It’s no secret that technology has irrevocably altered our lives. With technology, we are able to connect with others, increase efficiency, and largely make our lives easier. In general, people are pretty pleased with the presence of technology in their daily lives—in fact, studies have indicated that humans exhibit genuine feelings of love toward their smartphones, and there are more iPhones are sold daily than there are babies born worldwide. There is, however, one place where humans have become wary of technology: at work.
With the ubiquity of technology, some people fear that human jobs are being eliminated and imagine the future as a scene from Pixar’s WALL-E. But the truth is, technology allows us to do our work faster and more efficiently. It allows us to work from any location and in a global setting. So how do human employees fit in with these increasingly technological work environments? Here are some tips for defining where humans and technology meet in the workplace:
1. Keep humans in the equation.
While robots have been able to take the place of humans in manufacturing of cars and even in driving of cars, it would be unwise to completely eliminate the human role from this process. Technology has begun to automate jobs that require manual labor or repeated tasks, but jobs requiring “creativity, social intelligence and interaction with complex objects or environments” will not be replaced by robots anytime soon, according to Michael Osborne, professor of machine learning at Oxford University.
For instance, Osborne and fellow researcher Carl Frey determined in a recent study that telemarketers are at highest risk of job elimination at the hands of robots and therapists have the lowest risk. This is because technology has not yet mastered the emulation of human emotion. In almost every job, it is important to have empathy and feeling. In order to keep compassion in the process, there must be a balance between human employees and technology.
2. Educate employees about technology.
Innovation is always present, which means that technology is always developing. Because of this, it can be hard to keep your employees up-to-date on the latest technology and how to properly use it—but it is worth the investment.
Osborne advised that employers “equip workers to engage with developing technologies, so they’re able to benefit from them”. If employees don’t fully understand the technologies they’re using and how to properly utilize them, the investment will not be worth it. Take the time to educate your employees about new technologies before implementing them in your workplace.
3. Use technology as augmentation.
Technology should function as a complement to human employees, not as a replacement. As a manager, determine what the strengths of your employees are and then utilize technology as an enhancement tool. When employees correctly use technology to complement their strengths, the result is a more powerful and efficient workforce.
Though new technologies can seem intimidating at first glance, the benefits for businesses are numerous
when used correctly. Keith Tilley, SunGard Vice President, put it best when he said that “the question is no longer one of ‘balancing’ technology and employees, but is about recognizing that close collaboration between the two that can make the business more than the sum of its parts.”