High Touch and High Tech: Finding the Balance to Create Workplace Vitality™

By Dr. Tracy Brower, Global Vice President of Workplace Vitality, Mars Drinks

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As companies compete for the best and the brightest talent -- in all kinds of jobs from blue- to pink- to white-collar -- the roles of HR and IT are both integral to the creation of workplaces that foster empowerment and belonging. "HR and IT are co-pilots to the business," says Jennifer Schulte, global vice president for people and organization at Mars Drinks. "The ways that we attract, engage and empower people are about both high touch and high tech." It's important that we get the balance right.

Employees are increasingly taking ownership for key processes through self-service models. They are being given the tools to sign up for benefits, initiate their own development plans, report their time and more. These approaches send strong signals to employees about a workplace and its culture. Mars Drinks has identified the concept of Workplace Vitality™, in which a workplace is vibrant, thriving and alive with potential. It is at the intersection of collaboration, engagement, well-being and productivity. In each of these areas, HR technology is key, and these pillars of Workplace Vitality™ offer a helpful framework to consider the role of HR technology and its effects on people.

Catalyzing Collaboration

Collaboration is the essential teamwork that helps an organization achieve its goals. Encouraging liberal use of video and audio technologies to facilitate this exchange (and manage travel costs) is helpful. Common goals are a key ingredient in effective collaboration and technologies that support alignment of objectives from individuals to teams to departments are good examples. But technology shouldn't replace human interaction. "Technology should help initiate and facilitate connections, but it can't replace them," says Schulte. Texting a colleague in order to find each other for a face-to-face connection, or sending a quick email to establish a meet-up time, are examples. "It is still critical to come together face-to-face, have a conversation, have a cup of coffee, build relationships and build trust," Schulte says. 

Enhancing Engagement

Engagement is the emotional commitment that motivates work effort, and technology can also support engagement in new ways. Apps that allow teammates to "find me" anywhere or enable communities of practice to learn together are ripe for organizations to tap. In addition, companies are leveraging social- media platforms for employees to gather virtually. Smart companies are also paying attention to the role of technology in employer branding and the ways that employees engage even before they join the company. A candidate's experience with an organization begins with a digital footprint from its LinkedIn profile, to its application portal, to the (increasing) experience of video-based interviews to Glassdoor impressions. The culture and personality of a company are evident through these digital windows.

Contributing to Positive Well-Being

Well-being is a sense of health, happiness and fulfillment, and HR technologies can have a positive impact here as well. Technology-enabled benefits sign-ups are ubiquitous and apps that enhance health are also becoming a trend.

Again, balance is key, and technology can help enable human connections as well. Groups that come together to share healthy lunches or meet over coffee to support each other in a weight-loss challenge are examples of where this balance can occur. HR-development systems also foster well-being by providing tools to help employees plan for learning or cross-training. 

Promoting Productivity

Performing quality work on time and on budget is the result of all kinds of technology, which contributes to a sense of flow in an employee's day. When technology works as it should, it reduces the type of frustration, annoyance and friction that can impede productivity. In addition, technology that supports knowledge management and sharing across groups also enhances productivity.

Millennials are also important to consider here. "They aren't just driven by technology, they are dependent on it," says Schulte. "It is their baseline expectation to support their work and productivity when they join a company."

Overall, Workplace Vitality™ and the inter-relationships between collaboration, engagement, well-being and productivity become a useful framework for considering HR technology and the ways it can enhance all of these.

* Are there aspects of your HR technology that could be enhanced to better contribute to these?

* Are your HR technologies appropriately balanced by a culture that encourages human connection?

Technology is critical to an organization's culture and to the employee experience, so these questions -- and more -- are important to consider. It's all about the balance between high touch and high tech.

Tracy Brower, PhD, MM, MCR, is the global vice president of workplace vitality at Mars Drinks and the author of Bring Work to Life by Bringing Life to Work: A Guide for Leaders and Organizations. Mars Drinks creates great-tasting moments at work and is a 100 percent workplace-dedicated segment of Mars Inc.


Oct 2, 2015
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