engaging leadership, employee engagement, occupational psychologist, occupational psychology consultancy, leadership development

Nigel McPolin
Organisational Psychologist, etimes2 ltd

The march of technology in the workplace is relentless.  So much automation is creeping into every aspect of modern working life.  We are becoming used to processes being automated.  We are even subconsciously predicting what smart devices will do next when we lift them and simply expect them to be able to perform certain functions.


This march of technology in the workplace is so pervasive that we need to ask some big questions:


  1. What impact does technology and automation have on employees?
  2. What impact does technology have on the leadership role?


Lets deal with each of these questions in turn, though I will spend more time on the second question.

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What Impact Does Technology in the Workplace Have on Employees?

There are several key impacts that advanced technology in the workplace has on employees, including the following:

1. Remote working

Technology means many people can work from home or remotely.  For example, field workers who used to have to drop into the office to deposit paperwork can now complete all documentation and submit it on-line.  There are so many options now to maximise home and remote working, some for work-life balance and some to maximise agents’ time ‘in the field’.


2. Reliance on smart technology for solutions

Increasing technology in the workplace can encourage employees to rely too much on the smart devices and automated tools to do the job.  They may even look to the machine to solve problems and take the blame when things go wrong.


3. Less interaction with people

Even when not working remotely, advancing technology can cause employees to focus on the ‘screen’ and not the people around them.  Employees can communicate with each other and management through technology.  There is no need to look up.


What Impact Does Technology Have On The Leadership Role?

Obviously, the impact on the leadership is a direct result of the impact on employees.  There are some articles and thinking floating around that suggests automating leadership.  That leaders and line managers are less important as a result of automation.


Soft skills in leadership are more important now than ever.  And businesses are recognising this as demonstrated in LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report.  In fact, training for soft skills is the #1 priority for executives in 2018.  They realise that soft skills are essential for successful leaders and businesses.


Modern leaders need soft skills because:

1. Emotional Connections

In order for people to feel engaged at work, they need to feel emotionally connected to their work.  Much of this emotional connection will be achieved through the relationships formed with other people at work, particularly the relationship with their line manager.

This relationship will influence how an employee forms or maintains wider relationships within the team.  So, it is vital that each leader has the soft skill repertoire necessary to form productive and positive relationships with each team member.


2. Critical Thinking

Too much reliance on technology will dull employees’ ability to achieve mastery over their work, the problems that arise and the technology in place.  Employees can become reactionary to the technology rather than masters of it.

Leaders need to now constantly challenge employees to be the masters of their work by discussing the work being done and ensuring the employee knows that it is the human touch that is important.  Not the machine.  Leaders need to discuss the problems arising and challenge team members to take ownership of the solution.


3. Emotional Intelligence

The remoteness caused by technology, even for employees present in the actual workplace, means that leaders will see and talk with people less.  So, the quality of each face-to-face interaction must be great in order to motivate, sustain and retain an increasingly remote workforce.

Leaders need to communicate with emotional intelligence in order to reassure employees that they are valued and important.  That they should be the masters of their work and the technology in place.  Emotionally intelligent communication will reassure employees of their role in the team, their position above technology and the value they bring.  It is key to performance and productivity.  Remember, a demotivated employee can still slow a machine down.


It is clear that the leadership role is more important than ever and that leadership development sits high on businesses priorities for 2018.  Particularly in relation to soft skill development.


While the march of technology is relentless, the need for soft skills in leadership is now greater than ever.  What are you doing to develop soft skills in leadership where you work, both for now and the future?

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