Keeping the Human in Human Resources as HR Technology Advances

As everyone starts to realize the potential of new technologies and begins to use Artificial Intelligence products to augment different parts Human Resources, the question rises again and again.

How do we keep the human in Human Resources?

As much as some would like to believe robots can do anything if properly programmed, one thing which seems out of reach is genuine warmth. They will be able to mimic the words and actions which are used to express warmth, but could they actually authentically express it to the point where we can feel their compassion?

No matter how far technology advances, people will retain some basic natural instincts and one of those is the need to connect on an emotional level with other people. Without it, people feel lonely, isolated and often depressed.

We learned when we started using automated phone systems (telephony), hearing phrases like “your call is important to us,” were not very convincing. The frustrating level of menus and hold times did nothing to help the insincerity we feel when some automated recording said it cared. Our natural response, of course, was to try to find a way to bypass it and get a live person. But even if the experience is less frustrating, we would still not feel any warmth coming from the automated response.

People exhibit warmth in a number of ways and all of them have one thing in common, they all impact the other person in a meaningful, very personal way, whether it be through compassion, empathy, sympathy, praise, gratitude, etc.

There are a number of ways and programs that Human Resources can start or continue to keep the Human in HR. Some of these may even require new roles in the HR department:

Handling Concerns and Grievances. With increased reports of concerns about bias and harassment, employees need a place to go to raise these concerns and file grievances. Although this is already often part of the HR function, many employees feel that although they are speaking in confidence, it is often easy to figure out who may have alerted HR. Some companies have created an Ombudsman as a liaison, who acts as a 3rd party to investigate complaints, propose solutions, etc. The ombudsman office can also track and report on incidents and propose solutions.

Further Exploring Employee Satisfaction. Using technology is an effective way to track and measure employee satisfaction. The numbers show trends and this is very valuable, but to really understand what is actually happening, anecdotal information can add much more. Conducting in-house focus groups to review various components of employee life will not only help to explain satisfaction trends, it will also make employees feel more empowered.

Focusing on the People Side of Employees. There are many ways to help employees with their lives, which will ultimate translate into being better, healthier and happier employees. These include fitness programs, wellness programs, assistance with identifying issues with substance abuse and depression, health screenings, nutrition programs, work-life balance initiatives, childcare solutions, etc.

Creating Training for Personal Growth. Not all training needs to be about working better, harder, faster. Offering programs not specifically related to the job itself can increase job satisfaction and employee retention. Sometimes, these can be offered by other employees within the company as lunch and learns. The cost is minimal and it does not take away from the employees’ work.

Mentorship Programs. Leverage employees of all ages by strategically assigning new employees to more experienced employees who can provide ongoing coaching and expertise. This can begin as early as an employee’s first day of work by assigning them to a peer mentor to help them learn processes, etc. or it can happen later by assigning them to a mentor who is working in a role the employee aspires to.

Praise and Recognition. In addition to employee feedback, employees who work hard and succeed should be recognized for their efforts. Depending on what they have accomplished, the level of recognition can vary. At minimal, employees should be acknowledged for their accomplishments in person. This can be followed up with electronic announcements, public praise in meetings, awards, etc. One way to do this is by having a peer-based award program for employees that go above and beyond their usual scope of work or create new internal initiatives or products. Employees can be nominated by their peers and committees can review the nominations and determine who will receive the award. Sometimes there can be cash or other incentives attached to these reward programs.

Many people are concerned with HR being “replaced by robots.” The HR technology that exists will help to reduce the mundane or routine tasks so that HR professionals can being to focus more on people. These were just a few of the ways this can happen.

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