Microchipped Workforce: A New Level of Employee Experience

A company in Wisconsin, US, and others around the world are taking the employee experience to a whole new level.

Not content with providing a company staff card or key ring fob to access various features of the employee experience, Three Square Market, an organisation in micro-market solutions for vending operators, is implanting employees with microchips the size of a grain of rice to provide more convenient interactions and transactions within the workplace.

For something like this, I think we do need to hear directly from the company’s CEO.

“We foresee the use of RFID technology to drive everything from making purchases in our office breakroom market to opening doors and the use of copy machines; logging into our office computers; unlocking phones; sharing business cards; storing medical and health information; and for payments at other RFID terminals,” Todd Westby said.

“It’s the next thing that’s inevitably going to happen, and we want to be a part of it.”

A bone of contention?

I have been talking about the need for a much deeper connection between employees and organisations, but the idea of an implant for employees was not what I was immediately thinking of.

But hold on.

Let’s digest this development for a second, and contemplate whether or not this really is the next thing to do.

Employees have something inside their bodies that allows them to have a smoother, and more efficient and effective experience at work.

Is anybody else slightly concerned about the path before us and where this potentially leads?

We know the power of a well-intentioned idea being implemented, but an idea being iterated, built upon, or redesigned with different motives could ultimately take us to a place that we didn’t intend to go.

Not always on, but always in

But so what?

As we each go about our day, we are willingly and happily (most of the time) carrying with us an incredibly powerful device that generates so much data and enables so much convenience within our life.

The smart phone is increasingly guiding and informing our human experience and choices, personalising services and presenting us with adverts at just the right moments.

Does it really matter if this smart object is inside our pocket, or inside our bodies?

Maybe – just maybe – it does.

Human and technology are still separate; not integrated.

It is still our choice to pick up our phone, to carry it with us, and to utilise its many functions.

In the 21st Century, we are beginning to realise and become more acutely aware of the many disadvantages of being “always on” in addition to the multitude of benefits our smart lives deliver.

However, this microchip is not always on; it’s always in.

Yet, it is already proving a hit at Three Square, with employees getting onboard with the programme as America’s first microchipped workforce.

“In the next five to 10 years, this is going to be something that isn’t scoffed at so much, or is more normal,” said Sam Bengtson, a software engineer at Three Square Market.

Reassuringly, not everyone is happy with this new future, as a very recent review on Glassdoor indicates:

Working coffee machine, printers, free swag!

Implanted microchips are a bit too invasive

Stop using microchips

Keeping a close eye

It is reassuring because something like this simply cannot go unquestioned, unchallenged, or made to feel like just another remarkable advancement that technology has enabled.

Given the level of participation and enthusiasm from Three Square staff, I would suggest that a high level of trust has been established within the organisation and there is a low level of cynicism.

This is no easy feat and to even suggest microchips as a good idea indicates that they are probably doing many things right as an employer.

Yes, it certainly appears that Three Square is a company that can roll this out successfully with good intentions and that it will surely enthuse a lot of people there.

However, not all companies can, and not all companies have built the requisite employee experience foundation – one based on rock solid trust – to quickly mimic and replicate this development.

So we have plenty of time to look at, dissect and deep-dive into the experiences of companies experimenting with a microchipped workforce. That may be welcome news to some.

No doubt, this is a historic moment.

It is reported to be the first time that microchipping employees in the US has come into effect within any workplace, and it hasn’t started in one of the big-name tech companies.

So, this is still delicate ground we are stepping on, which perhaps means many more organisations will be watching with interest.

But, how do you feel about this?

If your company started to introduce microchipping as part of your employee experience, would you:

  • Leave. Immediately
  • Stay, but opt out
  • Stay and complain loudly and regularly. Sign-up to Glassdoor and post a review
  • Embrace this wholeheartedly as the future of our economy and companies
  • Accept it as a pretty cool workplace development
  • Other

What actually happened at Three Square?

According to Westby, the “overwhelming majority of employees said yes” at a staff meeting.

In fact, Westby and his whole family are getting microchipped.

Leadership by example is crucial within the employee experience, but for once, I am a bit on edge about where this role model leadership will lead us to.

Ben Whitter is often described as “Mr Employee Experience” ™ and the “number one figure in employee experience around the world right now’.

He is the Founder of the World Employee Experience Institute (WEEI), a leading employee experience consulting, training, and research organisation operating globally.

In 2017, Ben was officially named as one of the world’s leading experts and influencers within employee engagement.

His work featured in the Global Human Capital Trends Report 2017 by Deloitte University Press. Ben co-designed and chaired the first major employee experience conference in Europe; he also co-designed and delivered Australia’s first Employee Experience Conference in partnership with PwC in May 2017 at which 500,000 of the Australian workforce were represented and $88 billion in revenues, and also kicked-off the first ever employee experience conference stream at HR Summit 2017, Asia’s biggest HR event.

Ben is the author of the acclaimed thought leadership piece, Bye, Bye Human Resources?, and was the lead author of the first article on employee experience (The Global Organisation in a Chinese World: Why organisations and HR need to re-focus on the Chinese Employee Experience) to appear in China Business Review, which has a circulation of 13 million business leaders.

You can book Ben for advisory, training or consulting services via www.worldeeinstitute.com or connect with Ben directly on LinkedIn, WeChat & Twitter.


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