Technology advances, demographic shifts, the impact of globalization, changing nature of jobs, the rise of the gig economy, and the hyper-connected workplace are all trends that have led organizations to reconsider the how, who, and what of work.
Technology that brings us closer to those who are far away, also makes us distant from those who are actually close.
We are often caught in the perceived deterioration of face-to-face interactions due to the push and pull of technological connectedness. Digital, which has now become a competitive necessity by insinuating itself into every crevice of the workplace, helps organizations evolve into a more networked form. Humanizing today’s liquid workforce through digital will take a conscious effort. The onus is on all of us to make jobs more human by taking advantage of essential human skills to augment our performance with technology.
HR Technology: An enabler, not a threat
With the growing bond between people and technology, the foothold of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, automation, robotics, Virtual Reality (VR) and analytics is expanding in modern workplaces to effectively hire, manage, and retain the workforce. Technological deployment has gained grounds in candidate sourcing, onboarding, employee communication, engagement, learning, talent analytics, and performance management. The key challenge facing organizations while deploying technology to simplify processes is to retain the ‘personal’ element and to not forget the basic human need for dialogue (versus monologue).
This technological wave is what will allow HR the freedom to make work radically more human: personalized, collaborative, flexible, and meaningful to the workforce.
Is it really a binary war of technology versus touch? Or is “how can we use the best of technology to bring out the best in our people” the pertinent question?
Technology has significance in scaling-up the experiences of doing business, building efficiencies, and improving speed. Human touch contributes towards building trust and relationships, driving emotional connect, and bridging communication gaps. While technology appeals to the rational mind, touch connects to the emotional core of an employee. It is not going to be an easy journey for HR to maximize business impact by ensuring that modernity blends with tradition and touch with technology. An organization’s most valuable resource is its people, not technology. Fortunately, human-centred HR technology solutions such as VR allowing candidates to experience a day on the job and AI-powered coaches guiding employees are now surfacing to reinforce humanity of the workforce. In recent years, the technology versus touch debate has translated into a boiling point of conflict in the field of learning in the form of classroom versus digital learning.
More access doesn’t equal more learning.
There has been a dramatic change in the learning landscape with the advent of technology and learners’ expectation of self-directed and immersive learning experiences. Yet, KPMG in India’s ‘Learning on Point’ research reveals that only 7 per cent of the surveyed 138 leading organizations are using Big Data and predictive modeling to create personalized learning paths for their employees. Leveraging learning infrastructure and technology to allow for curated and informal team learning requires a mindset shift.
The classroom isn’t dead: Don’t forget the human touch
As employees take charge of their own learning, the role of HR in becoming master facilitators and not content archivists has become critical. With the growth of virtual/mobile/e-learning, contrary to popular belief, classroom learning still finds a prominent place in modern-day corporates. Digital learning has usually focused more on content development and assessment over retaining personal touch and connectedness through learning delivery models. Classroom workshops, especially for soft skills (such as teamwork, communication, problem-solving, leadership, negotiation), provide the ideal environment for learners to engage, network and share their experiences.
Connected classroom: Blended or hybrid learning
However, the learning debate must move beyond the elementary analysis of classroom versus digital learning to accommodate the trend of “blended learning” that has grown at a feverish pace — an approach that captures the values of traditional learning and leverages the digital layer. It offers numerous advantages such as flexibility in content presentation, quick adaptation with changing market needs, efficiency, cost-effectiveness, personalization, extended reach, and caters to varying learning styles. This strategy allows learners to use tools such as instant messages, blogs, and online discussions, which improve collaboration amongst learners and between learner and instructor, in or out of the classroom.
Embrace technology, not to dehumanize, but to rehumanize your workplace.
Organizations that reflect the ethos of learning technology amplifying and not replacing human touch will emerge as the ultimate winners at the forefront of this revolution.
Reflection: Virtuous loop – brains + bots, not brains or bots | Technology + Talent = Innovation
Leaders can convey this message by investing in leadership development programs and executive coaching sessions to create an environment where technology is not viewed as the be-all, end-all, but is leveraged to aid productivity. Technologies that will intensify the value of human interactions will be the ones that survive as an unstoppable force in the marketplace.
In the end, it’s always people, who matter most.
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