Balancing Tech with a Human Touch in HR Management

A reliance on technology is part of everyday life. The last two years served to underline this when, thanks to digital technology, we were able to access the goods and services we rely on, without leaving home. With this reliance comes a responsibility to keep the ‘human’ in Human Resources.

Losing the human touch

The technologies that we thought were a short-term fix in unprecedented circumstances are now an accepted part of life; no working day is complete without at least one Teams or Zoom call! As we move on with technology integral to the workplace, companies must look at their ways of working if they want to stay relevant and ensure that they support their human resources.  The time saving and productivity benefits that come from using specialist software cannot be overstated, with the streamlining of routine and repetitive tasks and workflow to generate automated communications. But, as many ‘human’ tasks and responsibilities are now automated and home-based working is a norm, there comes the risk of resources feeling more and more isolated as the human touch diminishes. Technology has removed a considerable amount of face-to-face interaction and left many people feeling lonely, with no opportunity to build friendships in the workplace. If employees get too used to working alone and become isolated as a result, it can have an impact on their mental health and could potentially lead to them leaving.

Automation to assist not replace

With the rise of automation in processes, there is a risk that HR become focused on data metrics and analytics and pay less attention to supporting individuals and teams to reach their potential. A successful HR team will build a strong culture within an organisation and encourage employees to fully understand their role and how it fits in that culture. Knowing that the routine is taken care of, shine a focus on empowering and encouraging your employees in both their creativity and productivity. Give employees a voice when they are most at risk of becoming silent or worse still, invisible to the organisation. Too much reliance on instant messaging tools can further compound feelings of isolation and the reduction in human communications can place a strain on relationships in and out of the workplace. Add to this mobile phone use and the lines between work and home become blurred. It is easy for an employee to feel guilty for not responding immediately to work texts and emails, even out of hours. This is not a good place to be for any individual or organisation.

Striking the right balance

Every manager knows the benefits of technology when it comes to producing data to measure productivity and performance, but they still require people skills. There is no substitute for sitting down with an employee and asking if everything is OK.  HR is instrumental in reinforcing the values that form the core of the organisation and ensuring that employees are listened to and supported. Pay attention to employee suggestions and implement charge, where possible. For example, a flexible approach to remote working can remove some of the monotony that arises from being ‘alone’ and being given an opportunity to take time away from the desk can inject renewed enthusiasm and commitment.

Social interaction is critical

Never has the human touch been so important. Of course, HR must support the use of technology to enhance the workplace but should also facilitate collaboration and social interaction. Strike a balance between technology and people through social events and regular “in person” meetings that are now easier than ever to organise.  This balanced approach can help maintain morale, reduce feelings of isolation, and remind staff that socialising with colleagues can enhance working relationships and help to build stronger teams. Whilst technology has improved our lives in ways we could never have imagined, HR leaders should never forget the importance of the human touch.

Article originally published on HR Grapevine October 2022.