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The business of workplace games: Creating playtime for staff with wearables and IoT

Wearable technology and connected devices can let a business understand how its employees and processes work, to an unprecedented level of detail.

However, using these devices is not as straight-forward as it first appears. Any smart device initiative needs to be well planned and focus on the wellbeing of staff.

One of the main concerns facing wearable devices is privacy. The reasoning behind this is pretty straight-forward. If a business is tracking the movement and actions of employees while they do their job and making decisions based on the data that is collected, it can naturally make staff members feel under the microscope.

Counteracting this issue boils down to trust, transparency and incentivising staff.

The company needs to create a well-defined, transparent and fair strategy around any smart device-driven project. Limiting access to data, collecting only relevant information, anonymising where possible and allowing staff to opt-out of the project without any repercussions, is essential.

The information should also only be used for the purpose of which it was originally collected.

Incentivising staff can also help to build trust and retain engagement and interest in the project. One way to do this is through gamification.

Gamification is the application of gaming concepts, like levelling up, competition and rewards, to non-game situations. Some wearable devices, particularly for fitness, already use these concepts.

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Unfortunately, in most instances these games are solitary affairs. Winning a badge for climbing ten floors for the thirtieth time can quickly lose its charm.

Through gamification, employees can motivate each other via healthy competition, or the promise of a tangible reward. It can be used to support behaviour change, such as increasing exercise to support a wellbeing programme, or business processes such as customer service.

Several companies have already moved ahead with gamification programmes, Microsoft uses gamification for language translation, Cisco has been using gamification in social media training and Google has gamified its travel expense system.

Of course, gamification does have its own pitfalls. First, too many games can quickly become an irritation.

Second, healthy competition can, if poorly managed, mutate into competitiveness and breed resentment or damage morale.

Finally, without tangible rewards or clearly defined overall goals for gamifying various business processes, the fun element can quickly dissipate.

Understanding the data collected is the final challenge. This is where having the right data science expertise is fundamental.

A business can run the best IoT project and collect a huge tranche of business intelligence, however, if this data is misinterpreted, the resulting action taken could do a lot of harm.

The analysis that takes place should be on-going, the results communicated to everyone in the business as regularly as possible. This will help to maintain interest in the project and allow it to be refined as it progresses.

To get the most out of the data, it’s crucial that the business has a clear idea of the question it wants to answer at the beginning of the project. Simply starting a programme and hoping that the data will reveal some sort of insight that could be actioned is a fools errand.

Like the sound of all of this Dont miss the five hottest gadgets for high-flying UK business leaders.

Mike Weston is the CEO of data science consultancy Profusion

Image: Shutterstock


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