Even though I work for a company that specializes in advanced technologies for remote access, my own interests, and the focus of my work, has always been on the human parts of HR – recruiting and onboarding the right people, training them, developing their skills, fostering a collegial and productive work environment, providing timely feedback, communicating the company’s culture, and in other ways making the employee experience as healthy and positive as possible. However, during the past year, Covid-19 has really highlighted the importance of using new technologies in HR. Here’s why:
We’re a global organization. But before the pandemic, our corporate culture largely centered around our main headquarters office in Germany, where teams and teamwork were fundamental elements of the employee experience – even to the point of being embedded in our company name: TeamViewer. Then Covid-19 shut down all but the most essential work being performed in the office. Like so many other organizations, we became largely virtualized overnight, in most cases using the same remote communication services we had developed and supplied to our customers all around the world.
To those of us in HR, it meant that the informal, high-touch methods we had relied on to check in on people – dropping into someone’s office or talking with them by the coffee machine – simply weren’t available anymore. Where we were once able to understand the needs, expectations, and feelings in different teams by osmosis and draw energy from it, we now needed something more. The sort of informal recognition which is customary in an office environment would now either require taking the time to use some sort of technical platform, or not get communicated at all.
As a result, new software applications are advancing rapidly. For example, recognition platforms – technologies that enable effective acknowledgment and on-time employee feedback – are becoming more and more prominent in HR. Companies are boosting their employee experience programs and revising traditional policies that formerly looked down on remote work. Various forms of automation to streamline and more accurately select the right people for the right roles, including artificial intelligence, are already becoming the norm in recruiting practices.
For every organization, regardless of how it recruits, profiles, and assesses candidate skills, internal communication is critically important, both from an HR and an employee engagement perspective. Keeping people updated about different areas of the business is another area where technology really matters. The intranet of the late ‘90s, which was an early effort to improve an organization’s internal communications, is likely to become more important and I expect we will see a very interactive and mobile version of this.
In February, for example, Microsoft launched what it calls a new “employee experience platform,” that integrates communications with various collaboration tools, analytics, and training services.
In fact, training is one area where advanced technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence, are becoming especially valuable. The same simulation tools that are already being used to train machine operators, airline pilots, and first responders are being adapted to enhance job instruction in an even wider range of occupations including healthcare, research, military, and various other government functions.
Of course, the elephant in the HR room is the work-from-home phenomenon. In the year since our move from office settings began, everyone’s expectations have shifted, affecting both the company, its workforce, our suppliers, and our customers. However, not everyone’s expectations have shifted the same way. For example, there are some companies which have announced they will give all their employees the option of working from home on a permanent basis.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Salesforce.com Inc. plans for most of its 54,000 employees to work remotely, either part- or full-time, after the pandemic. “We’re not going back to the way things were,” Chief People Officer Brent Hyder told an interviewer.
The key is to provide employees with the right technologies and platforms – ones that will enable them to do their jobs as well as possible. Whether collaboration takes place in the office or from home, find the easiest way for them to maintain those relationships. That not only applies to collaboration between employees, but also with customers. So while there are many technologies designed to keep people connected, the key is making sure they have the ones that enable them to do their jobs as best and easily as possible.
I still think of myself as a people person. But particularly now that the pandemic has reshaped the economic landscape, I have become a people person with a soft spot for technology.