Preserving the human touch in a data-driven world

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Advances in technology mean that most people can book a vacation, learn a new skill, or sell a carall without speaking to another human being. We’ve taken for granted the ability to get a multitude of things done through our phones, tablets, or laptops. However, this can lead to an acute feeling of disconnection, especially in the workplace. In enterprises, technology products and services today are often packaged in a disconnected way, leaving employees feeling disengaged.

As Accenture’s CIO, a key question I face when working with our workforce is: how can we take advantage of innovations while maintaining the human touch?

For starters, it’s important to keep in mind that in today’s digital world, human connections matter more than ever. Technology can be shaped so that it adapts to people, using technology for people rather than instead of people.

One way to accomplish this is using technology as one tool to optimize the employee experience. This involves developing technology solutions that make an employee’s experience smoother across intentions, channels, and platforms.

At Accenture, we’ve explored several approaches to create exceptional experiences that I can pass along, including:

Start with the employee

Designing exceptional experiences means focusing on the employee, not the corporate need. We must look at technology as the means to an end or business goal. Start with asking “what does the employee need to perform their work, manage their careers, and help develop others?” This shift will involve bringing the IT department and the business together to strategize, architect, and deliver the desired experiences.

Apply “service design”

Service design leverages a “service wrapping” approach to enhance experiences by providing a connected, end-to-end experience instead of a series of disparate transactions with different departments.

For instance, at Accenture, instead of having an employee visit an array of websites to set up a leave of absence, we are packaging the steps into a single, connected service available via one site for the entire process—from investigation through enrollment, start and return. We are doing the same for onboarding of new employees, and are continuing to design similar new services. The benefit of this approach is that it is not a technology that solves the problem, it is a pivot in focus that then drives a different way of packaging the technologies.

Look to consumer technologies

With consumers spending more time and learning technology through experiences outside work, it makes sense to apply many of the same consumer-like ways to the corporate world. This is especially true since employees expect the same experiences, and are more likely to use technologies that are already familiar.

“Consumerism” is a strategy we apply at Accenture, where we have shifted to providing new mobile capabilities to improve our employees’ mobile experience. We’ve created over 75 apps that aid our employees in everything from expense reports to meditation. We’ve also looked at other organizations such as Starbucks, hotel lobbies, and shared workspaces to get ideas for making the design of office spaces more human. We design our offices accommodating the connecting/collaborating culture of today’s digital worker.

Borrow from hospitality

Hospitality and retail industry approaches are becoming relevant in our work environments in terms of providing human-touch, concierge-like services to employees for work-related activities. For example, Accenture is launching concierge services to proactively facilitate learning the ins and outs of new technologies, such as Microsoft Surface Hubs. We are also building Tech Bars in our offices similar to Apple Genius Bars that are changing the tech support interaction with our people.

Spread content across platforms

Moving away from e-mail is actually easier than you think. At Accenture, we’ve built up our internal portal to serve as a highly personalized, subscription-based hub for information and news that employees can check at their leisure. An “alerts and notifications” feature keeps the more time-critical, action-oriented tasks at the forefront.

We’ve also moved more into video and broadcast technologies to provide “face time” to our employees. I host a regular global broadcast with a live studio audience from our own Accenture Broadcast Studio that gives our extended team the latest updates, news, and information. Viewers have said it makes me and other presenters more human and accessible—exactly the results we want technology to bring about.

These are some approaches that can help organizations keep a human touch in technology. Not only do they enable innovative approaches to work, but they also help people connect, build more and stronger personal connections, get to know company leaders better, and feel a stronger sense of community.

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