November 15, 2017

The Right and Wrong Ways to Manage People Through Technology


As we progress further into the Digital Age, many of us fear that the automation of processes through technology and the movement of HR into the cloud may cause us to lose the human relationships that lie at the heart of all good HR practice.

What we need to realize, though, is that technology is useless unless there are people around to apply it. The outcome of any technology, good or bad, depends entirely on how we use it.

None of us want people management to become systematized, because that’s simply not what it’s about. Employees need to be treated as individuals, and technology-based analytics have the potential to put everyone into clinical boxes. However, thinking of technology in this way leaves us with a pretty bleak outlook on the future of people management.

Fortunately, this outlook does not have to be accurate.

Below, we’ve outlined the right ways to use technology to manage your people, as well as some of the ways it could lead to negative work environments if mishandled:

The Right Ways to Use Technology:

1. Using Technology to Save Time

Cut the hours people spend on paperwork and administrative tasks by employing an HR system. Then, you’ll have more time to invest in employee engagement, which will only become more important as time goes on.

Technology can provide your company with a level of internal organization that gives the HR department the time and resources it needs to identify and eradicate pain points for employees. Instead of paperwork, HR pros can focus on providing management training and helping your business stay compliant with ever-changing employment regulations.

2. Using Technology to Mitigate Risk

No matter where your company is based in the world, you’re probably dealing with constantly evolving employment laws. Such legislation can be tricky in even the best of times.

Some HR tech solutions can provide you with ongoing guidance on process and employee relations to ensure your compliance and protect your company from risk. These same solutions can often help ensure your employees are being treated properly as well.

Tech3. Using Technology to Identify and Eradicate Pain Points

If you want your employees to stay in the long run, you’re going to need to engage them with fulfilling work. HR alone cannot create such an environment, but HR does have the power to communicate with employees and make changes where other departments don’t. Ideally, HR can utilize the data gathered by analytics technology to uncover issues and build frameworks and environments for improvement.

The Wrong Ways to Use Technology:

1. Using Technology as an Excuse to Avoid Engaging With People

Relying too much on HR technology can distance management from employees, which can in turn promote a negative company culture. If technology becomes the exclusive means through which leaders engage staff members, the personal touch will be lost. That human-to-human contact is especially critical when handling sensitive issues, like employee performance or disciplinary procedures. Dealing with employees in a cold and insensitive way will only drive top talent away.

2. Over-Automating Processes

Employees are unique individuals, and so are the situations in which they find themselves. Differences should always be celebrated instead of stifled, which is why companies can’t allow their processes to become over-automated. Too much automation leaves little room for individual growth or experience. As we know, younger generations in particular prefer personalized experiences in the workplace, especially when it comes to matters of career progression.

Despite what science fiction films might tell us, technology isn’t something to be afraid of as long as we use it correctly. As professionals, we have the responsibility to employ technology in an ethical manner to drive positive change and improve the employee experience at work.

In this way, technology can actually help us re-humanize our workplaces.

Katie Harrower’s current title is marketing executive at Youmanage HR Ltd, but she’s considering taking on “scribe” as her preferred choice.

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Katie Harrower's current title is marketing executive at Youmanage HR Ltd, but she’s considering taking on "scribe" as her preferred title. She writes a lot about HR, employee engagement, and HR technology.