Can technology rehumanise the workforce?

Posted on 7 Sep 2022

“Smart Technology”, systems, software, and applications that complete and streamline processes previously performed by humans, is seeing a rapid rise in popularity in the workplace as companies aim to become more efficient with their time and finances. But many argue that this technology is not the way forward as they believe it can result in job losses and take away the important aspect of human interaction.

So, how is smart technology impacting the workforce? Can it “rehumanise” it or is this just a hypocritical idea? And what impact will it have on IT and recruitment departments?

Smart technology and the workplace

Since the pandemic we’ve seen an influx of new technology enter the workplace, including online cloud sharing platforms, video technology, and business solution tools, all designed to simplify the way we work. AI is also making an impact, as businesses and households alike become used to speech recognition tools and automated data entry. But AI has always brought with it scepticism that it is replacing humans. As a result, many employers may have deterred implementing it within their organisation.

However, with costs on the rise, AI is increasingly becoming commonplace in the office, and some believe this is having a negative effect on the workforce itself. An article by Raconteur and published in part on LinkedIn detailed how HR employers turned to technology to boost low engagement levels amongst staff but have not seem any improvement. To quote the article, “some analysts believe the introduction of technology is dehumanising the workplace.”

How technology can “rehumanise” businesses

However, not everyone agrees that smart technology is having a detrimental effect of the way we work. Instead, they predict that it can actually help resolve the decades-long issues of workers being undervalued and overworked.

In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Allison Fine and Beth Kanter argue that technology can change “the experience of work” for the better by “creating an opportunity to redesign jobs and reengineer workflows to enable people to focus on the parts of work that humans are particularly well suited for.”

As the article discusses, smart technology can be used as a force for good, and they describe three examples, a chatbot developed by the charity The Trevor Project, who provide crisis counselling for LGBTQ+ people, to help train new counsellors, Benefits Data Trust, who use smart technology to help employees find the best benefits solution for those in need and pre-populate forms for staff so they can help more people, and speech-reading interfaces and voice-to-text tools to help people with visual impairments.

Importantly, they note the continued human presence in these organisations, a system known as called “cobotting”, that maximises the potential of the smart technology whilst keeping that all important personal interaction. This is a fine balance to strike, so how can companies effectively use smart technology in their workplaces?

How businesses can effectively use smart technology

To quote the article by Harvard Business Review, “Cobotting takes time and careful implementation to do well”. Companies cannot simply find the easiest technology available on the market and expect it to thrive. Instead, time should be taken to identify the most suitable technology available for their needs. Business leaders need to identify their current pain points, such as long filing processes, and find the best solution for them. If the initial technology they select is unsuccessful, they must learn from it, and find a new solution.

Time, understanding, and consideration are the key points for a successful and effective implementation of smart technology.

The effect on IT and recruitment

As smart technology looks increasingly likely to shape the direction of the workplace, IT staff will be busy at the forefront of its selection, implementation, and monitoring.

Working in collaboration with business leaders, they will need to find efficient solutions for current pain points and take time to identify the best possible outfit. They may also be required to reassure leaders and staff alike of the importance of smart technology for the future of their business, as those without may find themselves falling behind.

As for recruitment staff, they will need to adapt to this emerging technology. Although there may be concerns that staff could be replaced, if used correctly, smart technology should simplify their workload for their existing staff, helping them to find the best candidates for a vacancy quickly and efficiently and focus on what they do best, creating relationships and making decisions.

What are your opinions on smart technology? Do you think it can rehumanise the workplace, or is that an oxymoron? Get in touch as always to let us know your thoughts.