Home' HR Monthly : October 2019 Contents I
t’s easy to get swept up in the excitement that
is the future of technology, and much harder
to ground yourself in the realities of how it
may harm us.
Some of us are fearful of robots taking
over the world – Hollywood has capitalised
on, and probably contributed to, this fear on
many occasions – but when it comes to the
interactions with our own devices, we tend to be
far more forgiving.
When Apple brings out a new version of its
iPhone, we buy it. The very idea of a driverless
car has us en raptured. Even just getting to
watch a video of someone else sitting in one of
these autonomous vehicles elicits joy. Certain
devices, ‘the fun ones’, are here to help and not
hinder, we tell ourselves. It tu rns out that might
not be the case.
Seeking out the ‘why’
Dr Fiona Kerr, founder of the NeuroTech
Institute, a neuroscience research and
consultancy firm, is an expert in the impacts
of technologisation. It's a topic that she spoke
about at AHRI’s National Convention and
Exhibition last month. She knows more than
most just how important maintaining the
human-to-human relationship is.
She’s putting quantitative science behind the
things that should be improved and augmented
with technology, and the things that shouldn’t.
“I look at the unique advantages of humans
and the unique advantages of artificial
intelligence. I ask questions like, when is
a human more effective and efficient than
technology? When does technology help to
solve the issue or create an advantage? And if a
partnership between them is optimal, what does
that partnership look like?”
The essence of humans
Kerr also looks into the neuroscience of
connections between humans.
“We know from Finnish research that there
are parts of our brain that never stand up when
we look at someone over a screen.”
When humans are together, she says, they
synchronise their brains and resonate, emitting
chemicals that exchange when in proximity
across the space – the sort of thing that
technology can’t do (yet).
“There are times when technology gets in
the way of our capacity to connect, engage,
empathise and to collaborate together.”
“Ou r creativity, adaptivity and complex
thinking skills are minimised when we interact
with technology too much; those things are
hugely maximised when we create chemical
changes and get the brain synch ronisation that
happens face-to-face with humans, and when
you allow the brain to reorganise and make new
con nections in quiet thought.”
Asking the right questions
We don't actually know what the advantages
and disadvantages of technologisation in
the workplace are yet, says Kerr. We’re still
learning how to identify and minimise some of
the d rawbacks. But one that Kerr is currently
researching is cognitive fatigue.
“Whenever we interact with a screen, we
natu rally get different types of cognitive fatigue.
We experience technology and information
from screens differently. We don't read it the
same way as we would on paper. We put the
information together in different ways. You
have to think, if you want everything to be
techonologised, what does that actually do to
Kerr cites the example of an HR consultancy
firm she worked with. She helped them
tweak every aspect of technology they were
using – emails, social media, client/employee
communication platforms, etc – and collected
data over 12 months. The company is based
online, but by staff taking time away from their
computers to have deep-dive/screen-free time,
they were able to increase their productivity
levels and increase work quality for their clients.
This outcome is obviously desirable, but you
might not have guessed that less technology was
the way to get there.
Don’t start by going with the latest and
greatest technology you’re being sold in order to
solve a problem, says Kerr.
“Flip it around and ask ‘What's the
question?’, ‘What's the problem?’ or ‘What's
the opportunity?’ The next question you should
then ask is, ‘Does technology have a role to play
in that?’ Often it does, as the right technology
applications can be transformative. But you
may be surprised how often it doesn't.” •••
Don’t get caught up in tech hype and erase the human factor in the process.
BY KATE NEILSON
HR TECH TALK
HR AND TECH
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