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You Are Not Chopped Liver * The Role of Technology in the People Business

by Lynette Silva

The universe in the palm of your handRecognize This! – Technology, especially HR technology, enables our better human instincts to help us create more human workplaces.

Technology and HR. How does that compute? (Sorry – couldn’t help the pun) Isn’t HR about humans? If the obvious answer is yes, then why is so much effort expended on HR technology? These aren’t trivial questions in terms of investment – in business and in people.

I like a perspective recently cited by CIPD:

“[With technology,] we can really get down to what human resources should have been all along – the job of humanising the rest of the business. There’s never been a better time to be an HR professional because tech is dissolving the supposedly critical routine that kept your vision capped to date.”

That’s the role of tech in the human space – as an enabler of a better, more human workplace and a more positive employee experience overall. Especially in our increasingly distributed workplaces where my closest work colleagues might be physically located half a world away, systems like social recognition facilitate the strengthening of connections and relationships between people through the power of thanks.

Another area where technology can help facilitate our very humanness lies in helping us overcome some of our human nature tendencies that hamper our own success. Case in point (as shared in a Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University article) is squandered work time – time lost to “dysfunctional workplace dynamics—more commonly known as ‘people problems.’”

The researcher/authors of the article describe a study in which rival groups within the same R&D department were given the option of investing budget in the idea of their internal rival or in the idea of an outside competitor. We’d rather a completely external third benefit than the rival we know and feel threatened by.

These very human – if dysfunctional – behaviors cost companies on average $15.5 million.

Are we stuck with the consequences of the more negative tendencies of our humanness? No – in fact, the path forward is by switching on our more positive tendencies. In the example described above, the “shortest path to valuable insights” – and success for the team and company – is often in selecting the rival’s idea. So how do you get people to overcome their human nature and select a rival’s idea? Study co-author Leigh Thompson provides the answer:

“List one or two things you’re particularly proud of. Perhaps you just published a book or a well-received case study; perhaps you had an above-average performance review last quarter. Now all of a sudden, when I hear about the accomplishments or ideas of a colleague, I am more receptive to it—because I have just reminded myself that I am not chopped liver.”

And that brings us full circle to the roll of technology in enabling the employee experience – the human experience. With a social recognition system, it’s even easier to log-in and remind yourself of the tremendous contributions you’ve made (and been praised for by your colleagues).

What are you particularly proud of? What memories or accomplishments remind you of just how valuable you are?

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