On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks to Gord from TraceSafe about the wearable IoT that’s driving the future of smart workplaces.
Some Conversation Highlights:
Listening time: 27 minutes
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Formerly of SAP, Taleo and Monster.com, Gordon has spent 25 years working with start-up tech firms to assist in building their global profile, sales and delivery excellence. He has helped transform both consumer and B2B tech companies into billion-dollar brands.Follow
Music: This is Recruiting Daily’s Recruiting Live Podcast, where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three year old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup
William Tincup: Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you are listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Today we have Gordon from TraceSafe and we have a wonderful topic. This is going to be so cool. Wearable IoT, driving the future of smart workplaces. So I didn’t say Internet of Things because I figured at this point you know what IoT means, but we will get into that. Gord, would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and introduce TraceSafe?
Gordon: Yeah, absolutely and thanks William, for having me on the podcast.
William Tincup: Sure.
Gordon: It’s just a real pleasure to connect with you and talk about fun technology in the space. I’ve spent just over 25 years working in HCM Technology with some of the biggest vendors in the space. A lot of it in recruiting, so working with the likes of Monster, and Taleo, SuccessFactors, Verve in there as well. So it’s been an incredible ride of having a front row seat on what innovation looks like at that particular time. And so, saw the evolution of those companies while they were independent companies and then being acquired throughout.
Basically, after finishing up with SuccessFactors, most recently in Asia with them, I was pursued by this company, TraceSafe, to help them out with painting an HR picture. How we could be meaningful as an IoT company to the HR audience as a decision maker in an organization for solutions. It could be for safety, it could be for access control, it could be for collaboration, it could be for experience. It could be for a variety of different things, but building a story around how that could be successful and started off with them just as the pandemic hit.
Although the company had been around since 2013, they had been in the area of wearable devices, and the wearable devices looked more like a hospital wristband than an Apple watch. So, from the context of things, it’s about a very universal solution that allows wearability to be both inexpensive to deploy, safe, work well in wet environments, outdoor environments, temperature environments that may require it to just be available, in hospital environments, anything like that.
And so, during the pandemic, we created a solution that would allow for contact tracing, but the major element of it would be that, you didn’t have to have a mobile app, which gave a lot of comfort to employees because you didn’t want to necessarily have an app that was following you around and in your private life and all that sort of thing. There was some reluctance of people to give that up to their employer.
And so, the idea of a wearable that was just working in context within the work environment, and especially for a contractor or a visitor, a gig worker, or something like that, this became a great solution. So we had some just phenomenal success with putting together some pretty amazing solutions for companies that were dealing with some really tough times over COVID, and dealing with employee safety as part of that.
And so, that’s been our journey to this point and where we’ve been able to move on from COVID, because that is an exciting part of the story is, how we as an HR audience have been able to move on from that. Look at tools to adapt in tough times, but also to kind of create new opportunity, this has allowed us to now explore ways in which we can really provide greater functionality for employees, for visitors, contractors, gig workers, but I would say also to do very responsible things for the organization. Things like carbon capture or looking at our carbon footprint for that. So there’s some interesting things that we’re doing there, but also how to work with your customers in different types of environments too. So little bit of a long introduction, apologize for that.
William Tincup: No, no, no, needed it because for the audience thinking about wearables and we’re going to have to start slow and build towards where we really want the audience to get it. Especially as it relates to the future of data collection and understanding the analytics of that data so that people have a great experience. I mean ultimately one of the things that I love about this topic is, smart workplaces. Well, there’s no downside to a smart workplace, but you have to have data.
Gordon: Yeah, you have to have data. Yeah.
William Tincup: You got to have data and then you got to be able to action the data and all of those other things. So, when you look at the future and you say to yourself, “Okay, smart workplaces, let’s do our building blocks,” and probably these are going to be hybrid workplaces and even probably hybrid workforces-
William Tincup: … on some regards. So, where do we start the audience with like, okay, let’s start here so that we get this type of data and then let’s start building with what you think is going to be the future of wearables, but also creating again that smart workplace?
Gordon: Yeah. So I think that part of it is maybe even looking at the lowest common denominator of the type of workplace that might be considered pure opportunistic, just from a standpoint of, we’ve never really had to use the word smart or to be able to say driving the future or something like that. It’s the organizations that have really still been working with maybe a large degree of their workforce, which is never going to access an HR application for instance. Or they’re never going to access or download an app for HR purposes or what have you.
They might be working on a line. They might be working in a factory. They might be working in a mine or an oil and gas facility or very virtual in those types of situations. It may be completely unsafe for them to consider having to have an app on their phone or something like that.
And so, you think about the types of workplaces that we have and the employees, but also even visitors to companies or contractors or gig workers or things like that, that are entering into a workplace. There’s not just a safety conversation that might happen, but the movements of those people within the environment itself, are they where they should be? Are they safe? Are we overcrowding some situations perhaps? Are we inundating people with messages that have to go over a loud speaker or are just either in messaging application or something like that?
So, how do we make this a little bit more universal in terms of, this could be applicable for any worker by definition, in any environment, whether it be indoor or outdoor, combination of it, virtual amongst different campuses and that sort of thing? So let’s start there, and let’s look at ways in which we can look at wearables to provide the data that we need.
We need to be able to make sure that our employees, for instance, are operating the types of machinery that they’re licensed and approved to do. If they’re not, that, that should be alerted so we can deal with that situation immediately. It’s not about a punishment type of thing, but it’s about safety for the organization. Right?
William Tincup: Sorry, Gordon, to interrupt. Do you see facial recognition in tandem with some of the wearable technologies? The reason I ask is, I worked with this company, Ramco, out of India and they were building basically a time and attendance tool that had facial recognition and a breathalyzer and it was for minors or forklift drivers. But basically to clock in, you had to blow into the tube so you couldn’t game it, it recognized your face. If you blew over the legal limit, it sent you data chart and at the end of the day, you had to blow in the tube again to clock out. Now, I know that’s further away from wearables clearly.
Gordon: Right. Yeah.
William Tincup: But do you see facial recognition? Because you’re talking about safety, which is right up my alley and it’s also something we don’t talk enough about. So, wearables in the sense of how we can actually create a safer environment for all of our employees, do you see facial recognition being a part of that in any way?
Gordon: I think it’s not and I think it’s not for a few reasons. One is, I don’t think that, that number one plays into the type of maybe diversity strategy that a lot of organizations will embrace. What I found myself in sales cycles talking about is, the ability to remove cameras from the workplace, because that is imposing.
Understand if you will, like during the pandemic, a lot of companies resorted to cameras to try and figure out if there was an infection [inaudible 00:10:24]. Then, they take their whole security department and spend the next two days going through footage. It doesn’t tend to be as efficient as other means of technology. So from a time and attendance perspective, I can have almost a disposable or a temporary device for a contractor, or for a worker or something like that, and it can be part of their ID tag or what have you.
Basically, what can happen is, as they walk into different areas within the facility, it can locate them. It can provide the time and attendance stamp that it needs to. It can send it back to their core system of record for TNA, and we can provide a data element that’s important in that context without having to go to the trouble of facial recognition and mapping and things like that. But I understand the situation in India and their need to kind of go a little bit further.
To that, I would say it’s just, basically, the wonderful world of IoT could involve anything that is pretty much a sensor.
William Tincup: That’s a good point.
Gordon: That sensor, it could be temperature related. It could be either chemicals that are in the air. It could be things that fall detection or peer to peer type of contact. Any of those types of things, there’s a sensor for that.
William Tincup: I know you’re going to get there at some point anyhow, what about mental health? Have you started to see sensors that can help gauge where people are? Again, we’re trying to collect data so that we can then use the data to create a better workplace or a better work environment for folks, better work experience, I guess. Have you seen anything on the mental health side yet?
Gordon: I haven’t seen anything on the mental health side of things. I think it’s an amazing point, because I think that we’re all looking for ways in which we can find new and innovative solutions to address this. As opposed to this need for people to recognize the cues and things like that. But I would imagine that, that would be just a tremendous area to find some way of saying, here’s where we recognize where all of the different signals might be as it relates to that.
William Tincup: I love that. Okay, so we laid down a base in terms of wearables and why we’re doing it, so we understand the why, we understand some of the tools. Take us into some of the analytics and what you can do with the data to then, again, change people’s lives and make people’s experiences better.
Gordon: Yeah. First of all, I do think that, part of the basis of this is an open API element that allows us to basically say, we do this part of it really well. There’s some interesting massive amounts of data that will connect really well to other HR types of tools. And so, I think about whether it be core HR platforms or like we’ve talked about with time and attendance, I think that some of the connectivity with an employee file or something like that to basically say, “Hey, let’s start to understand, what teams of people are working together? Where do we see some great collaboration happening? Where do we see the opportunity for people to find new other areas of an enhanced experience with things?”
A lot of this comes to, we can start at the linear level of a peer to peer contact, so I know that Gord was connected to William. We’ve been meeting and that sort of thing, and there’s some great collaboration happening here and then, this is the type of group that they’re involved in. Or we know that these are the types of office environments that are being used across the building, and these are the ones that are not, so there’s an opportunity for us to save some costs on that. Turn the lights out at the appropriate time and do some things there and find some other efficiencies within that.
But then there’s also some areas going into things like, how can we be responsible with other types of data? So, for instance, attaching this to efficiencies in the building, and it’s everything from electricity to the machinery that’s there and the assets that are there and sharing them around. I think about hospitals and how they need to share, whether it’s employees around often the large medical facility, but also it’s the assets and that sort of thing and how to find them very quickly too. And so, how you actually create a map within a facility around some of these different devices.
William Tincup: Love that. So, who do you see, we don’t have to name names, but companies that are already down this path? Again, I’m looking for examples of what people are doing, the data that they’re getting under. We don’t have to name names, I’m just really thinking of the examples of what people are doing that are really, really innovative.
Gordon: Yeah. So, I would say that, during the pandemic, we started with organizations that wanted to capture data that would basically look at the possibility of infection across employees. The idea around that was, if one of our employees became sick with COVID, that we could very quickly ascertain based upon the contact tracing, which of that population would’ve been exposed. Based upon using 15 minutes and within six feet of each other over a cumulative period of time, and then we could denote that sort of group. We could alert those people to take the necessary precautions, whatever that may be, stay home, get tested and do what have you. So, it started at that particular level, and I refer to that as linear in terms of the type of data that we’re able… It’s peer to peer and very quickly, I can now see the map of people that need to be notified for that particular purpose.
But now we’ve got the additional ability for us to now look at it from a, now that employees have that and they continue to use that for interactions that are happening with different employees, we’ve also now got the ability to measure room utilization and how many people are in different areas of the building for emergency types of purposes. So we can overlay that first piece of data with other types of, what’s the physical presence of where our clusters of people are so we ensure that if we need to get them out or what have you, we’re doing that?
So, today we’re doing that with a very large organization that has 100% deployment across their employees. It’s about 55,000 employees and another 15,000 contractors that are walking in and out of the building. It’s a massive undertaking and across literally the globe for that type of thing.
William Tincup: Just a quick stop. What’s great about that is the data that they’re sitting on. Not just now, but being able to lay down a baseline. I mean, you’ve been doing this for a long time, so you know this bit, but you lay down that baseline. Well, again, with 70,000 people, three years from now you can go back and look at that and go, “Okay, what have we learned?”
Gordon: Right and especially now as organizations are trying to figure out, like we’ve got these office buildings and we sent people home to go work from home for a long time. Some of that was possible, in other industries that wasn’t necessarily possible, but how are people now utilizing this space? There’s going to be just an impressive amount of intelligence that goes into space utilization in the next few years as a result of what’s happened in the last couple of years.
William Tincup: I love that. Okay. We got two questions left. One is, where do you see the immediate, like 2022? Okay, we’re going to blink and it’s going to be 2023. Where would you like for leaders to be thinking about wearables? I’m thinking about the talent folks in particular, where would you like for them to move mentally? Just in the short-term, around how they think about wearables and what kind of data that they can get and how it can inform decisions that they make?
Gordon: Well, so let’s start with this because I think that a lot of our space, the HR tech space has been about leading with a software solution. I believe that Marc Andreessen has a quote for it, like software eating the world or something like that. A lot of the tools that have come out have been really software forward in terms of looking at ways in which we can provide holistic solutions for HR challenges with software solutions.
I think that we’re coming at this from a standpoint of thinking, but if we really want to be universally adopted by an organization, if we want to look at every single employee, but the definition of what an employee is moving into that gig worker, contingent, visitor, whatever, flexible worker, we almost have to move to a hardware assisted software model. It’s kind of like, let’s let the hardware lead the software intelligence.
William Tincup: Oh, that’s cool.
Gordon: Especially in corners that software is not able to touch. Think about the factory worker, think about unionized employee, think about that group of people which won’t immediately accept an app for what they need to do or time in on, or provide that sort of thing. If they’re not doing that, are you getting the full picture of what you need to get for your data analytics and for the truth that you’re trying to find in that data as well?
So, that might be a way to think about it, and it’s like, let’s start with the universality of this type of application. Something that somebody can wear and hit on a number of different topics, safety, operational data, security.
William Tincup: Off topic, but similar, what do you think holds HR leaders and people leaders, what do you think holds them back? Do they think it’s a little Big Brother-ish or are they afraid of the data that they might see? Well, what do you think holds them back? You know these folks, why are we further along?
Gordon: It’s a funny thing. IoT and wearables have been around for decades at this point, but it took a pandemic for us to really start to see ways in which technology of this could be used. I mean, our devices are used on pretty much every cruise that’s sailing right now. It’s become universally adopted because we had a challenge that we needed to solve for groups.
It’s the type of thing that we’re using this at sporting events, because you want to be able to find a cheap and easy way to get this type of solution without having to have people compromise their privacy and follow them around after the game or after their cruise is over, or pull other data from their phone and all that sort of other stuff.
I mean, we’ve seen the pushback in the sales cycles necessarily. I think that what’s happened is that, the technology’s been overshadowed by the app or the software solution and that being a very easy to deploy type of thing and so, that might be the answer to your question. I mean, is there a difficulty in deploying some of these things and issuing them out to people?
I think that the privacy conversations we’ve actually had quite a bit of ease in doing so, because it is something that is easy for a union to see the merits in and not overreaching in terms of mandating people to do something that’s outside of their norms.
William Tincup: Yeah and you get the unions, generally speaking, you get them on safety. I think they care deeply about safety. I always have and thankfully so. So, you can talk, have an adult conversation with any union leader about safety, anything that’s going to help reduce accidents and reduce risk around safety, they’re down for. Especially if you’ve mitigated any privacy or any of the other types of concerns that might come up with. Last question before we roll out is, if you could wave a magic wand, what would your magic wand do with wearables?
Gordon: Well, I think that, first of all, I would probably say that I would love for HR to own the wearable solution in an organization, because I think right now it sits in a little bit of a messy space. I think that it might sit in IT, and I think that it might sit in operations. I think it might sit in governance or data ownership or what have you, and I think it needs to be seen as a people solution and so, I think let’s go there.
I mean, I think that, that would be a great place for us to do it because I think that what it does is it allows for us to think really creatively about how things like wellness can be exposed. Then, we can start to solve some of those problems about mental health, but I do think that anybody who’s worn an Apple watch or a smartwatch for that matter is probably looking at some of the health benefits associated with it. Maybe exercising a little bit more or watching some of their data elements that the watch now affords you. I think the same can be true with wearables in the workplace.
William Tincup: Drops mic, walks off stage. Gord, thank you so much for carving out time for us, carving out some of your wisdom, and being on the podcast.
Gordon: My pleasure.
William Tincup: Thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast, until next time.
William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.