Technology Is Not A Substitute For Empathy And Judgment: Swati Rustagi

Technology Is Not A Substitute For Empathy And Judgment: Swati Rustagi

Technology in a hybrid workplace becomes a great equaliser of experience, so people working from the office and those working from home cannot get two different experiences.


Between waving goodbye to the office, adopting a part-office/ part-remote working model, and bringing everyone back to the office, the middle option of implementing hybrid configurations appears to be the dominant choice among organisations. What is technology’s role in enabling hybrid work and meeting the evolving expectations of employees? 


At the heart of deciding working models, every organisation is trying to balance two dimensions: employee experience and ensuring that workplace innovation, culture, and collaboration continue to thrive. There is a third dimension – that of creating memories and immersing together into an experience, ensuring the informal organisation which plays a key role in design and evolution finds expression.


In addition to ease of access, technology will play a role in enabling work: how do we create tools for collaborative work, do they speak to infra challenges that different types of employees may have, do they provide in-the-moment feedback and allow for in-the-moment coaching?


Technology will also play a key role around governance – work product protection, confidentiality, data privacy – especially customer, client and employee data around work ethics and work interactions.


We have many products that allow us to ensure seamless hiring-to-retiring experiences, but more importantly, our tools focus on providing our managers with nudges towards employee and team touchpoints – be it an opportunity to engage in a personal milestone or a possible workplace low moment or in-the-moment coaching.


Our people products serve as a single destination for managing talent at Amazon by enabling employees and managers to access existing talent products, become aware of and complete talent tasks, see upcoming talent events and get help and guidance on managing their careers. That way, employees can spend less time hunting for relevant information and have more time to focus on the most meaningful work: developing themselves and their craft while delivering value for our customers.


Another good example is an in-house tech tool, which is a set of defined and observable behaviours that outline job expectations across all levels for field operations leaders.


While we continue to focus on technology as an enabler, we recognise that high-quality innovation requires successful collaboration that may at times require the team to be in a physical workplace at the same time — debating, discussing in a live space to be able to disrupt and create. In doing all this, we must not forget to focus on workplace experiences for people whose roles do not lend themselves to remote working.


The HR function must play a key role in championing the front line experience as they come to the workplace each day and ensuring that all the advancements in technology and workplace practices do not end up in creating an unintended divide amongst those who can and can’t work remotely.


Given that there are so many HR tech products on the market, the process of choosing the right technologies can feel daunting, overwhelming and frustrating. What are some important considerations to keep in mind when selecting tech tools to drive hybrid work?


It will be hard to find a one-size-fits-all product. Organisations will make these choices based on their size, integration of the technology with current products in use, and level of data privacy the technology offers, to name a few. Most large organisations have their own technology that addresses these questions and fulfills their needs.


However, the younger organisations may not have an existing platform and therefore would probably buy them off the shelf. These can be customised to their needs as they use them. Still, a critical component will be the user experience, which must be simple and intuitive. It should be integrated with existing products and programs that you have and should enable privacy. A dash of fun in terms of user experience is critical to any real workplace tool. 


The massive shift to a dispersed, distributed workforce has compounded the security challenges for organisations. What major concerns must HR and business leaders recognise and address to function securely in a hybrid work environment? 


Data privacy and data security are two major concerns for any organisation today. Protecting work product and IP is critical, but safeguarding both your employee and customer data when you’re virtually working is even more important. This will be a key thrust of technology, both infra and software. However, it would be naïve to imagine that security challenges are limited to the virtual world.


Connecting with and accessing your employees in contingency due to any natural or manmade disasters in a hybrid workplace will create new dimensions in managing security. If something big is happening due to external circumstances, we know how to reach out to our employees because we know where they live. However, due to the freedom of working from anywhere, one cannot be sure of where all employees are, and therefore, how does one ensure that they can reach their employees to support them when in need, and how do you create support infra basis where employees live?


Employees now expect HR technology to keep abreast of powerful technologies they enjoy as consumers and have little tolerance for clunky, complex, unintuitive, and confusing tech experiences. How important is it for organisations to bring consumer-grade technologies and platforms for hybrid work success?


HR technology, like any other people product, has to be designed with user experience as a key frame of reference. This is not about the hybrid workplace and employee expectations but simply about workplace tools and a perfectly normal expectation of a user that the tool they use is easy, smart, intuitive, reliable and fast. Add to that the dimension of support investment in case of complex features and the dimensions of different base infra-standards across the country on connectivity and power (electricity).


It is important to have an intuitive technology experience, especially as we are not in a workplace where one can just walk up to their neighbour’s desk and say: How do I use this, or what’s this feature all about? As we are working remotely, we are virtually onboarding ourselves and training ourselves on all the new features of any technology we use. To put it simply, how many hours would you want the employee to work and how many hours you want them to work on solving their tech challenges? We switched to a remote working style during the pandemic and introduced many tools to help recruits settle in. One fascinating tool was using ‘Alexa’ to onboard employees. By interacting with Alexa, new employees were fully immersed in our culture, which made their induction process seamless. 


What factors does the HR function need to be mindful of when staying grounded on its human aspects while making the most of technology tools to thrive in a hybrid work environment? 


Technology is not a substitute for empathy and judgment. It can guide your actions and help you be sharper about your decisions or give you data to enable your decision-making, but your judgment can never be outsourced to make decisions.


Technology may throw up options to me on what could be considered as a decision, but as an HR function, decisions would be layered with unique perspectives of the individual case and guided by each individual instance, thereby making technology a great enabler. It helps with how we practice and provide a consistent experience. It helps us in our decision-making process, making it more transparent, but at the same time, it will never substitute the judgment or empathy that needs to be displayed in making HR decisions.


However, technology in a hybrid workplace becomes a great equaliser of experience, so people working from the office and those working from home cannot get two different experiences.


0/3000 Free Article Left >Subscribe