Does Technology drive what we do instead of enabling it?
In 2007 the first generation iPhone was launched. It took two years for Samsung to respond with their own smart phone offering. Since then we have seen the rise of tablets, the launch of the smart watches and you can now pay for your shopping with your mobile phone. Now it seems there is always a new product being launched, but a piece of technology can be exciting and innovative one day and out of date the next. As consumers this is the world we now live in but the corporate world is struggling to keep up, often finding that processes and work can actually be prohibited by systems rather than enabled.
For a good 40+ years the business world remained fairly constant and largely leaps and bounds ahead of the consumer when it came to technology. Organisations were generally very structured and process driven with little change or innovation to contend with. As times have progressed and advancements in technologies have become more and more rapid, it has become more difficult, particularly for large scale businesses, to be nimble and agile enough to keep up with the changes, particularly because of the huge costs that are associated with upgrading company systems and technologies. Instead, add-ons to existing systems to “make do” and act as a band aid to technological issues are implemented as short term solutions. As a result many businesses have ended up with complex and unwieldy systems that are incredibly complex, inefficient and hard to unravel.
From an HR perspective technology is an important tool to enable employee engagement. Technology should be liberating not limiting, but so often businesses allow technology to drive what they do rather than enabling it. HR technology has traditionally operated in a bubble, when in fact it should have synergy with other company and financial systems to ensure consistency across the business, which in turn can drive productivity, create efficiencies and build an agile and profitable organisation.
HR Departments need to rethink their partnership with technology. Before implementing a new system does anyone ever say – “this is what we would like to achieve, so what are our options?” It is always good practice to go out and talk to people, get their feedback and learn from their experiences, but how many of us actually do? From a HR perspective a good IT system should empower managers to be able to access transactional information themselves, enabling HR to focus more on the strategic and value-add dimensions of the role. However, managers probably feel this should be the other way around – so how do you use technology to meet in the middle?
Another challenge for HR Teams to contend with regarding technology is this “culture of entitlement” that exists amongst the younger generation. In their personal lives, they have access to all the technology they could desire and they expect that at work as well. With business predominantly focused on their consumers first and foremost, budgets for technological advancements will often be allocated to this space first, with employees being a secondary priority. This means that employees have access to the latest technologies outside of work long before they do inside. Those businesses that have been able to implement technological improvements for both consumers and employees at the same time have been rewarded with a high level of employee engagement and an excellent brand image, making them highly desirable places to work. But these are few and far between.
The rise of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) has provided employees with more choice, but the challenge then becomes ensuring a consistent employee experience that keeps up with these technology advances, whilst also ensuring cost efficiencies are maintained.
With business cycles traditionally operating on a monthly / quarterly / annual basis and the world of technology changing almost daily, one of the biggest challenges facing business today is creating a work place fit for the 21st Century.