A St Valentine’s Day love letter to all employees

Business underuses technology to guide decisions, and relies too much on intuition

Help your people understand and get excited about what tech upgrades will bring

Gina London

Well, folks, by the time you read this on Sunday morning, I should be taking off from Dublin on a flight to Phoenix to facilitate my first in-person conference in nearly two years.

I had originally had mixed emotions about taking the gig because – as I’ve already confessed to you, my lovely loyal readers – I’d grown accustomed to staying put for work.

Toss in concerns about my carbon footprint and missing out on what is only my second St Valentine’s Day with my beau Damien, and you’ve hit a trifecta. And who kicks off a conference on St Valentine’s Day, anyway?

But, well... mama needs the money.

I can offset my carbon footprint by supporting a climate action project, and Damien and I made plans to celebrate before I flew out. Just one important factor remains: you. What to write about, to share my love of love for people – especially those toiling away at jobs this St Valentine’s Day?

As it happened, I interviewed a couple of very interesting executives earlier last week – so I am now proud to present for you today a seemingly unlikely valentine letter: a loving reminder how to use technology to help us better connect as humans.

Of course, my wonderful Sunday Independent columnist colleague Adrian Weckler is your regular go-to for tech trends, but since we’re focusing on the workplace, I’m stepping up to assist today.

It all started when a press release caught my attention late last month: UK organisations outspend Irish counterparts when it comes to people data. A survey of over 250 HR managers from UK- and Ireland-based companies respectively revealed discrepancies in comparative spend.

It made me wonder why that was. So I contacted the researchers to find out.

Andy Davies and Pete Marnock from MHR International, the global HR and payroll software firm which oversaw the survey, explained how companies underuse technology to inform their decisions, and instead rely on intuition.

Review

“I don’t care how big or small the organisation is: if they’re making business decisions without the solid foundation of data backing up those decisions, the decisions are fundamentally flawed,” said Pete. “People decisions should be driven by data.”

My first loving reminder is a call to review what you are currently doing. Are you tracking, recognising and valuing your people with spreadsheets or software? And, before you think my urging applies only to HR department leaders, this relates to individuals too. Review you.

As Steven Covey wrote in his best-selling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, ‘Seek first to understand.’ He was directly referring to how we can better interact with others, but this also serves as a call to question the current state of why things are.

From annual performance review processes, team feedback sessions to your own professional or personal performance, ask yourself, ‘Why am I or my team doing things this way?’

“People rely too much on their gut,” Andy expanded. “For instance, only 15pc of leaders report on employee absences. This is despite its high costs associated with it. I would please urge HR leaders to dig these figures out.”

Replace

Once you’ve identified a process or approach that is no longer fit for purpose, it takes courage to replace it. But replace it you must. This goes from the range of out-of-date systems you may be currently using as a department, team, or single human being.

For instance, there are so many platforms to communicate on these days, consider what is most efficient and make it work better for you.

Case in point: last week I received a text on my phone from a producer over at Virgin TV asking whether I’d come in to review the newspapers. But my notification button was on silent so I didn’t see it come in. And as I receive many more texts on WhatsApp than my regular phone text app (where this one was parked), I almost missed it completely.

So what did I do? I kindly asked the producer to begin communicating with me on the other platform.

“Done,” he said. Problem solved.

If your company doesn’t use a dedicated platform yet for team messaging, don’t wish things would change. If you think a process could use a little digital transformation, speak up. Enquire. Kindly, of course. But, hey, as the saying goes, ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get.’

Reassure

For changes to be successful, you must reassure your people around the vision.

As Pete and Andy explained to me for example, tracking absence data can tell a company before the next ‘great resignation’ kicks in that people may be more than ill – they may be sick and tired of something.

Rich data offers insights. Help your people understand and get excited about what tech upgrades will bring.

Through Zoom, Teams and many other virtual meeting platforms, we know that technology can improve the way employees communicate with each other as well as with customers and clients. We can build upon this experience to expand improvements.

But technology can’t make further effective advancements, if we don’t actively engage our human critical thinking tools of interrogation, reflection, team engagement and wise and thoughtful communications first. Happy St Valentine’s Day.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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