The microchipped workforce

Ben Whitter shares why an implant is not quite what he has in mind when it comes to 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 keyring 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 becoming 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:

  • Pros

            Working coffee machine, printers, free swag!

  • Cons

            Implanted microchips are a bit too invasive

  • Advice to Management

            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 with 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


Ben Whitter the host of HRM Asia's Employee Experience Showcase forum, and regularly contributes articles on the ways organisations are working to improve the interactions they have with their staff.



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