“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex…
It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”
On whom other than Albert Einstein could we rely on to point out the dangers of the complex? It is apparent from his theories and statements that he was capable of conceptualizing great complexity and capable of seeing that it was not always necessary or desirable. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, technology has touched every aspect of our lives. Technology has had such a profound impact on us, even our relationships show its effects, including those in the workplace. These days, employers are often likely to make human resource management more complicated because they can even when it is not necessary.
It’s Not Rocket Science, Even if We’ve Made it Seem That Way
SHRM*, ASTD*, AMA* and NHRA* are just part of the alphabet soup of organizations providing research and education for and about human resources. Gallup, Modern Survey and Quantum Workplace are just a few of the other organizations that are gathering data and attempting to interpret the dynamics of the workplace. Employers have a great deal of information readily available to them. The process of finding, choosing and managing employees has become more professional, technical and litigious. Recruiters now have software and testing tools that help them choose the best candidate. Managers have 360˚ assessments with which to evaluate employees’ performance. Companies are able to collect metrics that will allow them to determine their effectiveness with employees, customers and shareholders. Still, employee engagement is high for only a third of employees in the workplace.
Technological advances in applicant screening and tracking have changed being a good judge of character and hiring the best candidate from an art to a science. Once upon a time, the term “chemistry” referred to a subjective aspect of a relationship. Now we measure chemistry using percentiles for comparison and keywords to make a match. Much like finding a life-mate, hiring the next employee has moved online. Applicants can find advice on how to write a resume that gets past resume screening software making the process reminiscent of someone using a radar detector to get past a speed trap. The hiring process seems driven by one-upmanship where applicants try to get into the interview pile while HR works on determining whom to screen out.
Employees Are People Too
Has human resource management become more about the technology and the process than about the people? Have recruiters, often faced with stacks of 100 resumes or more, made finding the best candidate the priority or has their focus moved to how to eliminate the ninety-nine others? Have email and texting made communication more efficient or just more impersonal by eliminating the need or tendency to connect, confront or congratulate someone in person. It is quite possible that all the data and the technology have moved employers’ attention away from where it should be, on the people that work for them. At what point do we stop focusing on the technology and data and refocus on the people we interview, hire, orient, train, manage, evaluate and terminate every day?
There is nothing wrong with technology. In many instances, our lives have improved because of its steady progress. However, we do not need to look far to see how it may have led us astray at times. We tend to employ our technology whenever we can. Coincidentally (or not), we communicate more often while doing so more impersonally with a text or an email. At other times, there is no communication and people resort to filling in the blanks with guesses and rumors. Is it any wonder that the majority of employees are less than fully engaged and job applicants complain about the interview process being “cold”? Perhaps the way to get more employees more engaged and to make job candidates feel welcome is to connect with them.
Why Not Make it Personal?
The days when people held one job for all, or most, of their working life are gone. The average person will change jobs between ten and fifteen times in their career. Why bother connecting with your employees or coworkers? Because… it makes a difference. Whether you watch Undercover Boss or personally talk to a leader who has chosen to get out of their office and make it personal, you will hear how their choice has changed their leadership style. Talk to the employees with whom those leaders have connected and you will hear how much the contact has meant to them.
Close your laptop; shut off your cell phone and get out from behind your desk. Take a walk through the office or plant and converse with the people that work with and for you…regularly. Get to know them and learn about their families. Ask them what is working in their divisions and departments and what is not. Take some time to see your workplace through their eyes and you will learn a great deal about how to make your company better. Think of it as grass roots data collection. New employees and job candidates deserve personal attention too. No need to wait until they are hired and disengaged, connect early and often. Make it personal, take it personal and keep it that way.
Here to serve,
*(Society of Human Resource Management, Association of Testing and Development, American Management Association, National Human Resources Association)
Next month: You Reap What You Sow