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Why a digital twin could be an employee’s best friend Digital technologies used in product design

Satisfaction and wellbeing

Manufacturers and engineers create digital twins to identify and eliminate design flaws or performance problems in products before they launch. But what if organisations were to apply the same concept to their most valuable asset, the workforce? What is a digital twin?

A digital twin — the computerised version of something or someone — allows data to flow between the real object (or person) and the twin, to test performance under various simulated conditions, stressors and so on. The digital twin allows companies to make adjustments in real time to the physical object based on changes to the digital version, and vice versa.

The workforce twin

Think of an employee digital twin as a virtual simulation of its human counterpart.

Employees volunteer to participate in the initiative, in which software analyses their behaviour and work patterns to create a virtual counterpart. Organisations use insights gleaned from digital twin simulations to create better employee experiences and services. For example, a digital twin simulation might suggest that its human counterpart could improve their performance if they took training classes tailor-made to their strengths and weaknesses. Or the program might advise the manager to reduce an employee’s workload because the digital twin appears to be heading towards burnout.

In a post-lockdown environment where workforces are dispersed, companies serious about retaining their best talent should proactively respond to the needs and behaviours of their employees, and developing a dynamic digital twin offers an innovative way to do so.

Improving services and experiences

We have the data required to develop digital twins of employees.

For example, companies can track employee schedules and calendars to monitor their workloads. If the digital twin suggests that an employee might be overextended or at risk of burning out, managers can be made aware and they can adjust the employee’s workload, suggest taking time off or a similar substantive response.

Companies can input data from employee surveys, manager evaluations and promotion and salary history into a digital twin to determine which employees are receptive to job offers from competitors.

A digital twin could improve performance by providing employees with relevant training.

If the digital twin struggles with communication or computer skills, then the system may suggest to the actual employee programs that focus on writing and public speaking or perhaps a quick tutorial on productivity platforms.

A digital twin can help the employee in more subtle ways. The program notices that the employee tends to arrive in the office earlier than others. So it recommends the office stock more coffee in the breakroom. Or the program may signal to IT to be on heightened alert because the employee has scheduled several virtual sales meetings near the end of the quarter on their calendar.

Getting it right

Tracking employee behaviour is a sensitive subject. Businesses need to make it clear that digital twins exist to make employees’ lives better—not to watch over their every move. To help with this, a digital twin initiative must be voluntary, at least at first. The program’s suggestions must also be useful. Otherwise, employees will just ignore it or drop out of the process altogether.

It’s also important to remember that a digital twin is a dynamic, two-way program that managers must continuously monitor and adjust.

For example, what works for the digital twin might not always work for the actual employee.

Done well, these initiatives can deliver benefits comparable to those obtained by manufacturers and engineers: the ability to dynamically improve something on the fly via predictive data and simulations.

By better understanding their employees’ priorities and needs, digital twins are poised to become a powerful tool for creating a sustainable and high-performing culture