How technology is helping businesses to embrace a diverse workforce

It's easy for businesses to adopt new technologies that consequently mean they lose that human touch, both for customers and their employees. These systems can leave employees feeling underappreciated but Joel Farrow, managing director of HiBob, says that they've found ways to use technology to put people first.

The UK workplace is changing dramatically - from employees who are getting younger and more savvy about what they are looking for from their employer, to senior business leaders, CEOs and founders understanding that their employees want to be heard.

Millennials’ attitudes, values, and work-styles are changing the entire relationship between companies and their employees. With the face of work changing faster than the workplace can adapt, businesses are at a significant turning point and under more scrutiny than ever. Employees today are harder to find, and even harder to retain. They tend to be less loyal and more complicated to manage, seeking more from their employer. They want to feel valued, to be heard, and find careers which are meaningful.

The problem is this isn’t easy to achieve. Those actively trying to achieve it struggle to find the right way to achieve the implementation of mass culture and wellbeing practices. HR itself has a history of feeling overly clinical. Overly simplistic. Simply gathering data into documents which translates workforce into a series of statistics, while they give you a snapshot of your business, have no life in them. The detached nature of this takes the human out of human resource and can no longer work. Technology is helping us to take significant steps forward, helping what previously seemed implausible become manageable and scaleable.

It isn’t even just about creating the technology to help gather all the data and make it useable, it is about making it interactive. It’s about making it appealing not just to the managers who use it to monitor, support and nurture their team, it’s about making a platform which appeals to the user. Yes, managers need to find it useful, but this is of no use if the employee doesn’t love it, and live in it. Before a manager can get the data they need in order to achieve workplace culture practices to make their employees happy, fulfilled workers, their workers have to find the platform a useful addition to their working life. They have to recognise and find the platform to be an effective way of sharing a multitude of concerns affecting them. From something as simple as tracking their holidays, finding out what their co-workers have planned for Friday night drinks, through to serious issues concerning safety in the workplace; harassment, bullying, overcoming mental health problems related to work stress, anxiety.

Technology employed by HR should extend beyond the HR department. It should support communication between team members. It should empower them, whether it’s celebrating someone’s birthday, or shining a spotlight on their achievements and championing each other. When we live in a world of social media, of instant gratifications, likes and emojis, a platform that allows people to lift up their co-workers and deliver praise to each other is a simple but highly effective way of boosting morale, productivity, as well as employee retention. A survey conducted by Mercer in 2017 revealed that 97 per cent of employees want to be recognised and rewarded for a wide range of contributions, not just financial results or activity metrics. However only 51 per cent of these employees say that their company does this well.

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With this in mind, the overall look and feel of technology which delivers HR of the future must look and feel like the social platforms we engage with every day. They have to be slick, engaging and feel personal to the business, even the team. They need to be intuitive, learning as it goes. The digestible nature of the tech also forms part of its useability; it should look and feel basic (in terms of understanding how to use it!), but should allow employers to manage teams in a manner which is unprecedented, and employees to connect with one another for all sorts of reasons. Working together on a project? Connected. Like doing yoga on a Monday night? Connected. Bringing all of these elements together helps to provide critical insights into workforces’ development, happiness and engagement. 

At the same time it is vital that something which is implemented by an HR department makes the employees using it feel safe in the space. Revisiting the more serious issues which people face, and with a heightened understanding of the sheer number of individuals struggling with their mental health, there is more demand than ever for businesses’ to create this safe space. While there is more discussion every day, it does not always feel possible for individuals to come forward with what they are facing - it may even be an issue they are facing due to another employer, or their managers. A platform which offers anonymity allows for these vital discussions to take place allows employees to feel secure in the knowledge that they can approach topics which are sensitive and potentially damaging to their emotional health and wellbeing.

This same anonymous space also allows for employees to approach their development with their managers. Recent research by CIPD and HiBob has demonstrated that 85 per cent of UK managers think that giving performance feedback is the most important factor in their company's productivity. When you add in the opportunity for employees to give feedback on their employers, this heightened level of communication makes for a happy team.

The possibilities of what good tech can do to break down barriers in improving the wellbeing of your workplace are infinite. We at HiBob, the transformative HR platform, are working hard to move the industry from task-based functionality to people-inspired engagement. It is the first and only platform built for companies focusing on hiring and keeping the very best people, keeping them ahead of the dramatic changes that new generations are creating and expecting. HiBob now serves over 350 businesses, including the UK’s top tech companies, giving managers the ability to communicate, generate feedback, and build stronger relationships with their workforce. HR is no longer the job of the HR department, it is the job of every manager at every level to have HR skills, and the tools to implement them.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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