We rely heavily on technology to do our work — that much is clear. Yet the ubiquity of technology comes with mounting concerns. Executives are concerned about their company's and employee's abilities to adapt to tech advancements, including digital transformation, automation and internet of things (IOT).
Technology is growing smarter and is increasingly being used to automate routine work. But with these changes come questions about the implications for workers: Are employees ready to adapt to changing ways of working? Does today’s workforce have the soft skills necessary to accommodate a more collaborative working style? How prepared are leaders to lead the change these technological advances are driving?
To answer these questions, leaders need to understand the wide-ranging implications of these technological advances. They need to develop solutions that counter or mitigate technology’s ill effects on employees and their performance.
How Companies Can Mitigate Tech Overload
When writing my second book, "Work Tribes," I wanted, in part, to understand how technology helps and hinders work relationships. Specifically, I examined how technology can facilitate a sense of belonging, a feeling of being valued, wanted and welcomed.
The findings from my research revealed practices that leaders can use to mitigate technology’s impact on human performance.
Develop Employee's Soft Skills
The past two decades has seen a 50% increase in employees working collaboratively. This number will only grow as AI and smart technologies automate routine work. What’s changing is that companies aren’t laying off employees who are impacted by AI. Instead, they are redeploying them to work with others on complex business issues.
As employees increasingly work in teams, professional skills alone won’t help teams accomplish extraordinary outcomes. Recent research from global consulting firm McKinsey found these skills are seriously underdeveloped in organizations:
- Higher cognitive skills: Creativity, critical thinking, decision making, and making sense of complex information.
- Social and emotional skills: Advanced skills needed for overcoming conflict and negotiating, empathy, leading and managing diverse groups and teams, and initiative-taking.
Technology is forcing employees to grow. Progressive leaders know how important it is to invest in learning and coaching solutions that help employees expand both their professional and interpersonal skills. More than ever before, a company’s success is dependent on hiring emotionally intelligent employees. Emotional intelligence separates high performers from under-performers.
Related Article: Mastering Emotional Intelligence in the Digital Workplace
Develop Your Manager's Leadership Abilities
A recent study by Gallup showed that companies fail to hire managers with the right skills 82% of the time. That’s a daunting statistic. Leaders who are ill-equipped to motivate and inspire employees will certainly struggle to understand when they are abusing technology’s benefits.
Here are the top outcomes in the workplace when technology is abused.
- Employees feel overwhelmed, in part due to how technology makes it easy to email or chat at any time.
- Employees are working longer hours because technology makes it easy to work anywhere at anytime and always be connected.
- Stressful work environments and deadline pressures reduce an employee’s empathy towards others.
Companies need to overhaul their recruitment and interviewing practices to assess both professional skills and soft skills. Leaders need ongoing training and coaching to achieve high performance work cultures. Training is not an annual one time only event, it is a process. Learning never ends and leaders are never done growing.
Relationships, Not Technology Alone, Will Fuel Your Business
The proliferation of technology in the workplace will not slow down. It therefore becomes critical for companies to establish practices that bolster employee's abilities to thrive in a tech-fueled world. It’s important to avoid over-engineering what your company does towards an unending tech-tsunami. Technology is a means to desired results. Forward-thinking companies focus on leveraging technology and implementing solutions that mitigate its downsides on human performance.
Extraordinary work has always benefited from relationships. Work relationships are strengthened by high quality interactions. These interactions facilitate results. In the end, it’s results that the business wants and needs.