A Chronicle of How Tech is Changing Work, from a Former Workplace Tech Entrepreneur

By Dhrooti Vyas, Class of 2019

If this article sparks any thoughts/ you would like to discuss further, please reach out to me at  vyasd@chicagobooth.edu. I would love to talk to you!

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As a former HR tech entrepreneur, I am really, really, excited about the changes forthcoming in the way we work. More excited than I am to see the Night King conquer Westeros (you know it’s going to happen).

Around 70% of Americans self-report being disengaged at work, which reduces our productivity and well-being by an immeasurable amount. Everyone from the former US Surgeon General to a former Chief of Staff for President Obama has something to say about it. This is a tough, tough, problem to crack - just the type of problem a wily entrepreneur will chase (for anyone thinking about it, I would love to help!)

This article documents a few of the more innovative (and, hopefully, impactful) ways in which I see next-generation technologies changing the way we work. Importantly, technology alone cannot solve the problems we faces with widespread employee disengagement at work. However, it can help to alleviate otherwise intractable or expensive facets of these problems.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with the companies listed below, I just think they’re pretty cool.

Gamification of recruiting: Modern-day recruiting is notoriously something that is universally despised. Gamification has long existed in recruiting, from task-focused group interviews to consulting cases. Digital gamification of recruiting is a new frontier that is forecasted to grow significantly in the coming years. Not only does it make recruiting much more fun, but it also helps remove bias/ level the playing field by anonymizing applicants. Pymetrics and Knack App are some of a number of companies using phone games to help prospective employees identify what their strengths while also helping recruiters identify talent. On top of it, the games are actually fun! At the same time, companies like Uber are building games on their own apps to recruit new team members.

Personalized coaching, performance management, and compensation: Work is experienced differently and, therefore, ought to be managed and compensated differently. Apps like BetterUp are enabling personalized career coaching and tools like Career Lark are enabling timely, personalized performance management. While personalized compensation is tougher to crack, consultancies like Deloitte are recommending that organizations leverage existing data warehouses and AI to better understand the impact employees have on the bottom line and craft compensation packages that better reflect employee value.

Where is the love? Vivek Murthy, the former US surgeon general, described in an HBR article in late 2017 what he views as the “epidemic of loneliness” blanketing America: an epidemic that begins in the workplace. Work can be an isolating activity, particularly if you are in  a function that requires little collaboration. In addition, less interconnected workplaces are more prone to error. Beyond happy hours, companies like Humanyze are using ID badges to track social interaction frequency and use nudges to encourage people to socialize more in the workplace. At the same time, Slackbots like Donut are helping create lunch or coffee roulettes so folks in an organization can get to know one another.

Raising all voices. Hierarchical structures often don’t allow the best ideas to surface. Companies like Waggl and Balloonr are helping to surface great ideas by anonymously crowdsourcing ideas to company-wide strategic questions. On a more micro level, McSquares sells hardware tools that help get quieter members involved in group brainstorming sessions.

Saving the best for last...consumerization of enterprise software. Workplace products are thinking more and more about their end user. Slack and Asana are amongst a number of newer tech companies that take pride in the excellent user experience they deliver.

Overall, I am optimistic about how new technology will shape the future of work, a future where work is an experience that most Americans look forward to.