The Humanity of High Tech: Re-Connecting the Workplace


By Andrew Woods

From the phone in our pocket to the laptop on our desk to the proliferation of pads, screens and devices, the technologies at play speak to an ever greater potential for connectedness and innovation.  Putting those technologies to good use is another matter entirely—and one which has seen technology too often cast as the nemesis of workplace productivity.

On the flipside, there are those who have found fresh expression in the tools now as widely available for small businesses as large.  For those bellwethers of better business, technology has empowered a renaissance of the human touch that carries from recruitment to onboarding to everyday.

Setting Recruitment in Motion
Case in point, while there is no shortage of calibre job boards and posting services online, one Vancouver-based recruiting company has found a way to bring a friendly face into what is often considered an impersonal process.

Andrew d’Eca, a partner at Recruitment in Motion explains, “We are a unique recruitment firm in that we embrace technology, and create a professional 30 second candidate video to send along with a CV to our clients. This allows the client to pre-screen candidates and also allows a client to see the candidate’s personality, enabling a better understanding of the potential employees fit within the organizations culture.

He notes that the innovative approach also shortens the recruitment process and allows both sides to quickly get an understanding of each other. “Although not mandatory our candidates appreciate the use of technology as their own time is not wasted by organizations bringing them in for interviews only to decide that they are not good fits for the roles,” says d’Eca.

Blended Learning Boosts Onboarding
That added connectivity and effectiveness is a hallmark of smart technology usage and is being carried forward into the onboarding process as well. Many companies are turning to a blended-learning approach to onboarding, essentially providing some classroom style induction, supplemented with apps and messages from team members sent directly to i-phones and personal devices.

This approach is proving extremely effective for larger organizations whose geographic reach requires technology to create those initial “face-to-face” connections—providing company executives with the ability to make an impactful initial impressions through the development and distribution of videos in the on boarding process.

Innovative companies view onboarding as a vital process to the success of the new hire in both individual and company terms. According to 2015 Aberdeen Group research, these companies are 35 per cent more likely to begin the onboarding process before a new hire’s first day. This collaborative learning opportunity fosters a strong culture, but also encourages new hires to take ownership for their on boarding process.

All On Board For Results
Perhaps this last point is most important, as the employment “cycle” with companies doing anything less to engage their newest hires can be a vicious one. In their book, Successful Onboarding, Mark Stein and Lilith Christiansen provide some key data on on boarding:

  • Nearly 1/3 of people employed in their current job for less than six months are already job searching;
  • Almost 1/3 of executives who join an organization as an external hire miss expectations in the first two years; and
  • With 10-15 per cent annual attrition, companies turn over upwards of 60 per cent of their entire talent base within four years.

Clearly, technology can enhance both the recruitment and on boarding processes which saves organizations money in reduced turnover and increased productivity. How it might be put to intelligent use on a day-to-day basis is an ongoing revelation for organizations large and small.

Smart Tech a Work in Progress
Case in point, many organizations still cling to archaic processes such as the annual appraisal—even though numerous studies tell us that this is an ineffective way to provide feedback, and that constructive feedback should be given on a regular basis.

According to a 2013 survey of 6,000 HR professionals by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), a mere 2 per cent of employers provide ongoing feedback to their employees. Clearly, this is an opportunity that organizations must embrace quickly to stay competitive.

Matt Straz, founder and CEO of the New York-based NAMELY, believes strongly in developing an alternate approach with effective technology providing an underlying assist in updating antiquated processes.

“We all want 360-degree performance management, but few us have it. Talent management software is the answer to obtaining a 360-degree view of individual performance. Its primary purpose is to help managers gain a broader perspective on employees, since they can only see so much firsthand,” Straz explains.

Leverage Learning and Development
Again, perhaps the most touted strength of our technologies is their ability to connect us regardless of distance. So too does it unite us in purpose when put to work in the the area of learning and development.

Moreover, e-learning enables even greater mobility while ensuring effective delivery of consistent training across organizations. It carries the added benefit of also being more environmentally friendly as training takes place without the need to move large numbers of people.

Major technological advancements have empowered HR professionals and enabled instructional designers to deliver training that is topical, relevant, culturally appropriate for larger organizations—and affordable.

E-Learning Affordable and Effective
Most HR professionals understand that  e-learning is much more cost effective to deliver than classroom based training, especially for larger organizations, but concerns remain as to overall effectiveness. Consider that Ernst & Young cut training costs 35 per cent while improving consistency and scalability; they condensed about 2,900 hours of classroom training into 700 hours of web-based learning, 200 hours of distance-learning and 500 hours of classroom instruction, a notable cut of 52 per cent.

Similarly, Dow Chemical Company reduced their average spend of  $95/learner/course on classroom training to only $11/learner/course with e-learning, amounting to an annual saving of $34 million.

As to the results, further research from a nine-year survey of training literature, commissioned by the American Psychological Society and published in 2000, concluded that: “Learners learn more using computer-based instruction than they do with conventional ways of teaching, as measured by higher post-treatment test scores.”

End Results Enhance HR Efforts
As technology advances successful organizations need not necessarily stay ahead of the field, but remain aware of the tools at their disposal to attract, engage and develop strong teams and effective employees. That so many of these multi-modal tools might be put to most effective use in the hands of HR, brings the profession ever closer to the status it deserves, and already garners, within progressives organizations.

Andrew Woods, MBA is a professional speaker, trainer and author of BOOM! Engaging and inspiring employees across cultures. @AndrewWoods2

(PeopleTalkFall 2015)

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