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Remote companies are using technology wrong

Remote Companies Using Technology Wrong

Are remote first companies, or corporations in general too focused on major investments in technology without consideration for their workforce? The purpose of this article is to help companies avoid the pitfalls in adopting a dichotomous (either/or) decision when choosing investments in human resources versus technology.

Traditional reasons for technological investments: Cost focused

An article appearing in MIT Sloan Business Management explained the process of redefining jobs are split into two camps. One where business leaders, managers and entrepreneurs endeavor to increase worker productivity and reduce production costs by investing in automation and information technology. Using technology to supplant and replace the human element, it is theorized that the following will be gained:

  • reduction in staff head count
  • elimination of human mistakes
  • standardization of business processes
  • reduction of procedural delays

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Best reasons for technological investments: Human Centered

The other camp may rely upon another technique. These business innovators emphasize the creation of employee and staff value leading to enhanced experiences for their clients and customers. Utilizing technology as a system of human supports, it has been shown the following gains can be realized:

  • freed-up workers can  use extra time to focus on higher-order thinking and tasks
  • workers less confined to rote tasks can developed to increase organizational capacity
  • workers alleviated from mundane, routine tasks can concentrate on correcting tedious elements of the job, serving a thorn for everyone, but time or money isn’t committed to resolve because the prior cost/benefit analysis doesn’t support a solution
  • freed-up staff will exude a patient attitude to client and customers to better understand the blockages limiting positive corporate client engagement
  • unencumbered staff can devote time saved to search for and identify corporate areas for innovation and expansion
  • less restricted staff can allocate time for personal growth, career advancement and professional development, which in turn can be re-invested back into the employing company
  • freed-up workforce will effectuate a more positive corporate climate conducive to empathy, greater understanding and emotional well-being

Which philosophy is right? The MIT organizational psychologists argue that many multi-national companies may be too shortsighted in their aggressive approach to invest heavily and over rely upon technology.  These businesses rationalize that cutting costs and improving productivity are the best lines for increasing profitability. Unfortunately, this shortsighted approach may serve to de-humanize workers and detach end users, customers and clients from the very company for which they seek to build allegiance and brand loyalty.

Worker backlash when too companies too focused on technology

Corporate trainers, business leaders, human resources professionals  on the front lines, directly engaged with employees, are seeing the negative effects of the backlash to this tactic today. For instance, take a look at these trends:

Business Insider reports of a sample of its readers rebelling against the stale 9 to 5 working schedule and work week to retort that the traditional nine to five job is outdated. Many young employees complain that they have little time left for personal pursuits and private life. Quite a few suffer from lack of energy and vitality, they say, that is sapped from their daily work grind. They definitely do not believe in the old adage, “live to work.” Instead, these enlightened workers would much rather let work take a secondary position in their lives and instead, “work to live.”

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Here in another Business Insider article, the journalist seems to make light and poke fun at recent college graduates posting on TikTok, to express in amazement how upon reporting to her first job and working for awhile, she has come to realize that her work life is all encompassing. She frets about the lack of time to carryout basic self care routines such as bathing, cooking, and exercising.

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Maybe we don’t have to chose between the two strategies. The consulting firm, Deloitte posits that the two schemes should be implemented concurrently, i.e. utilizing technology to improve productivity, cut costs AND to add long-term value.

Lead researchers of the project, Schwartz, Hagel, and Wooll emphasized the importance of bridging the two approaches they found that corporations embarking on a course of increased technological investment, ” recognized two things: first, that sustainable growth depends on creating more value for the customer; and second, that their workforce was a significant asset worth investing in.” This free-thinking perspective is the antithesis of the concretized belief existing since the 1920s where  “many companies,” the authors argue, “continue to see their workforce as resources to be managed, controlled, and mechanized.”

Corporate and employee pitfalls of too much emphasis on technology

So, it looks like we have come full circle. The negative attitudes of a few workers discussed at the beginning of this article, may be due to youth, naivety, lack of real world experience,  or chaos fatigue of COVID-19 and the aftermath. In any event, too, there may be some validity to worker concerns about the ways in which current job designs, stripped of the human element, interaction and exchange, can be perceived as devoid of life itself. Workers could become disillusioned because companies undergoing technological change:

  • failed to effectively communicate how staff daily tasks impact the profitability and bottom line of their employer, the betterment of society, and even their own financial well-being and good health
  • missed opportunities to fully involve employees affected by increased automation to obtain by-in and cooperation,
  • lacked the wherewithal, time, patience and commitment to staff to explain how increased technological investment improves corporate competitiveness
  • retrained affected staff in another mundane function (soon to be eliminated by technology) without consideration of opportunities to upskill for higher-order tasks







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