Written by:

Holly Macdonald


April 14, 2015

This is another installment in the series about using wearables to provide training/education.

This post will focus on knowledge workers. In previous posts, there was a greater emphasis on using wearables for groups of employees, in this post the focus will shift to how individual employees might be able to harness the power of wearables to support their learning and performance.

What makes knowledge workers different?

There is typically more latititude offered to these workers. They may have creative roles or administrative ones, but they often have flexibility to learn and work in ways (or places) that suit them. They can also customize their learning paths much more.

How might wearables enhance their training/learning or professional development?

Firstly, knowledge workers likely have much greater access to both desktop and mobile devices throughout their workdays. They attend meetings with their phone, they can access the corporate intranet or LMS at their desk, they might even be interested in the watches or other devices for alerts or monitoring and may be more likely to have a consumer device that tracks fitness or lifestyle factors. There’s a large movement called “Quantified Self” that explores how people are using biometrics to manage various aspects of their life. For a knowledge worker, they might see the value in setting up their own “experiment” or using a service like “Quantified Mind” to determine if they can influence their wellbeing.

Secondly, knowledge workers might be more likely to consider their training a part of their professional development and see their performance much like an athlete, requiring practice and feedback to reach goals. Their goals are often career related. Mastering skills or gaining competency might set them apart from their potential rivals when the next promotion comes up or when a headhunter calls for a great prospect at a new organization. The motivation to learn and improve is driven by the individual. Finding apps and services that allow them to track and monitor their performance is not all that uncommon (https://mashable.com/archive/apps-health-productivity ) and enterprise specific apps are evolving out of existing platforms: https://www.cio.com/.

As a knowledge worker, you may be looking for feedback on how quickly you were able to learn the new system in the office or you may be looking for input to identify your best creative time or the best make-up of the team to tackle a problem or pinpointing why communication is breaking down and by providing input in the moment you are able to collect data to apply to future situations. Perhaps you are using moodtracking to determine when you are stressed or really focused.

One aspect about a knowledge workers work environment is that it might change from office to home to client site to airport and the ubiquity of wearables makes it easier to both access information (which might be performance support) or maintain tracking away from the cubicle. This allows for a more seamless collection of data and can help the knowledge worker calibrate their best learning environment and potentially identify (training) tasks that are best suited for one environment or another.

If we broaden the concept of wearables to the “internet of things” then novel hardware might enhance learning and performance even more. Perhaps it isn’t necessarily attached to your body, but it’s a thing that can provide feedback, adapt or otherwise aid your performance. Consider things like:

From an organizational perspective, the fear is that companies will spy, monitor or punish employees based on data that is gathered and analyzed through wearables. This is not limited to knowledge workers of course, but all employees. Hopefully an enlightened organization would be selective about how they use wearables and how much data they collect.

It’s a fascinating time to consider these aspects, and envision the workplace of the future. Is it like the Minority Report? Is it like “Her“? And what does the training industry see as the impacts of some of these technological changes? Will adaptive games be the way we develop training for wearable platforms? Will we gravitate towards performance support and micro-content? Will we invest in Virtual Reality? Will we develop “smart authoring platforms”?

What do you think?