From Consumerized to Humanized: The Technology Shift that Will Change How People Work

Employees today are overwhelmed with the amount of technology available in the workplace. This movement – commonly dubbed “the consumerization of IT” – gained significant momentum in 2007 with the launch of one 4.8 ounce device, the first generation Apple iPhone. In fact, in July 2016 Apple announced that it had sold its one billionth iPhone[1]. The promise of this technology, and other applications that were entering the workforce at the time, was that work would become simplified and people could get more done.
But if the average U.S. worker now spends 25 percent of their day reading or answering emails[2] and the number of devices used at work has increased,[3] is today’s technology really making the workplace more efficient? Recent statistics suggest otherwise. U.S. productivity has slowed to a crawl[4] and only one-third of workers across the country are engaged in their jobs.[5]
For HR professionals, who are focused on employee engagement and productivity, this poses a real challenge; how to ensure new technology is making a positive impact on their organizations. I think the answer requires us to shift our focus from the “consumerization of IT,” to the “humanization of IT” at work. In other words, organizations should stop trying to launch every trendy new “consumer-like” technology into the workplace, and focus on offering solutions and technologies that align with how people naturally behave.
One promising and rapidly advancing area is in human and machine interaction. Take Samsung’s recent acquisition of startup Viv Labs. Viv allows developers to build systems that users can actually have a conversation with, instead of having to click through menus and apps to get the information they want. The end result? Technology that actually works in the same way people think.
So what does this mean for the workplace and HR professionals? While it’s still in the early stages, we’re starting to see applications that behave like automated assistants, performing routine tasks automatically and using predictive analytics to push information to employees only when they need to take action. Additionally, new collaboration tools where employees and teams communicate in a more chat-like interface are becoming increasingly common, taking them outside of the email inbox. These more “human-like” interactions with technology can help to replicate the efficiencies we experience when collaborating in-person with our colleagues.
How would this work? Imagine that an employee wants to know who the best person at their company is to provide insights on data analytics. They could ask a system via a text or voice command to identify that person, versus having to search for them in an employee database. This would be much like bumping into a colleague at the watercooler and asking who they worked with on a data analytics project last month. Except, even more efficiently, the system could take it a step further by offering a simple prompt in which the employee could click a button to then set up a meeting with that person, or see examples of previous projects they have worked on. This is what I see as the future of technology at work – humanized technology that gives employees what they need in order to do their jobs more efficiently, before they even know they need it!
HR teams today are more in tune than ever with how technology is used at work – mostly because there is just too much of it to ignore. Now is the time for HR to work with IT to rethink technology and ensure companies are offering tools that work for people – not the other way around. If done right, HR professionals can help to build a workforce of happier employees – and hopefully reverse the trend of decreasing productivity and employee engagement.

[2] Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2014 and 2015
[3] Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2016
[4] Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2016
[5] Gallup Daily: U.S. Employee Engagement for October 29, 2016


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