power, and information moved in one
direction only—up the corporate hierarchy. In today’s business environment of ubiquitous computing, the
contrast could not be starker. While
the changes made possible by today’s
technology might be impressive, and
digital innovation will continue for
the foreseeable future, technology by
itself does not ensure profitable business performance.
A comprehensive 2014 review of
research at the junction of leader-
ship and technology concluded that
researchers tend to treat technology
either as a contextual aspect of busi-
ness performance relevant to the
leadership process or as a set of tools
that leaders and followers can use to
communicate with each other. 35 The
complex, pliable, changing, and ever-
expanding portfolio of Internet tools,
information, and media is altering
how consumers and businesses act
in situations where previously they
would have acted differently. Before
the Internet, it was impossible to,
With the Internet, people have easy
access to information they previously
could not have found. Indeed, tech-
nologies trigger change by altering
workers’ non-relational roles—the
business-related tasks they perform
and how they perform them. These
changes may then lead to changes in
the nature of the interactions work-
ers have with other members of their
role set, or fellow workers with whom
they interact while doing their work,
as well as others in their role set (such
as co-bots). If role relations change
in either way, then the social network
is likely to change as well. If it does,
one can say technology has altered
the work system. Changes in role re-
lations are thus key to a broad range
of effects in work systems. To be sure,
technology is altering role relations in
The way technology is altering work
settings and the work people do, particularly in the new era of ubiquitous
computing, affects the way organizations manage their human talent and
raises compelling questions for managers. Consider pre-employment testing. Traditionally, candidates would
take tests at an employer’s site, in a
quiet, distraction-free, comfortable
place, where the employer could prevent breaches of security by checking
candidate identification, eliminating opportunities for collusion, and
controlling test materials at all times.
Now consider unproctored Internet
testing, where candidates, not employers, decide what conditions are
best. Technology can deliver simulations or pre-employment assessments to any location at any time,
raising a number of other security
and trust issues that might influence
test outcomes of interest, including
the reliability and validity of the measures, adverse impact, size of the applicant pool, differences in means
and standard deviations, applicant
reactions, and perceptions of procedural justice.
There is certainly great potential
for deepening management’s understanding of and ability to predict behavior in the domain of technology
and talent management. Figure 1 outlines how the shift from traditional
to ubiquitous computing technologies affects six conventional areas of
talent management: 11 work design,
workforce planning, recruitment
and staffing, training and development, performance management
and compensation management, and
the management of careers. Figure
2 outlines key questions for managers when moving from traditional to
ubiquitous computing technology
in these areas. Note the relevance of
the lessons mentioned earlier, particularly lesson 2—that ubiquitous
computing can be used to enable or
to constrain people at work—as managers seek to address the questions in
Research on technology and organizations provides valuable insight re-
Figure 2. Questions for managers when moving from traditional to ubiquitous computing in
six areas of talent management.
How does unlimited access to computer-based resources change communication,
document sharing, knowledge exchange, and collaboration in work settings?
How can technology enable job design that advances, rather than threatens,
innovation, fulfilling work, and value creation?
How might the design of work reduce stress associated with constant connectivity?
What are the desired and unintended effects of the increased ability to receive and
process rich streams of data about the organization and its environment?
How does ubiquitous computing affect workforce collaboration, cohesion, and
How might technology and ubiquitous computing help minimize risk in workforce
Given the volume of digitized data, what legal, ethical, privacy, and fairness issues are
associated with screening and tracking individuals in and outside an organization?
How is the role of the recruiter changing in a world of constant connectivity?
What effect does technology-based staffing have on productivity at the individual and
the enterprise level?
How can technology-delivered instruction enhance employee and team training?
Just as there are “smart cars” and “smart buildings,” how can organizations enable
and support “smart workers”?
How can new training technologies like virtual reality, e-learning, and gamification
enhance training outcomes?
What strategies promote sensible performance management and fair compensation
in digital work environments?
How do social ties and non-work-related communication affect performance in a
world of unlimited connectivity?
What are the most effective ways to supervise employees in ubiquitous-technology
What are the best ways to coach employees to self-manage their careers?
What kinds of technology could enhance this process?
How might technology facilitate work/life fit?
What roles do personal control, collaboration, and coordination of career
management play in the digital environment?