How to Leverage Technology as Communications Tool, Hiring Bias Meter

How will leaders connect in new ways with their employees and what companies will need to do with their workplaces? 

Rethinking methods of working and working spaces have been the most talked about work-related topic lately. COVID-19 has certainly propelled companies to do so, which now calls for a re-prioritization of technology as the answer for navigating this environment. PwC believes that collaboration between humans and machines can be far more powerful than either alone. 

Leveraging technology as a communications tool is vital. For instance, PwC’s started an internal community of staffers called “What’s your how?” / What’s your why?” to connect PwCers to one another virtually. It’s a forum for sharing inspirational stories and exchanging practical advice about how they are managing themselves, their families and their clients during the crisis. 

One year in, though, and it’s apparent that there will be some limitations in remote work. Thus, factoring in how much of a role machines will take in an increasingly automated world is imperative. Machines here refer not just to actual physical products but software as well. 

It sounds downright easy to think in this manner but remote work configurations in the technology sector is far easier than other industries like hospitality and travel. It’s also impossible for other professionals like nursing, where they have to be in hospitals to look after their patients personally — and not through a screen. 

Nevertheless, the times call for leaders and global mobility professionals to step up. They must move from crisis response to solutions that leverages the knowledge gained from last year’s experiences. 

Tech ideas for hybrid work

In a Harvard piece, business leaders were asked how to keep employees both happy and productive post-COVID. One particular idea from Julia Austin, an executive fellow at the Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, was to keep the Zoom door open on a computer all the time for anyone to pop in and talk with their remote work colleagues. 

Scheduled meetings may be the norm, but having one Zoom call just sitting there, as long as they are in view of everyone else, could help with that elusive serendipity that typically happens in an office setting. Slack is there but interfacing with someone would be the closest thing to seeing one in person, for now.

While remote work is a good idea now, one other executive Arthur C. Brooks pointed out how loneliness can exact a toll. “While not apparent yet, a permanent work-from-home model may well start a slow-rolling mental health crisis in the American workforce and a resulting HR nightmare. What might look like improvement in convenience and efficiency right now may prove in the end to be a Faustian bargain for managers and employees.”

Amy C. Edmonson, author of The Fearless Organization, calls for structure in the hybrid work-home office approach. To her, it must be structured so that people can work together in predictable ways. If not, she thinks it will not work if left to an individual choice.

Leading employees with kindness is important for Boris Groysberg, professor and co-author of Glass Half-Broken: Shattering the Barriers that Still Hold Women Back at Work. He believes in actively listening, checking in, offering support and understanding to employees and leaders. He cautioned, though, that being compassionate doesn’t mean being a pushover. 

Leverage tech for bad, discriminatory jobs

It’s time to leverage technology also to weed out bad jobs that are exploitative, precarious or demotivating, and for business leaders to hold themselves accountable if they do. For years, minority job applicants know the strategy of “whitening” their resumes i.e., deleting reference to their race, pays off, according to a Harvard study years ago.

It may not be the case anymore but it’s really hard to determine. For example, it was said that when an employer posts “equal opportunity employer” or “minorities are strongly encouraged to apply,” many minority applicants who think it’s safe to reveal their race, only get rejected later.

Of course, there’s also the argument that if the employer discriminates against minorities blatantly and a minority applicant was able to get in, who’s to say she would fit in that job?

Asian Americans and African Americans have the highest jobless rates in the US at 10% and 13%, respectively. While African Americans have always found it hard to get jobs, the new unemployment rate demystifies the observation that Asian Americans get most jobs. They have been impacted by the current health crisis as well, according to a report by NPR. 

A year ago, the jobless rate for Asian Americans was 2.8% — lower than that of whites, Blacks or Latinos. But Asian American unemployment soared to 15% in May 2020, and it was still 10.7% in August — well above the rate of 7.3% for whites and the Latino rate of 10.5%. Only African Americans had a higher jobless rate of 13%. (Dennis Clemente)