In the years preceding the pandemic, the digital mindset and implementation of technology was viewed as an investment in “building for the future”. The pandemic ensured that businesses quickly scaled up in technology to adapt to the changed environment and employee needs bringing the future at our doorsteps.
With the pandemic (hopefully) behind us and the call to employees to return to work, the workforce is evaluating their new found priorities of personal well-being, work life balance and flexibility (hybrid/ remote working); while businesses and HR are deliberating on the true role of office space and how to recover eroded social capital which has been an outcome of a proliferation of technology during the pandemic.
Not surprisingly, Technology and its availability and effectiveness are at the center of these evaluations.
In HR, the historical value of technology included the distribution of companywide communications; supporting virtual teams to connect, automating processes to eliminate paperwork and speed up execution of day to day HR activities and freeing up HR teams to focus on building relationships. While this will continue into the future as well, the judicious use of the right technology combining virtual and face to face interactions will ensure employee engagement and their return to work.
An optimal digital engagement strategy calls for a balanced approach that blends both technology adoption and emphasis on human interaction. Technology can help a company align its objectives and drive engagement through performance management, employee feedback mechanisms, people analytics, training, and compensation and rewards systems. Cloud based systems such as Oracle and Workday have allowed employees to access their personal employment data in a secure way while interactive platforms like Sociable and Workspace have replaced traditional intranets by allowing employees to access generic content and customize it.
In the area of learning and development, micro learning and gamification has replaced most classroom learning, allowing for learners to have fun and learn on the go. Similarly, Chabots are being used to help employees get answers to basic HR related queries and AI used to understand engagement drivers of employees.
Technology has always meant to focus on reducing the complexity of our daily lives but a major part of the workforce continues to struggle, remain sidelined and excluded. Employees need to feel part of a community, together contributing to something larger than themselves. Employees also need the reassurance that there are actual people they can go to with questions or concerns, and to resolve issues. The temptation is strong to over-rely on technology because it’s easy, efficient and comfortable. That’s where HR teams need to step in to check in on how organizations are advancing technology and keeping it human. To humanize technology, HR teams should survey and evaluate employees’ experience with technology – Is it improving employee experience or is it becoming a barrier? Is more human interaction required?
No technology will ever replace a leader who communicates, inspires and motivates employees to achieve organizational goals and HR teams should use data analytics to get insights into human needs and behavior, and factor in subjective qualities that technology will not provide – cultural fitment, employee motivators and HR functionality and continuity in the face of force majeure situations.