Technology and the human touch

Thoughts By 4 weeks ago

Last week we had the pleasure of welcoming Kelly Schulz to b2cloud who ran an amazing accessibility and inclusion workshop to help further our understanding and empathy for all our users. While the focus was on assistive tech, she said something that we can all relate to as leaders and HR practitioners. Whenever Kelly is asked which technology is her favourite, she says her guide dog Gallia is. Because her dog is trustworthy, reliable and approachable, and it’s these human elements that she looks for in all technology.

There is so much technology in our lives. Everything is automated within an inch of its life, and sometimes this takes the humanity out of it. In the HR world, there are systems that automate everything – performance reviews, training and career development, onboarding – which are there to make things easier, to save time, to be more efficient, to save money. Yes, these systems do that and their benefits are great, but some of them remove the need for human contact. A lot of them even have templated emails ‘to save you time’, so you don’t even get messages in your manager’s own words anymore!

We’ve all worked with managers we can’t trust, that are unreliable and unapproachable, and we all know how demotivating and uninspiring that can be.

Some of us (me included) are lucky enough to have had inspiring leaders:

  • We can trust them – they let us do our work our way, in our time, with autonomy and flexibility, we can trust they have our best interests at heart and have our back
  • They are reliable – they always make time when we need advice or are frustrated. Their decisions are consistent, and we can rely on that and feel comfortable in their decisions –
  • They are approachable – they’re not intimidating, they don’t wield power over us. They genuinely care and want to help us grow and succeed. The don’t sit in an ivory tower and look down, they’re part of the team as well and we feel comfortable with them.

To build these characteristics into our relationships, we need face time, one on one time, time dedicated to us as people, not just the job we’re doing. Our systems should simply save administrative time to allow us to use our face to face time for the important conversations – to build trust and grow our relationships, rather than removing the need to meet, chat or even email at all!

I am in no way saying we don’t need technology to automate important aspects of our jobs like performance reviews, training and career development. I’m saying…

“the BEST pieces of technology I’ve used in the workplace bake the human touch into them and don’t depersonalise people, leaders and their unique relationships, in fact, they allow us to personalise and enhance them.”

Amongst the many lessons I took from Kelly’s great workshop, the one that stood out for me as a leader is that the human touch is everything and that while we can find great technology to help, we should be choosing (and designing, and building) technology that incorporates the human touch rather than losing it.