With all the attention being paid to attempts by various government bodies around the world to provide more consumer protections against big tech, it’s easy to forget that technology is increasingly pervasive in business as well. Of course, much of this is for the good in terms of efficiency and simply being able to do things that wouldn’t have been possible before. For example, if the pandemic had happened a decade earlier, who knows how the world would have reacted. Organizations certainly could not make the seemingly effortless transition to remote work.
But it is the success of this policy that is now causing problems in so many workplaces. Employees who have found that they are working harder and longer because mobile technology makes it possible respond positively to the new working conditions because they allow them to cope with the increasing demands on them. Not surprisingly, they proved reluctant to give up what they had gained in terms of better work-life balance and return to the office in numbers similar to the numbers many of their bosses would like. .
There is a lot of talk about employers responding by making their offices more inviting places to meet and collaborate. But many seem to be using more technology to push for higher attendance rates. It is not obvious that this is the wisest course of action. Yes, we all know those smart cards that office workers hang on their lanyards allow their bosses to know when they enter and leave their workplaces and even where they are when they are at them. As is often the case with the technology, proponents talk up the benefits using complicated jargon such as “unified observability,” which sounds like a more acceptable way of saying that security personnel are watching you and is apparently necessary to combat cyber threats. But overusing this kind of development can easily backfire. Organizations love to talk about trust – and certainly recognize that it is a key element to successful work practices put in place in response to the pandemic – but let employees know (as if they haven’t already) that in practice they are spied on for bites to return to the old days of count-and-shutdown and “scientific management.”
So when a company like Riverbed, which describes itself as a “leader in Unified Observability,” announces that a study it conducted recently found that “organizations must use high standards for DEX [digital employee experience] to stay competitive and retain talent,” you wonder if the businesses in question are missing the point. Of course, the problem is that they rely too much on digital to the point that real human contact is minimal. For a generation just entering the workforce after years of distance learning in school and college, this should be the last straw. No wonder they’re considering leaving, the survey shows.
Another study this month from Leapsome, a “people empowerment platform,” reveals a divide between HR and frontline staff on a range of issues, including the use of AI and its effect on productivity, employee well-being and reasons for leaving your job. learning, Beyond the cabin, reveals a significant difference in perceptions between HR leaders and employees regarding engagement, alignment and performance. While half of HR leaders believe their employees are “fully engaged,” only one in three employees feel that way, it said. These are hardly extraordinary insights from a company using technology to help other organizations manage their people.
Perhaps the lesson is that leaders should not be afraid to limit technology to what they are good at and not use it as a crutch in dealing with one of the most difficult aspects of running a business – people. Technology is a given these days. While it’s important that the equipment people use at work is at least as good as what they play games and watch TV on at home, it won’t win their hearts and minds. Only a personal touch will do that.
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