Leadership

Why technology is not the answer to your productivity problems

Michelle Sales /

productivity

Coach and speaker Michelle Sales. Source: Supplied.

How do I increase my employee’s productivity?

How do I get everyone working together, better?

How do I increase the performance and drive of my whole organisation?

These are some of the most common, and important, questions on the lips of business owners today. And at first glance, it might seem like technology is the answer.

Online tools help us converse and share more. We can hold online conferences and ‘catch-up’ meetings across different time zones to bring us together like we are physically in the same room. Social media makes connecting professionally easier, which helps us collaborate and connect more effectively.

But how does this play out in reality?

Our one-on-one meetings with our people are usually just a mechanism for managing work performance rather than really getting to know each other. We prefer to use email to communicate rather than talking face to face. It is even tempting to phone our colleagues rather than get up of our seat and walk to their desk on the opposite side of the office.

Technology is actually fuelling the disconnect that is present in workplaces everywhere ⁠— and it’s making us unhappy and unproductive as a result. 

Do you belong?

In late-2018, Ernst & Young instigated a Belonging Barometer. This study of more than 1000 employees confirmed evidence that exclusion (the inverse of belonging and connecting) is a growing issue, with more than 40% of those surveyed feeling physically and emotionally isolated in the workplace. 

On the flip side, a longitudinal study (titled “What’s Love Got to Do with It?: The influence of a culture of companionate love in the long-term care setting“) shows that when employees feel free to express affection, tenderness, care and compassion for one another they are more satisfied with their jobs, committed to the organisation and accountable for their efforts.

That means, despite the advancing capability of technology and the ease of 24/7 connectivity, most teams and organisations are not connected on a human level.

Isn’t that sad?

As human beings, we are hard-wired for feelings of connection, for feeling like we belong in a group. Belonging is what allows us to feel like we can be ourselves, and that we are valued for that. When people feel they belong in a team or organisation, then they want to do their best work, they collaborate well, they communicate openly and honestly, and feel free to bring forward new innovative ideas. 

The foundational element of this belonging is trust.

In Stephen Covey’s books The Speed of Trust and Smart Trust, he argues “trust is not a soft, social virtue ⁠— it’s a hard, economic driver for every organization”.

Research by The Great Place to Work Institute shows “trust between managers and employees is the primary defining characteristic of the very best workplaces”. The research also shows these companies beat “the average annualized returns of the S&P 500 by a factor of three”.

Hence, it is actually trust, connection and engagement that drives higher levels of productivity and business performance. It has nothing to do with the latest and greatest online tools at our disposal.  

Future ambition

Traditionally, leadership has always been hierarchical. The person at the top is the one who has the answers, the intellect to get the job done. We look up to this person, we look to this person for direction. Knowledge always seemed to equate to power. 

Yet, now automation and artificial intelligence mean we look to those who can bring both head and heart to work. We need and value leaders who have high levels of emotional intelligence, compassion and humility. The ability to harness the collective power of their teams, who can connect on a human level. 

Technology is not the answer, even though it is the major source of the disruption that organisations and leadership is facing. As London School of Economics and Political Science director Minouche Shafik said: “In the past, jobs were about muscles, now they’re about brains, but in the future they’ll be about the heart.”

It’s when you bring more heart to your leadership that you watch your productivity soar.

NOW READ: The cost of belonging: Are minority spaces in the workplace doing more harm than good?

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Michelle Sales

Michelle is a speaker, trainer and coach. She is also the author of the whitepaper The Connection Deficit: Why leaders must bring both head and heart to work to build trust, lift engagement and accelerate organisational results.