Empathetic Technology

Did you ever think you would see the return of E.T ? - Well this time it's coming to an HR system near you. E.T or Empathetic Technology is positioned to create a closer relationship between your employee and the technology by using behavioural indicators, such as pupil dilation. Check out this thought provoking (3.40) video by Rob Scott on how HR software is destined to change.


Video Transcript:

If you have ever wondered why it's become increasingly difficult to differentiate between HR software in terms of functionality, rest assured you are not alone. It's a phenomenon known as collective Plateauing - or a state of little or no change in the eco-system. What happens is the HCM vendors copy each other in a game of ‘feature & function catch-up’ resulting in very similar capability across the respective vendor solutions. Now and again something different emerges from one vendor, but the others catch us pretty quickly. The thing is most of these new features can be classified as ‘more of the same’ rather than a step-change in how HR software works.


But I think we are close to an infliction point, where we are about to see a fundamental adjustment to how HR software will interact with people. It's what we call E.T or Empathetic Technology. At its essence, empathetic technology aims to bring humans and technology into greater symbiosis than ever before. Empathy is perhaps the biggest gap between humans and technology. The vendors who release this capability first, will have a major advantage, it will be a significant step-change from the traditional transactional mindset of current HR systems.


The key descriptive word of E.T is Symbiosis - in other words there is a mutual relationship between the technology and the user. You may be thinking Aha! my HR software vendor has introduced personalisation or Individualisation, so they’re already doing ET. Well, this is certainly a step in that direction, but Empathetic Technology goes to a much deeper level of understanding you. The ET personalised experience you’ll have won’t be triggered from transactional data input, but rather it will trigger from a human behavioural response. 


For example, say you just had an altercation with someone. You're upset about the incident, and as you are walking back to your office, you log into your HR mobile app to find some related information. The HR system is personalised, so you see relevant stuff, including a HUGE RED Alert that you are behind on 14 Performance assessments. It's definitely not what you needed at that moment - it's increased your stress level and you risk making further errors in judgement.


When we introduce Empathetic Technology, that same incident can be dealt with very differently, and in a way which supports your personal wellbeing. As you log into the HR app, your phone camera recognises high levels of pupil dilation. This is a human involuntary response to things like cognitive overload and stress. The HR system immediately responds and hides the Performance assessment alert, recognising that under the current circumstances, doing so can help restore you to a calmer level of decision making.


So, Empathetic Technology responds immediately to bio measures or actions not under conscious control, such as heart rate, voice tone, breath analysis, pupil dilation, muscular tension and sweat analysis. This is a far more personal and is a bi-directional relationship with technology. The capability and technology are already here. We have some work to do around ethics, trust and privacy, but rest assured it's coming to HR and other technologies soon. How we respond to this new technology will differentiate organisations who see technology as a tool, versus those who see advanced technology as part of the team.


Take care.

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Rob Scott

Author: Rob Scott

Joining from Deloitte, where he was a Principal in the Consulting Human Capital Practice, Scott brings over 30 years’ HCM, human resources (HR), innovation, strategy and advanced technology experience, working directly with businesses and technology leaders including SAP and Oracle. He served as Global Lead for Strategy & Innovation at Presence of IT before Deloitte acquired it, and spent four years on the HR Technology Advisory Board of the Australian HR Institute (AHRI). Rob brings a wealth of experience in opening up this mindset and improving communication and collaboration from the coal face through to the shareholder. We’re confident we can continue to grow and help organisations get real visibility over their entire workforce and HCM tools when they need it most. View all posts by Rob Scott