The human side of tech: Investing in tools that better the employee

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While employers have invested millions in technology, it may not be improving productivity.

That’s according to Erica Volini, Deloitte’s global human capital leader, who spoke Monday at Epstein Becker Green’s Workforce Management briefing in New York. Instead of amassing a collection of new technology, Volini said employers should instead focus on bringing tools on board that can make employee’s lives easier, by automating certain everyday tasks.

“Where we’re seeing the gap in productivity is organizations are not figuring out how to combine that technology with the power of humans,” she said. To remain competitive, employers need to think differently, she added.

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As tech advances, employers should get creative about the types of roles they are hiring for, she added. For example, over the last two years, Nordstrom has been experimenting with clothing stores that carry no for sale inventory. Instead, shoppers can try on clothing in store and then have their selections ordered online.

This is one way technology is changing the retail industry, Volini said. Retailers like Nordstrom, for example, will likely have to rethink the role of in-store employees and how they can work in cooperation with technology.

“The retail experience now becomes a hyper personalized experience where you’re engaging with a consumer and talking with them not about the item they’re going to purchase but how they can feel their best,” she added. “What they’ve done, in this very simple way, is redefining the future of work for their organization.”

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Technology has also helped to streamline the hiring process. For example, Home Depot used a tool developed by staff engineers to help fill 80,000 positions this spring. The tool was meant to help more efficiently track applicants throughout the hiring process, the company said in March.

To determine the best way to invest in technology, employers need to look at data, Volini said. By assessing what the competition is doing, and how to improve the day-to-day lives of employees, companies should get a better sense of how the future may look.

“The amount of data that organizations have is unbelievable,” she said. “You can absolutely predict who is going to leave, who is going to stay, who you need and whether the supply of talent you need is available.”

But one important thing to remember, is that HR cannot do it alone, Volini added. If a company truly wants to rethink the way it uses technology, the entire C-suite needs to buy in.

“That’s the next wave of transformation we see coming to HR. But it’s not something HR can do alone,” she said. “It has to be done in partnership with the business. It has to be done in partnership with the CIO, the CFO.”

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