, artificial intelligence, and big data amongst them - it’s possible that at a global scale, removing global language barriers might yield the most profound changes of all of these.

The convergence of these technologies with online labor platforms and remote work make a truly global workforce possible, if not likely - how will it affect your organisation?  What about your life?  Let's go back to that quote from Genesis - "nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them."  Technologies like this truly open up new possibilities for people, organisations, and society.

p.s. You can see a video of Microsoft Translator in action here, and sign up for the early preview here.

Picture: The Booth, Ryan Maguire

Update: Techcrunch reports that the invite-only preview opens today

Balancing Analytics and Futuring in Strategic Workforce Planning

Balancing Analytics and Futuring in Strategic Workforce Planning

Health Workforce New Zealand has today released two Workforce Planning reports, "Health of the Health Workforce 2013-2014" and "The Role of Health Workforce New Zealand".  Particularly interesting in these reports is the recognition that traditional approaches to Workforce Planning don't work in the context of a changing external environment:

Traditional workforce forecasting will not serve us well when we plan for a workforce to meet this demand. Experience shows that it is unhelpful to try to estimate the number of health practitioners the system will need because precise calculations are invariably wrong. When projections base demand on existing workforce models, they predict a health care system that is increasingly unaffordable and difficult to sustain.
— Ministry of Health. 2014. The Role of Health Workforce New Zealand.

Today across a swath of industries, rapidly evolving technologies, workforce dynamics, and consumer dynamics means that simply extrapolating existing trends is not enough: all of the data we have is about the past, but all of the decisions we make are about the future.  That's why in order to put the "Strategic" into "Strategic Workforce Planning", you need to apply futuring techniques like environment scanning and scenario planning alongside workforce analytics.

Health Workforce New Zealand's reports can be found at