Drunk on Technology

On March 20, 2017, in HRExaminer, by Jason Lauritsen

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We are all drunk on the possibility of technology. It’s hard not to be.

How can we not get caught up in the amazing capabilities and possibilities at our fingertips? Technology has improved our lives in so many ways. And, I’m sure we haven’t seen anything yet.

In our drunken state, we’ve started to believe that technology can be the solution to every problem.

This is particularly true in human resources. Need to improve performance? There’s an app for that. Got low morale? Deploy a pulse survey. Unhealthy workforce? Buy them a Fitbit.

I think it’s time for us to sober up.

I’m not suggesting that technology is bad. I love technology, and I love what can be accomplished with technology. But, our relationship with technology has become a distraction.

In too many cases, the technology has become the work—implementing, deploying, training, maintaining, and ensuring adoption. In our constant state of busyness, we lose track of the fact that the most important part of improving work experience is improving human to human interaction.

It’s time to step back from our technology and ask ourselves an important question about whatever problem it is we are trying to solve: What human interaction is most important to success? (Don’t know? Solve this before you apply technology.)

You might realize that the work that’s most needed is distinctly non-technical. Or, perhaps technology could help, but not in the way you are applying it.

Let’s examine a few areas where I think we are the most technology drunk right now:

  1. Performance Reviews

Nobody is going to argue that the archaic system of the traditional performance appraisal is broken and ineffective. And, over the past few years, a flurry of new technology has flooded the market, promising to be the silver bullet to performance management. The pace of these new technology products entering the market is dizzying.

Each one promises to fix performance in one way or another. So, we race off to solve a broken process by imbibing in some new technology. That feels like progress. But, have we lost track of what was broken in the first place?

Ask: What human interaction is most important to success? This one is pretty simple. It’s managers having positive, constructive conversations with their employees about job performance. When this is happening with any sort of regularity, you don’t have a performance management problem (appraisal or not). So, this begs the question: What is the most significant thing you could do to improve these conversations? If your managers can’t talk with employees, it won’t matter what kind of technology you buy.

  1. Employee Engagement

I am thrilled that we seem to have reached a tipping point when it comes to employee engagement. Most leaders have come to at least acknowledge that this whole “engagement thing” is probably important. The question is, what should we do about it?

Belly up, because there’s no shortage of technology solutions to your employee engagement problem. Take the employee survey, for example. There are short surveys, long surveys, pulse surveys, even continuous surveys. And, that’s just the measurement piece.

But have we gotten distracted?

Ask: What human interaction is most important to accomplishing this? There’s a lot of different definitions of engagement floating around. Probably as many definitions are there are vendors selling solutions for it. Ultimately, I’ve come to believe that the work of engagement boils down to creating a work experience where the employee and the organization both feel like they are succeeding. We can make it sound a lot more complicated, but this is the essence.

The interaction that is most critical to accomplish this is a manager talking with their team—both individually and collectively—about their work experience (notice a common trend here?).  Ask questions such as, “What’s working?” and, “What do we need to do better?” When these conversations happen with regularity and are followed by some action intended to make progress, engagement improves. It’s really that simple. This no-tech approach to engagement is where our efforts should begin.

We all need to sober up a bit. Technology has made us a little sloppy.

I’m not telling you to pull the plug and go off the grid. Technology is awesome. Rather, I’m suggesting that we slow our roll a bit on the consumption of technology to make sure we’re tending to the human side of this equation.

Work is a relationship. And that relationship requires quality connection and interactions with other humans. Get that part of the equation working and your technology investments will start to pay dividends.  

 
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