There is no question about whether HR must embrace technology and make the best use of new-age tools and digital platforms. However, should it be done at the cost of the personal touch? Should the critical human element be lost amidst technological evolutions? Should the human resource function avoid staying human?
Organizations today collect vast amounts of employee data and details and this data is used to improve HR practices, including talent acquisition, resource management, and deployment, training and development. However, there is no denying that there are limitations to technology as well. For example, Google launched its much-touted managerial qualities study, Project Oxygen, a multi-year project aiming to find out what makes a good manager at Google. After much work and statistical analysis, Project Oxygen identified eight behaviors as common key elements among all their high performing managers. The conclusions were obvious and discovered over the years in the behavior studies.
So, the fundamental question to ask is, how much tech should HR embrace? Should HR departments primarily rely on technology or should use their instinct acquired over the years of experience? The obvious answer is that tech in HR is here with multi-billion business opportunities and will drive us henceforth. It will help us better understand, comprehend, and make decisions with the data we have. However, HR must remain human forever.
The fundamental human nature of the function does not change. Even in today's world of technology, our basic hierarchy of needs remains the same. Hence humanizing HR is simple, easy, and straight forward. Here are some ways of making your HR department more human:
Treat your employees as human beings and not human resources
Remember that we work with human beings all the time, and not human resources. People aren't resources that can be used up for projects based on requirements and pushed out when not in need. Treating people with dignity and self-respect is the first step of humanizing HR. Even when you rely on tech tools, keep asking yourself, "What shall I do to humanize the situation and process?"
Empathize and appreciate feelings
The ability to be empathetic, understanding different perspectives and feelings will help build strong relationships in the workplace. It makes people feel more connected, with a better understanding of others and their beliefs. HR leaders who are better at empathy will be able to influence, inspire, and help people achieve their dreams and goals. Empathetic leaders enable us to connect with others in a real and meaningful way, which in turn creates a happy work environment.
Invest in face-to-face time with your employees
Some of the most effective texting, collaborating, and communicating tools in our workplace have enabled people to work more closely than ever before. At the same time, people are increasingly feeling isolated, disconnected and lonely as well. Screen-to-screen communication might make increase the pace in the organization, but it brings down the levels of intimacy that comes with face-to-face communication. In-person interaction naturally results in higher levels of personal trust, bonding, and credibility.
Introduce fun in the workplace
Introducing workplace fun in your organization will help improve team bonding. A leading IT product development organization saw a drastic improvement in their team behaviors just by introducing simple smiley ball games on their floors every afternoon after lunch break. Create opportunities for your employees to come together in-person, meet, talk, socialize, and have fun outside of their work. Lunch meetings, coffee discussions, general meet-ups, self-interest groups are some ways to create such possibilities even in a high-pressure industry.
Reduce the tech induced stress
Though technology has improved our lives significantly, the negative impact of technology on mental and physical health is also becoming increasingly evident. Organizations need to understand how much tech is too much tech and use it as an enabler; not a hindrance. The best way to reduce tech-induced stress is to encourage employees to unplug and disengage from work once in a while. Thus, make sure your employees are taking enough breaks to recharge themselves.
Human resource professionals are the strongholds of company culture and values in any organization. While they are overwhelmed with data, quant, and algorithms, they must never give up their primary role of being emotional advocates. There is no doubt that we have to embrace technology, but we will only thrive if we keep ourselves inherently human, and keep working on qualities like being emotional, vulnerable, intuitive, imaginative, creative, etc. To put it simply, we are humans because we cry, we laugh, we dream, and we love others. It then makes little sense to digitize the entire human function; let human resources stay human forever.