'When technology is automated well, it can replace a bad leader'

ELMO's CHRO speaks on the future of HR technology in 2022

'When technology is automated well, it can replace a bad leader'

Pre-pandemic, the idea of remote working was an initiative that was likely under development in most business plans as something that may happen in the future. The effects of the global pandemic meant the idea of remote working was, in many cases, implemented overnight and the technology that enabled it was thrust into the limelight. 

“We got our first Covid case in the office in March 2020 and we responded immediately,” added Monica Watt, chief human resource officer (CHRO) at ELMO – and speaker at our upcoming HR Leader’s Summit.

“On the Friday, we tested all our technology, all our systems, and on Monday we moved remote.”

While technology did a great job of connecting everyone in a remote world it also detracted from establishing boundaries around what was work life and what was home life and people developed an ‘always on’ mentality. 

“If you’re anything like me, you’re all Zoomed out,” added Watt. “There was a lot that technology helped us with, we ran Kahoot quizzes, we did cook offs via zoom, we did yoga and meditation, via zoom, but what we found was that we were fatiguing people even more because people were always on back-to-back zoom meetings, so leaders, through covid, had to act in an urgent, honest and iterative fashion. They had to recognise that the mistakes were inevitable and correct course.”

That fluidity is where Watt believes the future of technology needs to focus.

“Moving forward,” Watt told HRD, “technology has to enable our hybrid world of work, it has to amplify our work, not detract from it, it can’t add another layer of burden to it. When you think of organisations that have technology for technologies sake, where it’s actually causing more friction, then you’re better off not having technology.”

At Elmo, Watt’s team implemented ‘decompression hours’ – hours to not be on technology, and it’s something they’ve continued in their transition to a hybrid working model. These days, there's a technology for everything that you need in this world. If you can think of a problem, there’s likely a technological solution for it. Watt believes before implementing new technologies, businesses should ask themselves; Why do I need the technology? What do I want to measure from the technology? What's the outcome that I’m going to achieve with the technology?

Watt’s team has been operating agile for two years.

“Most people will follow a plan but being agile means you enable continuous adaptation. Currently, there are up to five generations in some workforces and not everyone is using the same platforms.”

Watt believes what we need to be doing, is finding or creating tech with less friction to help us engage, communicate and collaborate and that’s where technology comes into play.

“There’s a missing link in technology right now, we can work really well remotely or really well in an office, to go hybrid is remembering that there is a group of people that may not be in front of you and that they need to be engaging.”

Good technology enables workforces to capture those conversations, effectively measure performance inside the business using surveys, polls, sentiments indexes, and engagement – “…but technology has to build upon a framework for how you engage,” added Watt. “Is it an organisational level, is it a team level, is it an individual level? If we tie the agility, tie the capability, tie the learning and development, create career paths for your employees, ensure it’s being tracked and measured, and leaders are being held accountable for it.

“I’m happy to believe that people in general are highly-skilled and capable but, when technology is automated really well, it can actually replace a bad leader.”

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