· 2 min read · Features

Social networking and web conferencing are commonplace but organisations are no longer in charge of the tools people use

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Living in the iPad, Twitter and texting world, nobody can be unaware of the power of contemporary technology. Theodore George Paraskevakos first patented the concept of combining intelligence, data processing and visual display screens with telephones in 1973 but probably never foresaw the extent or speed of the changes that are now taking place.

A significant hardware development has been in the field of human identification. Long gone are the days of badge readers or fingerprint recognition as technology now exists (such as retina scanning, facial and voice recognition) that can identify us at a distance without any conscious action on our part. And, it might not be long before brain wave pattern recognition will detect not only who and where we are but even our intentions!

We are far more familiar with developments in terms of human interfaces such as proximity detectors that turn lights on and with touch screens, speech recognition, and laser keyboards. But, the use of holographic interactive tools now offer true personalised service 24 hours a day - and those devices can even learn how to respond better next time; without a lunch-break!

We also take GPS for granted but the same technology offers the potential to measure and determine many things about us such as our productivity, our network of contacts, to whom we go for different things, perhaps even with whom we work best.

Enabled by such hardware innovations, we have also seen rapid development of new software tools and techniques.

Social networking and web conferencing are commonplace but organisations are no longer in charge of the tools people use and with whom they communicate or when and what about. This has dramatic implications for recruitment, performance management and, far more importantly, succession planning.

Gamification enables the simulation of work-based thinking processes during which individuals, often continents and time zones apart, can interact in highly realistic scenarios. These new tools can dramatically increase the quality of assessments and the speed of learning. Complemented by other new tools such as crowdsourcing they can bring the statistical power of shared thought from hundreds of unknown assessors to add rigor to complex decisions.

Generation of 3D data visualisations enable faster understanding of data. Similarly, augmented reality (e.g., pointing a hand-held device at a static printed page triggers the running of a related video) creates levels of engagement with processes and data that could never have been dreamed of before.

With the vast arrays of tools via which we all now voluntarily connect, it is easy for organisations to link data about us, our locations, our movements, our actions and patterns and connections in all of those with other data. This concept, often referred to as 'Big Data', enables sophisticated analysis, deduction and prediction. In 1997, I predicted that we would be able to detect when an employee is likely to leave before they even knew themselves. Guess what!

The scope of such technology is now virtually limitless and we can now foresee the ability to measure productivity, interpersonal effectiveness, cultural fit, collaborative intent, power reach, true potential, maximum level of competence, personality traits etc all through quality data collected indirectly. With the imminent addition of brain wave pattern measurement (which is already being used to diagnose stress levels in executives and, via application of sonic waves, to reduce it!) HR's power to design processes to assess and then to optimise the performance and development of individuals becomes immense.

These tools are already being applied to standard business processes to enhance data quality (comprehensive, valid, reliable, differentiating, useful and defensible) and produce intelligence from data to optimise decision making. And, far more importantly, to engineer human behaviour through the generation of appropriate triggers, provision of enabling resources and tools and delivery of reinforcement responses (rewards and consequences).

However, deployment is currently minimal and often merely scratches the surface of potential utility. A new generation of HR professionals will understand the behaviour engineering and business intelligence power. The staggering changes we have seen in the last few years will be trivial compared to the changes likely in the next few years. Are you up to exploiting them or will you be a passive subject?

Clinton Wingrove (Pictured), EVP, Pilat HR Solutions