How to Navigate the Human Side of HR Tech

We may have taken for granted how on-trend the Jetsons were with their predictions nearly 60 years ago. Over the years we’ve seen and heard of dynamic changes in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and technology that has revolutionized the way we work. However, the technology transformations we see today in the workplace is just the tip of the iceberg. 

In a survey of organizations that have rolled out new tech, more than two-thirds report introducing at least one new digital solution in the past 12 months and these new solutions in the workplace are here to stay. 

So here’s a question for you… how does technology impact the employee experience? 

It’s key to understand the difference between automating tasks and creating opportunities for ongoing training, relationship building, and trust within our work culture. Ideally, the technology we employ should help solve a problem while also strengthening leadership skills and work relationships to drive more effective and successful organizations. 

As the world advances and automates, we must find that delicate balance called “humanness” that lies between technology and our employees who are craving human connection in the workplace. 

According to SAP Insights, humanness in an organization means focusing on the skills that cannot be duplicated by AI or machine learning. While new AI and technology enhance workflow, there is something very important that can never be replaced by technology: the human ability to problem-solve, empathize, build trust, connect, and truly listen. New technology can improve both workplace operations and the employee experience as long as managers remain focused on the human side of business. 

Humanness in the workplace starts with the manager. 


Relationship Management Defines The New Decade 

During a time of uncertainty, the introduction of new technology can feel disruptive and is often scary for employees who fear being replaced. Well here’s the good news. The Pew Research Center reveals data that employment demands for jobs that require a greater emphasis on social skills have risen at twice the rate of other jobs. The human aspect of business will always be needed. 

As companies integrate technology, employees can save time with automated tasks to free up more time for creativity and socially driven skills. For example, a manager can receive real-time alerts and reminders when a team member reaches a milestone, along with recommendations to personalize each experience. This can help the manager stay on top of those important moments and develop stronger internal relationships with greater emotional intelligence, which in turn enhances the employee experience.

This is important because after a year of social distancing and working remotely, employees need to be heard and have their feelings and experiences validated.

Sure, technology like Siri and Alexa are amazing when you’re looking for a cool new restaurant for lunch, but according to Forbes, “employees don’t want affirmation from a robot. They want to hear authentic messages from people.” 

And when employees turn to their managers for those authentic messages to feel connected but their managers don’t have the skills to recognize that need or communicate those messages, the result is expensive problems like lower productivity and higher turnover. Scary, right?

It’s critical to equip your managers, especially now when:

  • Only 7% of people say their core work needs are met,
  • Half of GenZ and Millennial employees surveyed feel that management doesn't recognize strong job performance, and
  • Nearly 6 in 10 employees say they trust strangers more than their own boss. 

It’s clear that managers need to have the skills to build employee relationships within the workplace. Recognition from management is a significant contributor to workplace success, but unfortunately workplace trust is at an all-time low and technology alone isn’t the answer. 

Employees in remote and hybrid work environments are increasingly reporting challenges with feelings of loneliness and isolation. It’s no wonder so many people are confiding in robots when they are sad or discontent at work. But it’s not for everyone.

While technology supporting mental health can be a great tool to reach employees where they are and in the way they best communicate, it can never replace the power of human connection. Technology should elevate workplace relationships, not replace them. Otherwise, what is truly your differentiator for an employee to remain committed and motivated if every company relies on a “Siri” to support their people? 

In this new decade, manager relationships are going to be the most important aspect of employee retention and productivity. Organizations must invest in equipping their managers to build strong relationships to increase the wellbeing, growth, and success of every employee. This will increase commitment and motivate higher performance. 


How HR Can Make Good Managers GREAT

Don’t underestimate the power of workplace relationships! As we enter a likely COVID job churn this year, managers need to develop genuine connections in the workplace and keep their best employees from walking out the door. HR has an incredible opportunity to humanize the workplace by equipping managers to improve and personalize their interactions with employees. After all, managers have the largest influence over their team’s engagement! 

Need some ideas? Here are a few examples to get started: 

  • Establish a culture of recognition by giving your managers ways to easily reward and engage with their employees on a regular basis (e.g., at least once a week).
  • Help busy managers stay on top of important moments and connect with their teams on a more personal level by selecting technologies that can aid in process automation of routine tasks (e.g., new hire reminders, tips, and recognition recommendations). 
  • Set up both managers and employees for success by updating your learning and development initiatives to offer training and coaching in Emotional Intelligence.
  • Cultivate stronger relationships by sharing ice-breaker questions for your managers to use when kicking off a meeting. For example, “What are you looking forward to most in 2021?” Better yet, begin with a personal check in or meditation to get everyone centered. The opportunities are endless!

Good workplace relationships are directly correlated to increased employee engagement and workplace trust. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t be effective. To create meaningful relationships, each one must be personalized, and managers must be equipped to understand what means the most to each employee. 

As you are evaluating different technology solutions to support your managers, keep in mind the types of tools that will help them the most. Here are a few examples:

  • Real-time alerts and reminders for important achievements, workiversaries, and regular employee check-ins. 
  • A means to easily reward and recognize team members in a personalized and meaningful way. 
  • Coaching tips and communication preferences for each team member. 
  • A method for quickly understanding personal and professional goals, the true motivator of each employee. 

Personal touches are essential in order for employees to feel seen for their unique achievements. But we know that busy managers often lack the time and knowledge required to truly understand and respond to the internal motivators of each employee. Providing them with training and tools will go a long way toward helping them make those connections. 

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How Sparck is Helping Companies

Over the next five years, workplaces will continue to become increasingly tech-driven. As we consider technology’s impact on the workplace, we must prioritize the critical need for human connection and learn how employees’ life experiences fit into the larger transformative picture of business strategy and long-term success. 

Sparck offers companies the opportunity to humanize the workplace through a personalized employee engagement and recognition platform. We help managers build and strengthen relationships by providing them with tools and quick insights to easily personalize rewards, recognition, and interactions in a way that's most meaningful to each employee.  

Cultivating better workplace relationships increases employee satisfaction and helps companies retain their best talent. That’s a win for employer and employee alike, and it’s why you’ll always find Sparck on the human side of technology. 


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