Bridging the Human-Tech Gap

3 Ways Organisations Can Bridge The Gap Between People and Technology and Adapt to the ‘New Normal’

If there was one word organisations would give to the year 2020, it’s probably something that I wouldn’t like to type, so let’s just go with ‘chaos’ shall we?

Due to unexpected world events, organisations and the people within them have not simply just been asked to ‘embrace technology’ but rather have been forced to ‘adopt technology,’ essentially overnight with no choice, no warning and despite any bias or uncertainty often associated with adopting technology solutions. Talk about sink or swim!

And whilst many people have quickly grown accustomed to working from home and collaborating via video conferencing (where dressing ‘work ready’ only from the waist up accompanied by sweat pants and slippers has become the fashion statement of the year).

For others, the transition hasn’t been so comfortable. So as we inevitably continue to move toward new ways of working that are technology dependent, here are 3 simple ways that organisational leaders can effectively bring the intersection of technology and people together in the ‘new normal’ workplace.

1. Bring Technology into the ‘culture conversation’

Embracing and integrating technology allows organisations to increase their problem solving capabilities, productivity, collaboration and overall experience for their customers and employees. Yet many organisations just put technology innovation conversations with their people into the ‘too hard basket’. Sometimes this can be from a lack of internal understanding and capability or it just gets simply forgotten amongst the other business as usual priorities.

Weaving conversations about technology into the fabric of an organisation is one way businesses can operate and evolve quickly enough to handle any disruption and adapt quickly. A Harvard Business Review report revealed that out of 376 executives surveyed, 282 of these executives admitted that their organisation will require significant cultural changes to totally embrace the new digital world.

For example at Google, they take this one step further and actually reward their people for failing at new innovations they tried. Google’s Head of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, states “it’s also important to reward failure” so as to encourage risk-taking.’ The team behind one of their initiatives ‘Google Wave’, which was an online platform that launched and closed a year later, were rewarded for their ability to take a new risk, even though it didn’t pay off.

The businesses that thrive in these times are the ones that have built a strong culture that is not only open to technology changes and innovation, but actively pursues it and is unafraid to fail in the process. Simply put, sticking to business as usual just doesn’t cut it anymore.

2. Think flexibly and creatively about how people work

Organisations need to reboot their thinking about what roles traditionally looked like, who (or what technology) performs it and how it is performed.

We have now seen companies like Microsoft Japan break the typical 9-5, 5 day a week working model when they trialled a 4 day work week with their employees and experienced a 40% increase in productivity as a result. Furthermore, 42% of Millennials are now actively looking for flexible and even temporary work opportunities compared to only 11% of the generation X group.

20+ years ago, working differently, flexibly or remotely was an unrealistic pipe dream for employees. But now? Well, it’s the expectation.

Organisations who fail to think differently about the way in which we work will struggle to remain relevant. For example, one of my clients who worked at a large Insurance organisation once told me that he was thinking of moving on from the organisation he worked for because he had overheard some of the senior managers at his organisation discussing how people who wanted to work remotely from home “better have a seriously legitimate reason to be awarded that kind of privilege”. Granted that this was before the pandemic, but it is comments and attitudes like these that ultimately hinder an organisation's ability to retain top talent and adapt to the new ways of working in the long run.

3. Make a conscious effort to ‘keep it human’

When describing some of the changes happening within the banking Industry, Andy Mattes, CEO of Financial Software company Diebold says “The ATM of tomorrow is going to replace the teller.” It can do approximately 90% of what a human can do, and it’s going to be your branch in a box.”

Whilst some Tellers might read that and freak out about robots coming to steal their jobs, technology advancements like this actually make it easier for people to focus on more meaningful and fulfilling ‘human’ work, which is enabled rather than hindered by technology advancements in the workplace.

So, what’s the real key to making it all work?

Organisations need to remember that beyond the balance sheet and beyond technology, they need to deeply care about the people in a genuine and authentic way.

The lines between work and home life are increasingly being blurred, and the organisations that take a work/life integration approach will create high levels of trust with their employees. It’s of course a two way street, however savvy employees (top talent) will always move to organisations where they can be their authentic selves, where their values align and where they can make the true impact they desire. This is what companies like Dell, Walmart and UPS highlighted as their main area of focus at the 2019 Catalyst Awards Conference.

Moving forward, much like having a world class customer experience, organisations need to have a world class employee experience in order to survive and technology plays a vital role in enabling this to happen.

Amy Smith

Chief People Officer, LAMPS Media

Co Host, The Reboot Show