Posted in Workforce

Touching Lives through Technology

businesswoman-840620_1280Innovation at Kumbh Mela

Kumbh Mela, held every four years in India draw millions of devotees from across the globe. While the mela has great spiritual significance, every occurrence also brings associated challenges like stampede, law and order issues, epidemics etc.Hopefully, the Kumbh Mela this year in Nasik is going to be very different.

The Kumbh Mela, this year is expected to bring over 25 million people to Nasik. The city civic management has been running in top gear to get the city ready for the grand event. The recent inclusion of Nasik in the list of smart cities has also added to the expectations of sustainability. In the run up to the event, a small group of people comprising administrators, technologists, academicians in Nasik came together to script a new chapter in the history of Kumbh mela. Dr. Ramesh Raskar a professor at MIT, Boston took up the responsibility to lead this core team.

To begin with, the core team decided to launch ‘Kumbathon’ through which academicians, students, corporate executives, volunteers and others were encouraged to participate in a contest to suggest innovative ideas to make this year’s Kumbh Mela hassle free. What came out of ‘Kumbhthon’ was mind blowing. From the many innovative ideas that came out of the ‘Kumbhthon’, I am sharing three ideas that have impressed me the most:-

  1. i) Health Pavilions with advanced machinery and techniques to be set up at the Kumbh mela ground: These pavilions would have the ability to check saliva sample via sensors connected to a mobile, check oral health via sensors connected to a mobile, check ECG and blood pressure readings through a mobile, check lung health via sensors connected to a mobile and much more. The objective is to prevent occurrence of epidemics during the mela.ii) Kumbh mela Official App will provide visitors basic info about Kumbh mela, Nasik, places to see in the city, calendar of events, important contact numbers, etc. It is a one-stop digital info desk which can be downloaded and accessed by visitors, tourists, devotees and others.iii) Crowd Steering through Mobile Towers would be enabled by an innovative software that identifies the number of people connected to a mobile tower and indicates the crowd flow as per the region. This will help avoid traffic jams and stampede like situations. This software developed by the Kumbathon team is being deployed to all control stations where the police and Kumbathon team will constantly monitor the crowd situation at various locations. All network service providers are also on board for this service.In addition to the aforesaid ideas, the core team is also planning to introduce IVR support systems, 3D Elevated Maps and Pop-Up Housing etc. With the help of these creative ideas, the core team is going to make this year’s Kumbh mela a safe and ‘less stressful experience’ for millions people. This Kumbh mela experiment is going to showcase how technology and innovation can touch millions of lives.

What can Business and HR leaders learn from the Nasik Experiment?

Can Business and HR leaders take a cue from the Nasik experiment? Can they use technology to touch lives of people in their organizations? Are they equipped and competent enough to lead this transformation in their organizations?

Well, this is a million dollar question. While leaders have been highly successful in adopting technology to solve business problems, develop new products, solutions etc., adoption of technology to touch the lives of their own employees is still at its nascent stage.

Before we explore the options available with our leaders to adopt technology for better people connect and engagement, let’s first understand why there is a need to do so. Well, today’s business environment has been influenced by globalization. Today the workforce needs to collaborate with their colleagues and partners across the globe. Employees expect to have “anytime/anywhere” access to data- both work-related as well personal. Today’s workforce has become more mobile than ever before. So the expectation is that the business functions which support the workforce must also be mobile. Today a significantly large part of the workforce are millennials who want to be always connected. All these factors speak volumes of the need to adopt technology for better people connect.

Here are some of the technologies HR and Business leaders can consider deploying to build a highly connected, collaborative and creative workforce:-

Internet of Things

Employee Engagement is the buzz word in the industry. Internet of Things (IoT) is the buzz word in technology. How can they both connect? Business and HR leaders can leverage IoT to touch their employees’ lives in a positive way. Few organizations have already started doing it. With the advent of IoT, we have started to look at a world and work environment where systems are helping us in ways that we did not notice before. The staff at the Bangalore center of a US based organization are remotely managing all their offices across the globe using IoT. The India office has parking lots which are fitted with sensors that emit data to multiple display boards across floors in the multi-level car parking facility in their premises. This center has a ‘Doctor-less Employees Health Check-up Facility’ where employees can get their health check-up done in the absence of the doctor. However, if an employee wants to speak to a doctor, he or she can speak to or consult with a doctor sitting in the USA through telepresence.

Internal TV and Radio Channels

What an whacky idea ! ! But this is real. An Indian IT company has launched its own internal Television Channel to help employees unleash their creative talent. There is another organization in India which has launched its own FM Radio station. As I said earlier, majority of the employees in organizations today are millennials. The millennials believe in working hard and playing hard. So imagine the level of engagement such creative usage of technology can drive among young employees. Gen-Y employees simply love opportunities to pursue their creative passion.

Collaborative Platforms

In this age of globalization, the workforce is becoming increasingly virtual and mobile. Hence organizations have no option but to leverage technology to facilitate employee engagement and collaboration. Companies earlier used to hold their quarterly and annual all employee meetings in physical locations. Today such meetings have become virtual. Through video conferencing and live chat technologies, employees globally participate in these meetings and interact with senior executives. This approach has increased employee participation and provided a new avenue for rich interaction between employees and leaders. Employees today use various enterprise social media platforms to engage with each other, collaborate, share ideas and best practices, seek information and co-create knowledge artefacts. Needless to mention that organizations which have facilitated effective collaboration among their global workforce have achieved greater productivity.

New Age Learning

New age organizations have started adopting a host of technologies for employee training and development. These technologies/approaches include videos, flipped classroom, mobile learning, gamification, training Apps, byte-sized learning etc. As the pace of technological change speeds up, many jobs now require constant adaptation because of new information and new task requirements. The distinction between learning and work is slowly disappearing. Employees will increasingly rely on Electronic Performance Support Tools, knowledge repositories etc. to seek and receive knowledge in real time. HR and L&D leaders need to build an infrastructure and support model where training will be more ‘on demand in the organization. This can be delivered largely through bite-sized chunks enabled by technology. In other words, training should be much less of an offline activity and more seamlessly integrated into workflows.

HR App

We know that most of our personal internet usage today goes through mobile apps rather than web browsers. So what about our HR applications at work? Won’t this be an employee’s delight, if she can access the HR systems through Apps. HR apps would allow employees to access HR-related information from any device anytime, anywhere and offer a highly personalized experience. Mobile applications are easy to access and fast to load. They are especially useful when information is needed or an action must be completed at a moment’s notice, such as requesting or approving leave or looking up a coworker’s information. Today, clients are getting great results from vendor mobile apps and are increasingly creating custom solutions for mobile in order to create a better experience for their employees.


Innovation Lab

Companies should set up Innovation Labs for their employees at the workplace. An Innovation Lab is usually equipped with tools that employees can use to come up with creative ideas and convert these ideas into innovation. It provides an ideal environment which stimulates out of box-thinking. There are companies who have gone one step further ahead. Some organizations are opening up their Innovation labs to University students and prospective employees. The idea is to attract new talent to experiment with emerging technology. The benefit usually is two-pronged. Firstly, these budding youngsters often turn small ideas into great products or solutions. Secondly, organizations spot promising bright stars from among them and convert them into regular employees.

So is your organization ready to touch the lives of your employees through technology??

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