humane technology


You’ve seen it before. Heck, most of us see it every day. You enter an elevator or wait in line at the store and witness a sea of people with their heads bowed staring down at their phones. Tap, swipe, scroll, repeat. 

Had I seen this coming, I might have become a chiropractor, catering to the needs of craned necks across the country. But I’m not, and I’d venture a guess that neither are you. Instead, we work in a space where technology rules supreme, streamlining and automating even the most basic of HR functions. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having tech, and I can’t even imagine having to write this long-form without the aid of a computer.

Still, despite the benefits, there are also the drawbacks. Some are obvious, like the scenario mentioned above. Others are more subtle, the slow decay of soft skills that’s leaving younger generations of workers without a foundational understanding of the way the world works. And recognizing the varied impact of tech innovation, there’s a conversation happening around how “human” fits in with “resources” in 2019 and beyond. Because chances are, this whole situation will get worse before it gets better, with little hope for a return to days when the slide rule and Rolodex embodied advancement. Although talking about it gives us a place to start. 

“Humane” Technology 

On the flip side of this conversation is this idea of “humane” tech. Media theorist Douglas Rushkoff has a sharp take on this one, explaining that some developers have seen the error of their ways and now they want to make technology for the greater good. Except as Rushkoff explains, calling any technology “humane” makes as much practical sense as the idea of “cage-free chickens.” So on the surface, these tech caters to its users, while simultaneously extracting as much data and money as “humanely” possible (see what I did there?). 

Rushkoff cites several examples that operate under this disguise. Social media for one. Most of us would agree that the purpose of these channels is to connect with other humans. But what many fail to realize is the data collection going on in the process, building out statistical profiles and then delivering content to influence our future behaviors. This weighs heavy on the efficacy of social recruiting and other online interactions. 

Finding the Line 

Of course, going back to an earlier statement, there’s nothing wrong with using tech like social media as long as we do so consciously. The trouble starts when we over-automate, relying on tech to do work better suited to human beings.

For instance, maybe you’ve met Marty, the funny looking robot that’s roaming grocery stores to help identify spills. The word on the street is that Marty’s work frees up store employees so they can spend more time with customers. Though it’s apparent that Marty is there to do more than call out “Clean up in aisle six.” The robot is observing customers and inventory and collecting data along the way. Could a human do that work? Sure. Is Marty more qualified? Probably not. Is Marty creeping out customers more than a human would? More than likely, yes. But at the heart of matter, is what we’re losing by having Marty there. Now the humans who work there become harder to find and shoppers move about their business without talking to anyone, they self check-out and leave to go tap, swipe and scroll at home. 

Just Care

So, perhaps you’ve heard of a little tagline that says, “Just do it.” Three simple words that have circulated the world for over 30 years. To strike a balance between humanity and technology, I only need two words: just care. That’s it. Because here’s the thing, until we learn to manage ourselves in a way where you can be in the moment and present, while leveraging technology, caring is our best option. 

Caring means understanding how people want to work together and delivering experiences that cater to the individual. Caring means putting in the extra effort to personalize the recruiting process from start to finish in order to hire and retain the best candidate for the job. Caring means going the extra mile to ensure that your workforce has the tools they need to succeed, both at work and in life. Caring means acknowledging engagement and achievement throughout an employee’s tenure and working to support their development and nurture this relationship. Caring means taking a step back and looking at the big picture when it comes to business impact. 

Without caring, we risk becoming complacent, and that’s bad for us on a personal level, and it sure doesn’t spell success for our organizations. It might also give Marty the chance to take over, and nobody wants that to happen. So do us all a favor and just care. 

Want to strengthen the human connection at your company? Join me on July 25 at 2 p.m. ET for the webinar “IRL is the New Black” with Eventbrite and Enboarder.

Register here: IRL Is the New Black:  How Eventbrite Elevated the Human Connection.


William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.