Learning & Development, Technology

4 Ways for Humanizing Technology for Leaders and Employees

We live in an ever-changing world, and as companies sharpen their focus on technology, a strong understanding and certainty of the users are critical to a successful rollout.

Focusing on people is key. As businesses automate and elevate technology, the human aspect requires a deep dive, yet many companies get stuck. If humans are overlooked, millions of dollars poured into technology will not achieve their return on investment (ROI). If companies don’t leverage technology, they won’t be competitive in the market. Plus, the lack of humanization can lead to painful work experiences for employees, who have options to work elsewhere.

As companies invest in technology—robotics, automation, digitization, stronger infrastructure to meet e-commerce demands, big data, and cybersecurity—without people understanding it, tech cannot be successful. Every digital transformation effort must include humans to support it.

Here are four ways to make technology more human because, after all, a human is behind every piece of tech.

Make It Relevant

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If your company spends money on the latest technology but no one uses it (and employees don’t understand how to use it or why it’s important), is the money being well spent? Not only is the technology ineffective, but you’re also not getting your ROI.

Sit with your employees to understand a day in their lives: their values, their perspectives, and how they work. If you train people on how to log in but you don’t help them fully understand why customer information needs to be collected and how this information makes them better at their job, then getting them to actually use the technology after training ends will be challenging.

Continue to revisit this step as technology rolls out so it’s not a one-and-done situation. This should be a common thread throughout training, career development, and communications from leadership that’s closely aligned to the business. If you’re only doing it at the end of implementation, it’s too late.

Keep It Simple By Speaking Their Language

People in technology teams should not just be technologists—they should be trained like business consultants. Think of them as translators. Whether they’re talking to marketing or research and development, HR or legal, they should be able to speak their language, understand their business needs, and translate technology solutions. Teach them how to communicate with their people more effectively and work crisply and simply and in business-savvy terms.

Avoid tech talk, corporate lingo, and jargon. As you speak with employees, provide them with the right communications that position technology changes in snackable, inspiring, relevant ways. Make it consumer-friendly. If they like all of the new, cool things coming to their job as a result of what this technology does, they’ll be more genuinely excited about it.

Anticipate a Learning Curve

The change curve is real; there’s going to be some pain along the journey. In 1967, when Stockholm changed driving from the left-hand side of the road to the right-hand side, it was messy at first, but the change went really well. I always use that example in change-leadership sessions with clients to say, “Your job as a leader is to live in this reality for a period of time with your people and then help them out of it.”

People get excited about new technology, and then they start realizing if they get uncomfortable, they feel incompetent. This can lead to a downward shame spiral. Give them time and space to wallow in the value of despair, but don’t let it last.

Then, help them see the need to try new things. Build energy and momentum around what’s working. Celebrate the wins to get them out of pity city (refrain from using tech speak) so they can progress into a new state.

Create Cases to Illustrate How It Can Achieve Outcomes

Showing employees real cases of how technology helps them do their job better in a human context is really important. If you’re a beauty advisor in a cosmetics store and you need to use an iPad to help customers or you’re doing virtual reality (VR) for customers trying on beauty products, use real cases to help beauty advisors understand the need for technology. This shows how it helps them do their job more effectively instead of saying, “There’s a new system, so use it.”

Ultimately, humanizing the process is about assisting employees in understanding and embracing the new technology. Helping people learn technology is table stakes; the real work should focus on helping them learn how it will transform their business and their work.

Christine Andrukonis is Founder and Senior Partner of Notion Consulting, a leadership and transformation consultancy that helps organizations harness the full power of their people to drive change, advance their mission, and unleash their competitive edge. For the past 20 years, she has been leveraging her unique combination of HR and communications expertise to help C-suite executives lead change.