While many organizations have implemented traditional workplace technologies to drive better work outcomes, many are currently cautious about embracing new intelligent technologies that are more experimental in nature. However, they see the opportunities ahead. Forty-two percent of business leaders expect that over the next 2–4 years, technology will help drive better organizational outcomes by nudging workers and teams to perform better.
The new fundamentals
Enable technology to work on the worker (and the team). The traditional view of technology as a substitute or supplement for human labor is too narrow. Moving forward, you need to harness technologies that help your people and teams become the best possible versions of themselves. This means nudging them to learn new behaviors, correct old behaviors, and sharpen skills. For example, successful and error-free surgeries in the operating room (OR) require finesse, but determining the exact amount of pressure to apply on the instrument is challenging for surgeons. Technology provides surgeons with smart scalpels and forceps that allow them to gauge and adjust pressure in real time, subsequently improving precision and patient outcomes.5
Use interventions and nudges to make humans better. Technology can also aid humans in improving on things that are “fundamentally human.” Given the traditional view of technology as a substitute or supplement for humans, it’s ironic to think of technology being used to make humans more human. Yet that’s exactly what we’re talking about here. Technology can help us get better at what we already do best—things like driving well-being, practicing emotional intelligence, and fostering creativity and teaming, which are things technology itself can’t do.
Helping humans become better versions of themselves is a worthwhile endeavor on its own. However, from a business perspective, it has the valuable fringe benefit of making people better at their jobs, thereby boosting engagement and performance. Building on the surgery example from the previous fundamental, technologies are also monitoring care team members’ time in the OR and cross-referencing that time with error data for the relevant type of surgery, to deliver alerts about fatigue risk. Not only does this improve outcomes for the patient, it also improves well-being for the surgical team.
Scale insights for greater impact. Beyond the individual and team impact, this technology–human team collaboration can also drive impact through insights at scale. All this technology, whether it’s used for nudging, collaboration, training, or another purpose, creates data “exhaust.”6 This data is a powerful tool all on its own. Following the surgical example, technology aggregates the data about finesse adjustments, time in-surgery, and errors, to draw insights across an entire hospital or health system to inform changes to workforce practices like shift length, scheduling, or equipment investments. This type of information could then be used to elevate performance and outcomes across workers, teams, the organization, and the ecosystem.
This imagined future isn’t just possible; in many cases, it’s already here. And its potential impact is even greater when applied not just to individuals, but also to teams (and to networks of connected teams pursuing adjacent goals). The result is improved performance, learning and development, communication, and collaboration. Executives who responded to the Deloitte 2023 Global Human Capital Trends survey believe in the benefits of enabling technology and teams to collaborate to drive outcomes, with one in three reporting an increase in financial performance as a result of their approach to technology and team collaboration.
Current experiments: What leading organizations are exploring
- Humu analyzes company data and worker feedback to identify changes likely to improve workers’ happiness, performance, and retention.7 The technology is like a virtual personal coach, using AI to mine worker surveys and other data inputs to identify which behavioral changes could help workers and organizations reach their goals. It then sends workers tailored nudges that appear in email, Slack, or Microsoft Teams. The nudges are aimed at changing behaviors, often with explanations or links to research about why the behaviors matter. As workers (and the people around them) report improvement, machine learning helps the system move on to additional goals.
- Ultranauts is using Teams and Slack bots to eliminate barriers that made it challenging for neurodivergent people to find a home in tech companies.8 The company’s CEO empowered employees to create their own personal “biodex”—a quick-start guide to working with them so people with diametrically different styles can immediately understand how to best collaborate.
- Drishti’s action recognition technology, which is enabled by AI and computer vision, allows DENSO, a Japanese auto component manufacturer, to generate real-time, continuous analytics on manual tasks performed by its production employees.9 The resulting data set gives production managers the ability to quickly identify and eliminate bottlenecks, improve processes, boost efficiency, and prioritize tasks. Drishti CEO Prasad Akella noted, "We’ve found that employees at factories are excited to use Drishti because it helps them train continuously without interference from a manager. The system nudges the line associate when a mistake happens, giving him or her the opportunity to fix the problem, unbeknownst to anyone else."
- Dawn Avatar Robot Café in Tokyo has robot servers that are operated remotely by people who can’t leave their home due to disability, childcare, or other reasons.10 These remote-controlled robot avatars were designed to make the workplace more accessible, giving the remote café workers more opportunities to interact with others and expanding the pool of potential café workers.
The path forward