HR in 2021: Technology for Humans

Lauren Welgush COVID-19, Culture, Engagement and Satisfaction, HR Tech, HR Technology

As we continue to see the walls of our homes more than the faces of our colleagues, it may sometimes feel that the human-ness of work has been extrapolated from our lives, however, humans are still the core of an organization. The value of each individual in an organization creates culture. Which is why HR in 2021 needs to be about technology for humans. Technology is our human-ness enabler.

What are we needing to enable in organizations? What humans desire: community, openness, connection and learning opportunities, to name a few. Plus, ways to make these fluid.

A lot of organizations have been 100% remote or highly dispersed even before COVID-19 entered our lives. Let’s take Gitlab, a 100% remote organization and apparently the world’s largest of it’s type, as an example. Search through their very transparent online content and their Glassdoor reviews and you will see a high functioning, highly connected happy bunch of humans work there. I’ve never worked at Gitlab but I can definitely make an educated guess that they have used technology to enable humans to be humans even when not physically in front of one another. So, why can’t other companies use technology in organizations to facilitate being a human? They can, and it’s HR’s turn to get this started!

A little insight as to why I am writing this and into what follows. During COVID times I have worked in an organization which heavily utilized Slack, Loom and other technology tools. This was a tech-savvy organization where technology solutions were celebrated. I’ve spent the other half of my COVID experience in an organization with a very different employee population that has implemented the Microsoft Teams platform but is still learning how to use it to its full potential, and HCM, well, that’s a new word in our vocabulary.

What have I learned from these two experiences?

  • Technology truly can facilitate community, openness, connection and learning opportunities. For example, in the first organization recognition easily went from ringing a bell in the office to posting a ring the bell Slack message for the whole organization to see and comment on in real time. Onboarding easily went from an in-office group session to online videos using Loom. New hires got up to speed on job knowledge via knowledge already captured in Slack channels and learned about their new colleagues by joining new channels, not all about work.
  • HR plays a key role in technology solutions for organizations. We understand human behavior plus we are the architects/engineers of work. It is a game changer to be technology savvy if you work in the field of HR.
  • Comfort levels in organizations around technology are different. Not all organizations are made up of tech savvy software developers and that’s ok. It doesn’t have to be a blocker to implementing and effectively utilizing technology and building community through it.
  • Organizations need technology boundaries. Just because a company has Slack, doesn’t mean that one has to be on, all the time. There is a healthy balance. 

2021 is HR’s opportunity to thoughtfully implement technology for humans.

2021 is the year you put some effort into learning about technology and the solutions you can employ for your organization on a day-to-day basis and in all parts of the employee life cycle. I don’t mean just find a great HCM or messaging platform because there’s a plethora of other technologies like Donut, that’s whole purpose it to facilitate online water cooler chat. I know a lot of people are missing these ad-hoc interactions!

In taking a thoughtful approach to implementing technology for humans keep these things in mind:

  • You are probably thinking about your 2021 HR budget right now. Own the tools and put some dollars into your budget to implement these technology tools for humans.
  • Know that it’s not a one size fits all approach.  There are so many great tools out there that can support employee engagement, learning, and building community. Find the best one for your organization and work with the business to do so. For example, a customer care team could implement a product like GetGuru to help with basic knowledge in answering customer questions, but the extra benefit could be the start of a knowledge base and a culture of learning in the flow of work.
  • Don’t assume everyone is going to just love it and adopt it and know how to use it. Collaborate with IT, be ready for some cultural change management and kindness to those we are not as tech savvy. Maybe this is the year you hire a People and Culture Systems Guru?
  • Technology policies that promote transparency and set boundaries are just as necessary as the technology. Ensure you have the buy-in of your executive team in how to use the systems. They and HR are models for the desired behaviors in the organization, even with disconnecting from technology. Humans, we need leisure time too, and it does exist in a COVID world.

Humans are the core of an organization. Don’t let your organization lose sight of what the humans in your organization desire, instead, unlock the power of technology to meet those desires. Create a positive employee experience for your employees sitting at their kitchen tables. We are humans and we need technology right now.