EngagementStriking the tech and human balance in engagement

Striking the tech and human balance in engagement

How do HR and business leaders find the right balance between technology and the human touch? David Roberts, People Officer & Director, Transformation Consultant and Coach.

If someone said to me, “put your passions together and write an article”, then aside from my family and football, I’d tell you about my two other passions… Human behavior and tech! The key question is how we as people professionals can strike that balance. To show this, I’m going to paint a story so please stick with me.

The evolution of engagement needs

I’ve grown up from a career perspective with the engagement agenda. As a child (metaphorically speaking!) in my career I was using a simple survey that annually assessed peoples’ happiness and then you would workshop/discuss at length what needed to be achieved. People were arguably less demanding in their needs, required processes and digested content or expressed needs in a different way. This was the rise of ‘you said so we did’ and it used to work for us all right?

In my teenage career this evolved into more regular surveys with enhanced reporting capabilities so you could cut the data in as many ways as you could hope for. Peoples’ needs started to change with an increasing need to see more talent management, career opportunities, different comms channels, understanding of the business etc. Again, the surveys and approach worked if you spent more time actually engaging rather than cutting data to get the answers or insights you’re hoping for, right?

Finally, in my current adult career the use of surveys and action planning isn’t always the answer to success. The need is more instant with businesses evolving at pace and as goes broader than the traditional comms and environment. The needs and potential of people professionals is to connect people through social people capabilities and learning. The capabilities of tech solutions to measure can be pulse checks at any point and have the ability to show insights including predictive measures. Let’s explore this a bit more before I go straight to my answer…. where’s the fun in that hey?

Tech vs human

Technology is evolving at a pace it can be hard to keep up with at times so it’s easy to be excited by the latest new company selling their data, machine learning, insight capabilities or slick experiences. However, let’s go back to the core of what we use tech for. It still and should be the enabler to assist the company meet their objectives, NOT the only driver.

Tech alone is not going to engage, retain and develop people although it will play a huge part. We know people leave companies because of their leaders and more recently there’s a rise in people leaving to join organisations with strong purposes. The key to improving this is by creating leaders who inspire and organisations that communicate and celebrate their vision. Lots of words to simply say, don’t lose the human in human resources and the emotional element that tech doesn’t have.

Getting the best mix

We’ve established we need both tech and the human element but how do we get the right mix? We need to use tech as an enabler and as a facilitator in a rapid and agile way (e.g. pulse surveys, recruitment & learning tools that are slick but also hold useful data). We then need to use these tools, data sets, insights and predictive measures to align to business needs not on an annual basis but on a daily basis!

This will mean we, as leaders and people professionals, have a part to play so we may need to step up. “Step up in what way?” I hear you say. Well, given the technology capabilities and changing needs we need to look at tech as providing insightful information that we use to help the individuals and ultimately the organisation. We need to facilitate social learning and connect talent with tech assisting us. Sounds great in theory I know but let me give you an example of a journey where tech and human behavior can align to create awesome engagement.

The mix in a story

You get attracted to an employer brand via social media who has a great purpose then you register interest in a career (human led and tech enabled). A bot contacts you with basic screening questions (tech led) and you’re successful so you meet some great people via video call who are passionate and sell the company & culture (human and tech enabled). You visit the site, decide to join and are given an app that has all your basic admin requests and learning needs (human and tech led). This then feeds into your first 90 days learning and integration where you and your leader have all the tools as well as inspiring vision (human and tech enabled). Beyond your first 90 days you understand the objectives, you connect through social HR tools and you have the opportunity to have pulse checks to express what can be improved and how you can get involved (human led and tech enabled). Every time you have a say you feel it is followed up instantly and have a part to play in the future success of the organisation (human led). You are engaged!

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