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Are tech implants a step too far

In January 2017, Swedish startup hub Epicenter initiated a unique initiative by implanting workers with microchips that are as small as grains of rice. Implanted chips can conveniently be used to access doors, operate printers, or make purchases by simply waving your hand. The program is completely optional, and currently, more than 150 employees out of the company’s workforce of 2,000 have chosen to have the chips implanted.

“Convenience is the biggest advantage,” expressed Patrick Mesterton, co-founder and CEO of Epicenter. “It essentially serves as a versatile replacement for various items, such as communication devices, credit cards, and keys.”

The Epicenter story is just one of the many that have surfaced in the past three years, coinciding with the rapid growth of RFID technology.

In August 2017, The New York Times reported that a significant number of employees at Three Square Market, a technology company in Wisconsin, willingly opted to have a chip implanted in their hand.

Aaron McEwan, a senior director and advisory leader at Gartner, predicts that injectable or wearable technology has the potential to become increasingly popular in the coming years.

Nevertheless, there are a few challenges that need to be addressed. Just like any other new technology, this trend brings up concerns about security and privacy. McEwan emphasized the importance of establishing trust as a crucial matter that needs to be resolved.

“Employees are interested in understanding the destination and purpose of the data,” he stated. Even after the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal, I am confident that consumers are still willing to share their personal data, as long as they have trust in the data holder and believe that their information will be used for their benefit and not for any malicious purposes. Employees and their data are subject to the same principle.

According to McEwan, the rise of this technology in the workplace can be attributed to the HR’s emphasis on creating customized employee experiences.

I strongly believe that we will gladly exchange our data for increased flexibility and a smoother, more effortless employee experience. Eliminating the frustrations of managing multiple passwords, logging into various systems, and navigating through approval processes will significantly increase the adoption of wearable technology.

Another important aspect to consider is how to effectively communicate the benefits to employees. According to a recent survey conducted by PwC, a significant majority of workers (70%) expressed openness to exploring treatments that could potentially improve their cognitive abilities or physical performance. This indicates a strong desire among employees to maximize their work performance. The condition was that there had to be a tangible advantage for themselves and not solely for their employer.

According to McEwan, consumers are more than willing to exchange their data for an enhanced experience. He highlighted frequent flyer programs as a prime illustration of this give-and-take. Customers expect to have their preferences met, whether it’s getting their preferred seat, receiving upgrades when appropriate, or being served in a manner that suits their preferences. Imagine a future where HR is just as focused on the employee experience as airlines are on their frequent flyer points.

At work, McEwan noted that employees are especially eager to collaborate on data sharing when it leads to improved health and safety results.

Technology has the capability to monitor not only biometrics, but also your workplace responses. We’re already witnessing this phenomenon in high-risk environments. A prime example of this is the implementation of caps that track micro sleeps among equipment drivers in mines. Some tech companies have implemented methods to monitor the mental state and stress levels of their coders, ensuring optimal performance.

With the shift towards cognitive activities in the workplace, it is crucial to closely monitor the optimal conditions for individuals to deliver their best cognitive output, according to McEwan.

“Once more, wearables could potentially provide a solution,” he remarked. If organizations can demonstrate their trustworthiness and ethical use of data, employees will become more willing to share their information. However, the focus will be on ensuring that employees have a more positive and fulfilling work experience.