IoT and What it Means to be Connected at Work Now

May 10, 2016 Jiordan Castle

connected at work

By 2020, there will be over 30 billion wirelessly connected devices on the market worldwide. While you may already have an Amazon Echo or Nest hooked up in your home, that staggering 30 billion also refers to the wearables, smart kitchen tools, enterprise equipment, and more that have yet to be invented.

But the IoT revolution has already arrived. As consumers, we’re fully immersed in IoT culture — with smart light bulbs, fitness trackers that record our heart rate in real time… even voice-activated gas grills. We’re seeing how IoT is transforming the consumer landscape; the question now is: How is IoT transforming the Worker Experience?

The role of IoT in the future of work

While we don’t have to worry about robots taking our jobs, we know that machine learning and automation will eliminate the need for certain jobs. But streamlining or eliminating processes and reducing the need for certain jobs will actually create the need for new jobs.

Meanwhile, wearables have already made it easier for many workers — from retail associates to factory workers — to do their jobs more efficiently. From the smart eyewear used by nurses and doctors to access patient records to the wearables used by warehouse managers to oversee distribution and fulfillment operations, IoT has begun to transform many professions — innovating any industry in which workers need to be either mobile, hands-free, or both.

Efficient workers = happy workers

IoT is about being connected — to our devices, to our work, and to other people. A great example is everyone’s favorite coffee giant, Starbucks. With over 24,000 stores in 70 countries, what was once just a cup of coffee has paved the way for a great Worker Experience. Starbucks has all the makings of a connected workplace: a gamification tool (the app-savvy gold-star reward system), a multi-pronged approach to ordering and serving (i.e., drive-thru, walk-in, mobile ordering… the list goes on), and of course, a “smart” environment for baristas.

What I mean by “smart” is that Starbucks doesn’t stop at a cool app for customers; they already employ IoT in their stores to optimize manual processes, which in turn helps workers work more efficiently and deliver a better Customer Experience. For instance, Starbucks uses warming ovens that are updated over the internet to heat their food, so, as Starbucks CTO Gerri Martin-Flickinger says, “… When a new food product is introduced to the store, it will instantly be heated to the right temperature in every location, with no learning curve.” So you get your coffee cake toasted perfectly and the person serving you can get to the next person without delay.

Happy workers = happy customers

Starbucks is beloved by many, and it’s not just because they’re a big brand. My mother, a woman I’d argue is single-handedly responsible for keeping Starbucks in business, doesn’t just go to Starbucks simply because there’s one on every corner. She goes because they have employees who know her name, who can systematically brew perfect no-foam lattes — who serve her better than their competitors because their technology serves them better. It’s not luck; happy customers like my mother are almost always the result of a great Worker Experience, and inclusion of revolutionary technology is a big part of that.

Aside from taking much of the guesswork out of a morning rush and allowing store managers, shift managers, baristas, and those at the register to provide more strategic value (or, at the very least, heat more breakfast sandwiches in less time), IoT provides another benefit to those in charge of ordering, selling, and serving. Martin-Flickinger says, “With about 90 million transactions per week we know a lot about what people are buying, where they’re buying, and how they’re buying. If we combine that information with other data like weather, promotions, inventory, insights into local events, we can actually provide better, personalized service for customers.”

What workers need now

If your store manager, sales associate, or field worker, has real-time data on what to order, when to order, and why, that equates to more time they can spend providing a human element to the Customer Experience. IoT doesn’t just connect devices to one another; it helps tether workers to the task at hand. Simplified processes allow for greater productivity, a more enjoyable employee journey, and personalized interactions at every customer touchpoint.

Learn more about new models of working and how to engage and empower your employees at Appirio’s Worker Experience Tour — coming to a city near you!

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