In the popular television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, one member of the crew – Data – was an android designed to interact as humanly as possible with its colleagues. It made for great TV – but now, it’s also becoming a reality. Researchers have developed sophisticated automated workers in many work sectors, including manufacturing, health care, hospitality and yes, even in an office environment. For example:

  • Tangy, an assistive robot designed to help people with degenerative cognitive conditions, works alongside human staff in nursing homes, telling jokes and leading games of Bingo to encourage interaction among residents.
  • KASPAR, a child-sized ‘humanoid robot’ is designed to help children with autism by engaging them in activities and teaching them how to communicate with others.
  • Botlr, who looks and sounds a bit like R2D2, delivers room service items to hotel rooms – no tipping required.
  • Betty, an autonomous robot designed by researchers at the University of Birmingham in the U.K. is undergoing a pilot study as a trainee office manager. Betty keeps track of who’s in the office, monitors the office environment and greets customers at reception.

What would it be like having a robot in the cubicle next to you? Would it creep you out? Would you treat it the same as your human colleagues? What if a robot was your boss?

How do HR, LR and OD managers develop policies and structure around android workers? How will their presence impact workplace culture and conflict?

It’s clear that robotic technology will continue to evolve and shape our work in the future. Let’s make sure that our organizational structure takes this into account we design our systems and prepare to welcome a very different type of diversity in the office.

Want to chat about this? Contact me for a conversation!