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    Entries in Technology (399)


    Can Games Make You Healthy?

    Last week marked the official launch of Keas, the latest entrant in the growing market for technology-enabled platforms to support employee wellness/fitness. Keas attempts to drive and encourage better habits, increased levels of exercise, and more adherence to the healthy behaviors we all know we should be exhibiting, but for some reason are not. Keas - Goal Setting Page

    Actually, I think we know the reasons - exercising and eating right kind of stink, and given the choice, too many of us are quite happy to have another donut or sleep in on Saturday instead of biking 12 miles to the Whole Foods to have some kind of a green energy drink concoction.

    So Keas, like similar solution offerings like Redbrick and Virgin HealthMiles, has turned the 'Eat Less and Exercise' spiel, (that as we said we ALL know, and mostly ignore), into a social game. Once an employer has signed on with Keas, employees can form fitness and wellness challenge teams, set their individual and team goals for things like walking, yoga, eating vegetables, and taking health quizzes, (and lots more), track their progress and results using the Keas portal or their smartphone, and finally and at the discretion of the employer, receive cash and other rewards for participating and/or winning team challenges.

    Keas in particular, emphasizes the social and gaming aspects of what are all essentially behavior tracking services, in order to advance in the game, or 'level up' to use the gamer term, the entire employee team (usually 5 or 6 people), must achieve their goals together. This 'we are all in this together' factor produces some interesting dynamics - employees are more motivated to meet their goals for fear of letting the rest of the team down, and everyone is more encouraged and supportive in a social sense to try and 'win' the game.

    And while cash and other rewards can be a part of an organization's social wellness program, these rewards might not really be the ultimate driver of participation. According to a recent article about Keas and some of the other similar services in the Wall Street Journal, one executive observed that participants were more motivated by the social aspect than the cash, stating "In the beginning, I thought it was going to be about the prizes,” but, “People like being on teams, people like to be social. We had people going for walks together, we had people sharing recipes.”

    The basic premise seems to be that turning activities that the nation's growing obesity rates, levels of chronic but often preventable disease, and spiraling corporate health care costs tell us we simply are not doing enough of on our own, into a social, interactive, and competitive game, will somehow engage a mostly disinterested, (and really busy), workforce into changing our behaviors not only for our own good, but for our wellness teams and our organizations.  Maybe it will.  The execs from Keas are claiming high and sustained levels of engagement from beta users of the platform, and Keas and other companies in the space have attracted some significant venture capital to build out and market their gaming/social/get off your butt and take a walk solutions.

    I think it is an interesting and an area of workplace technology to keep and eye on, although I do worry a little about potential 'real' work ramifications or implications for someone perceived as letting down their wellness teammates in some kind of vegetable eating contest. 

    What do you think - can these kind of games drive real and meaningful behavior change?


    When work is always within reach

    Last week the iPass organization issued their Global Mobile Workforce Report, a review of trends and preferences in technology selection, usage, and attitudes amongst those workers that classify themselves as 'mobile' workers.  These workers, mostly telecommuters, report an increasingly 'connected to work' lifestyle, enabled by the ubiquity of smartphones, and buoyed by the growing influence of tablets, (mainly the iPad).

    Some interesting statistics from the report:

    • 41 percent of mobile workers have a tablet and an additional 34 percent of mobile workers intend to purchase a tablet in the next six months
    • 87 percent of mobile workers that own tablets use their tablets for at least some work
    • 43 percent of mobile workers store their smartphone within arm’s reach when they sleep at night. Those that do this are 60 percent more likely than average to wake during the night to check their smartphone
    • 29 percent of mobile workers find that their mobile technology usage causes friction in their personal relationships, specifically with their significant other or spouse

    And finally a statistic that is not at all surprising given the hyper-connected, check-my-smartphone-for-email-at-3:00AM and the bring-along-the-iPad-while-I-watch-little-Joey's-baseball-game kind of culture we seem to be evolving towards:

    • The average mobile worker works 240 hours a year longer than the workforce in general.

    Again, interesting findings, if not exactly earth-shattering. Seeing friends, family, or colleagues tethered to their smartphones and tablets in airports, in auto repair shop waiting rooms, at professional events, and even at social gatherings is becoming so commonplace that we often fail to even notice or to regard it as unusual. And as more organizations, enterprise technology providers, media outlets, and other traditional institutions move towards creating new and better mobile (in all it's many forms), solutions and productivity applications, the urge and compulsion to have the smartphone or tablet within reach at all times will only keep growing.

    Certainly the incredible advances in mobile solutions from both a device and application standpoint have greatly benefited that component of the workforce that demands increased mobility, for reasons of job design, personal circumstances, or those that simple find they are more effective not being forced or compelled to report to an office or 'official' workplace every day. Smartphones, tablets, and even the simple and old-fashioned laptop, and the development of applications and mobile solutions to enable connected, virtual, and flexible arrangements are almost universally seen as an important and necessary evolution in workplace technology, and that open up opportunities for many workers that for various reasons the 'normal' workplace and the typical schedule just simply do not work.

    But with the growth and capability of mobile workplace solutions, the further blurring of the lines between work and well, not working, and with more and more of us sleeping with our smartphones, waking up in the middle of the night to respond to the gentle but persistent 'ping' of our devices, and more solution providers making sure that our iPads will become just as effective as the common laptop or office computer, there is the risk that we will become increasingly unable to truly separate from work as we used to. 

    In some ways I guess it is the natural evolution of the work/life balance discussions - we know that even when we go to work, personal issues, concerns, commitments, responsibilities, etc. - never really go away, they accompany us at least in the back of our minds throughout the day. But it used to be we could leave work, and more or less not worry about it much until the next morning. Now, with the smartphone placed on the nightstand, work reminds us that it never really went anywhere once we left for the day.

    Long term - will this be a bad thing?  I tend to think the net benefits of increased flexibility and capability that the mobile revolution has enabled do compensate for and actually exceed the negaitive or dark side of the 24/7 connection to work. But time will tell if sneaking off a few emails during the 3rd grade dance recital will ultimately be harmful to workers, relationships, and even society as a whole.

    Sorry need to run now...

    Ping. Ping. Ping....


    New Technology for Recruiting - on the HR Happy Hour tonight

    Tonight at 8:00PM ET on Episode 99 of the HR Happy Hour show, (can you believe Episode 100 is just one short week away?), we will be joined by Ty Abernethy of Zuzuhire, and Craig Fisher the genius behind TalentNet Live and a million other cool things in the recruiting and technology space.

    You can listen to the show from the show page here, using the listener call in number 646-378-1086, or using the widget player below:

    Listen to internet radio with Steve Boese on Blog Talk Radio


    At the recent HRevolution event in Atlanta, Craig led one of the most popular sessions about 'Cool New Tools for Recruiting', and Ty has actually created and operates one of those tools at Zuzuhire. If you had not had a chance before now to check out Zuzuhire, give it a look - it provides an innovative and fun way to create online interviews and applicant screening processes that can incorporate video and audio response, text, and simple multiple choice questions.

    But beyond the 'cool factor' of these new tools, tonight we will also dig a little deeper as to how corporate recruiters and hiring managers can make better decisions around technology in the hiring process, and even how candidates can better prepare themselves and make the most effective presentations in this rapidly changing space.

    After all, cool is only cool if it helps us hire better, faster, and more efficiently.

    It should be a fun show and I hope you can join us live, and be sure to follow the backchannel on Twitter using the hashtag #HRHappyHour.



    Whoworks.at - See your LinkedIn Network as you browse

    Whether you are a job seeker researching organizations that you would like to work for, a recruiter seeking talent from competing firms in you industry or region, or a sales professional examining the websites of customers and prospects - one thing is for certain - it sure helps to know someone at the target company. Having an 'in' of some kind, some kind of plausible way to connect with an actual person inside, as opposed to filling out a generic 'contact us' web form, or submitting an anonymous resume into what can sometimes be the black hole of the ATS.

    No doubt being able to connect, most optimally by leveraging an existing and hopefully trusted network seems to offer one the best opportunity to get the job application noticed, to find a potential candidate to recruit, or to connect with a real decision maker in a sales process. But sorting out who you might know, or might be connected via other friends and colleagues, typically meant a scan through email contacts; a local CRM or ATS system; or, increasingly, a trip to LinkedIn to perform a quick Company search. Kind of tedious process, but necessary.

    This week a new Google Chrome browser extension called Whoworks.at launched, that makes the entire 'Who do I know that works here?' question much easier to answer. After you download and install the Whoworks.at extension, simply click the extension icon just to the right of the Chrome toolbar, and immediately you will be presented a pop-up window displaying all your LinkedIn contacts and extended network that connects you to whatever company whose site you are currently browsing.

    Here is a screen shot of my Whoworks.at information for Oracle Corporation:

    And here is the view of my LinkedIn network connections at the NBA, (sadly, my network there is not nearly as robust):

    I still can't believe LeBron has not accepted my LinkedIn invitation yet.

    From within the Whoworks.at pop-up, you can also browse LinkedIn data for recent hires and promotions at the target company, and click on any LinkedIn profile name to be taken directly to that person's LinkedIn profile page.

    Whoworks.at is a really neat and useful tool to add to Google Chrome and that makes the task of seeking and reaching out to connections at companies of interest that much easier. And it does get kind of addictive after a few minutes, there is a little bit of a curiosity factor that sets in as you browse around on the internet, sort of wondering if you know anyone at a given company.

    Check it out and let me know what you think, simply go to Whoworks.at and provide your email address and a beta invite link should show up in your inbox really quickly.

    Happy stalking!


    Mind Reading for Fun and Profit

    A recent post on the Venture Beat site, A Clockwork Orange? EmSense can monitor your emotional reactions to media, about new applications in marketing research of something called 'quantitative neurometrics', a process facilitated by a subject strapping on a slick brainwave-sensing device and allowing their reactions to various forms of media to be monitored and tracked.I predict you will be a '3' on your review...

    The basic premise of quantitative neurometrics is that by measuring more precisely and accurately subjects' emotional responses to advertising, creative concepts, packaging and the shopping experience content and campaigns can be better aligned with the target demographic's true emotional responses, and be more accurate than traditional means. The approach plays off the conventional wisdom that people often say they like something or are likely to do something, when in reality what they really like and actually do are quite different indeed.

    So naturally for marketers and designers of advertising campaigns, store layouts, product placement professionals, really anyone looking to sell something, (or at least incent a prospect to consider buying something), quantitative neurometrics seems to offer a level of detailed information that could be exploited for commercial benefit. This is of course putting aside the general creepiness factor of strapping a brainwave monitoring tool to a subject while flashing your latest ads for minivans, or detergent, or vacation property in Tennessee.

    As I read the piece in Venture Beat naturally I began to think of ways that brainwave monitoring could help organizations solve some of their more pressing challenges (again suspending disbelief long enough to imagine a workplace where employees would agree to submit to this kind of monitoring), and what kinds of long-standing workplace assumptions that quantiative neurometrics could help test.

    Off the top of my head here goes:

    Company Off-site teambuilding events

    You think: Fantastic opportunity to get the team together, to bond and grow as a creative, energized, and inspired collection of problem-solving dynamos as only 'trust-falls' can conjure. The team returns to the office the next day with a new sense of spirit and togetherness.

    They Think : If I don't attend, do I have to take PTO? Is there an open-bar? Don from Shipping really needs to put his shirt back on.

    The CEO's quarterly message to the troops

    You think : The team loves to hear about the news and strategy of the company right from the top. It is great that Joe the CEO is so accessible and open.

    They think : If I don't attend, do I have to take PTO? Is Joe wearing a monogrammed shirt? With cufflinks? I hope he doesn't announce another off-site teambuilding session.

    The Annual Performance Review

    You think : Our process for linking company goals down to individual employee objectives is perfect for achieving optimal aligment, shared vision, and progess towards strategic goals. It is a win-win.

    They think: I work in the mail room. I am not really sure what the heck I can do to improve our market share in Europe. Will there be any merit increases at all this year? Can you please tell Don from Shipping to put his shirt back on?

    Sure, mind-reading might have a better and more profitable future in the worlds of marketing and advertising, but who says the HR and Talent professionals can't get in on some of the fun?

    If you could really, truly, know what your staff was thinking, and have more insight to their honest emotional reactions to your environment, workplace technologies, communications, and so on, wouldn't you want to find out?

    Or maybe instead of investing in brainwave-reading technology we could work to create a workplace where we really could just ask people what they are feeling, and they really would be comfortable sharing.

    For the record - at the moment I am think almost exclusively on having a donut. But you did not need quantitative neurometrics to sort that out.