Humanity in Digital Transformation

AI in the Workforce. Remember to keep the humanity in HR

By Bob McCarthy, Managing Director, GattiHR

With the introduction of a new year, come the prognosticators, predicting the trends, success stories and potential pitfalls for the year ahead. During this annual ritual, a list of seemingly reoccurring business issues is raised: finding and engaging great talent, defining, developing and leveraging employer brand and culture, ensuring an environment of inclusion, equality and, workplace safety, understanding and utilizing people data and, a litany of performance-related issues. And, traversing the business landscape, a consistent surge lies just beneath the surface:

Digital transformation.

At near blinding pace, technology has infiltrated every corner of the organizational architecture. Reaching far from the manufacturing room floor, into finance, sales, marketing, human resources and the executive suite. This confluence of automation and machine learning has created leadership opportunities for workers whose proficiency to embrace the principals of tech with high emotional intelligence can inspire others to pursue a new view on the workforce.

To be sure, work has changed as the employment marketplace has leaned drastically in favor of the candidate, placing added pressure on Talent Managers charged with developing the next generation of leadership.

Organizations are embracing new performance management, learning and development platforms at record pace. And while tech delivers efficiencies, it’s not without challenge. Effective leaders must embrace the opportunities presented by tech, allowing employees to explore, experiment and yes, sometimes fail. The permission to fail has seldom been more important.

Witness the hurdles faced by a well-established, seemingly impenetrable fortress of American culture like, McDonalds, who while introducing new tech-enabled services they called, “Experience of the Future,” instead discovered workers were just not up to the challenge. “They added a lot of complicated things…and, made the work harder,” said one affected employee. What’s more, McDonald’s Managers were not sufficiently skilled or prepared with effective communications to quickly bring employees up to speed with the new technology.

Instead of embracing the new knowledge, McDonalds’ workforce largely chose to take advantage of a job-seeker’s employment market to depart and join competitors who offered a familiar process for equal pay. The result: McDonalds says drive-through times slowed by more than 30-seconds and turnover increased rapidly.

The pace of development has shifted the skills required to be successful in production, finance, marketing, customer-facing roles, human resources and the C-suite.

To maintain pace with this seismic shift, organizations around the globe have developed new thinking and explorations with new channels in search of the next wave of great leaders. And while the leaders of today – and tomorrow – must increasingly have an aptitude for technology and, as McDonald’s learned, understand its potential impact upon the workforce, many of the same leadership qualities remain inherent it the best leaders. Widely shared Human leadership skills remain important including:

  • Be selfless
  • Be approachable, express genuine interest
  • Be trustworthy
  • Be decisive and quick but, fair
  • Create and support your culture

However, in this new age of rapid digital disruption, an additional new set of human-based skills have become inherent within the most successful leaders. These are leaders who can embrace their multi-generational workforce, considering all perspectives in a quest to collaborate, learn from each other and grow.

Icon  Be a learner – learning resources are pervasive. And, successful leaders embrace the opportunity to develop new cognitive skills in order to thrive in the digital world. The courage to embrace failure and allow your teams to continuously explore new knowledge.

Icon  Be emotionally persuasive – work with people in order to develop consensus with non-verbal channels. Understand and communicate so that teams and individuals “feel” change beyond the expression of words.

 Bring value to both organization and individual – people need to feel a leader is making decisions flawlessly for the good of the organization and, to the benefit of its members.

Icon  Encourage Curiosity – be driven to disrupt with a sense of purpose. Rally those around you to pursue ideas and creative solutions without fear of failure.

We want to hear from you. What other skills does your organization seek in leadership roles?

– Bob