Article: Machines and leaders: a necessary balance


Machines and leaders: a necessary balance

Leaders today heavily depend on machine made insights to make business decisions. But how can they ensure that they stay relevant in this ever evolving world?
Machines and leaders: a necessary balance

Businesses today are finding an increasing application of technological advancements in their varied processes. Across the organizations, departments that have excelled in harnessing the potential of such applications in improving the efficiency of their processes have been able to provide a greater contribution to business growth and development. Industry heads across the board are now investing heavily into either focusing on developing in-house technologies or are leveraging the opportunities provided by the market to perform better. Given the unstructured path that companies usually find themselves on today, this is a key factor for their survival. 

With the advent of ‘intelligent machines’— one which uses a mixture of advanced programs like machine learning and data analytics to make sense, comprehend work and execute processes—have helped managers to ease their work and perform more efficiently.  Most of such machines automate some of the more routine and rule-based activities that managers perform. This provides managers the bandwidth to provide more strategic inputs and perform better. 

But to truly lead this technological change, leadership teams across the board need to find a balance between the application of their in build intelligence and the ‘intelligence’ provided by such machines. A right balance of self-application along with using the latest technologies will help managers and leaders at different levels of the organization derive the greatest benefit out of such technological application. And HR professionals need to play a key role here. 

With programs like machine learning and robotics finally reaching a position on their development curve, they are finding an increasing application in businesses today. They are actively reshaping and changing the nature of work in various jobs and professional fields.  Some to the extent where they are now responsible for taking decisions like Deep Knowledge Ventures, a Hong Kong venture capital firm appointing a decision-making algorithm to its board of directors. It is, therefore, the right time for industry heads and HR professionals to begin discussing the right balance between technological application and the human aspect of decision making and running businesses or operations. It is important for leaders overlooking business transformation process figure out the answer to critical questions like the future of the different components C-suite within the company and how can senior leaders maximize their contribution. Although such questions are nothing more than mere speculations at this time, a long-term HR vision to enable leaders to contribute more efficiently is slated to become an increasingly important topic. The following will play a crucial role in shaping the outcomes of this debate.

Encouraging behavioral shifts 

A point of analysis that will become a crucial factor in defining leadership’s role in the coming years would be the pace at which managerial principles evolve to keep pace with the increasing adoption of the new technologies.  The benefits of applying advanced tools and technologies within businesses would be minimized— even rendered useless at times— if used within the framework of old and archaic management principles. Without senior leaders undertaking significant behavioral shifts to understanding the relevance and potential of new age technologies, their organizations won’t realize the full power of such technologies irrespective of an institutional drive to do so. 

Managers and leaders have to update their understanding of ‘intelligent’ software and machines to create synergies within the company. That means not just using newer technologies to increase the efficiency of the process but rather leading its implementation to restructure the work. Only then would they be able to truly amplify the impact of using such technologies.  Behavioral shifts are to happen in the directions which make managers and business leaders today more proactive in defining the usage of the tools and technologies that they implement. It should be them who define the role and purpose of such technologies rather than it working the other way around.  

Democratizing information flow

As ‘intelligent’ software systems begin to play a greater role in a leader’s ability to take decisions, it becomes important for HR professionals to instill a sense of agency within various horizontal levels of their organization. By allowing and empowering different levels of the organization to manage themselves without necessarily bringing decision upwards helps institutions today to become more agile; it will help them to make more and better decisions on their own. This would also allow separate departments to experiment with the usage of new technologies, enabling the CEO to scale up any handy innovations that can find organizational usage. HR professionals need to create a culture where information flows more freely within the organization and creating strong and active channels to allow cross-departmental learning. 

Bringing ‘soft skills’ to the table

In our efforts to understand the human working patterns, one thing is a given—it is dynamic in nature.  And machines will no doubt play a pivotal role in understanding it better. Laszlo Bock, the head of HR at Google had famously shown the benefits of a wide range of human-resource data-analytics efforts in improving the various HR functions in the company. But such data points and insights only become useful in the hands of leasers and managers who are able to combine them with a human experience to bring about the change. To ensure that such insights help improve the workforce performance in alignment with the company goals, a human touch is still a necessary factor.  As the role of data driven decision making increases, growth in the importance of softer management skills will be equally crucial to ensure an overall business impact. And HR professionals today are liable to ensure that future leaders of their companies are equipped to make the best of an ever changing world.

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Topics: Leadership, #FutureHRLeadership

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