Intelligent technology holds the key to boosting human potential and connection in the workplace, Writes  Nishika de Rosairo, CEO of Experiential Insight

Technology has and will continue to, upend our lives in 2020 and beyond. Nowhere will this be more powerfully felt than in the workplace, where employers’ ceaseless desires for greater profitability, lower costs, and enhanced efficiencies have companies openly flirting with once-radical ideas like artificial intelligence, robotics, autonomous vehicles, and machine learning. The emerging challenge for HR professionals in all of this? Preserving humanity in human capital while so much of the business is carved up for the robots.

The number one job of 2019 – with a starting salary of $140,000, at that – was the Artificial Intelligence Specialist. “This is the third year in a row a role related to machine learning or artificial intelligence has topped the list,” LinkedIn principal economist Guy Berger, told MarketWatch, “and we can only expect demand to increase.” This should come as no surprise, really. Just as our homes and phones have become smarter, our companies have felt the pressure to leverage technology to evolve as well.

When technology is deployed correctly, or at least optimally, it makes companies smarter. But this doesn’t happen with a gentle hand on the back, ushering employees softly into new experiences and expectations. Technology makes us smarter because it forces us to be smarter, which in turn simultaneously makes us uncomfortable. The deployment of new technologies in the workplace illuminates the glaring necessity of new skills that need to be developed in order to make use of the new status quo we’ve assembled for ourselves.

Optimal workplace results require machine learning in tandem with human upleveling. If technology is deployed correctly, upleveled employees, newly afforded the ability to think and act at higher levels, can reap the benefits of that new level and continue to contribute alongside new technologies. Upleveled employees will have pushed through the uncomfortable anxieties of tech-induced change and will have developed the capacity to navigate the unfamiliar parameters of the company in its newer, smarter incarnation.

When a company’s human employees and technologies hit their stride, it can feel like a game of double dutch, with each foot alternating the jump rope in quick succession. Implementing new technologies without simultaneously upleveling humans makes for a quick and sedate round, with one foot planted firmly in place.

Deciding to implement new technologies will be the easy part, and thus the part afforded to company leadership. The difficult work will fall, as it so often does, upon HR leaders. It will be these professionals that must identify the correct rungs on the ladder for staff to climb, and the plan to move the company there in as unified of a body as possible. Traditional training, even the programs with sexy names, won’t get them there. That sort of training is critical for developing technical and legal skills but falls short in delivering enhanced human potential.

Many, many companies won’t know how to do the hard work of upleveling employees in tandem with new technologies. An army of outside consultants will be brought in to assist. But doing nothing is not an option. Preserving the status quo means only moving backward, as your competitors outpace you. Growth and forward momentum are the only ways to survive.

Since 2000, more than half of the companies on the Fortune 500 have ceased to exist, gone bankrupt or been acquired. In one form or another, they simply could not meet the demands at the line of demarcation where the present meets the future. The ongoing sub debate about whether or not this was due strictly to digitization is beside the point – There are other technologies beyond digitization, after all. The point is they are gone.

Given the delicate knife’s edge relationship between tech deployment and human upleveling, is there a right way to go about making these sweeping changes? Well, there’s certainly a wrong way. A surefire way for companies to collect more perfect data and dramatically lower costs would be to eliminate all human jobs. But along with the jobs, you’d also be eliminating the things which drive profits. Rather than deploy tech to eliminate expensive jobs, companies must use tech to automate only purposeless work and allow employees to apply themselves to jobs with meaning.

Human potential is developed via sensory acuity. Corporate recruiters can roughly measure IQ and the skill sets necessary to perform a given role in the application and interview process, but Emotional & Social Intelligence (ESQ) and Visionary Intelligence (VQ) will continue to need assessment by actual human managers and HR professionals. Tech is coming. Heck, it’s already here. But it is Human Resources which has the power to bend tech to human wills and teach workforces how to walk hand in hand together with it into the next decade and beyond.

This article first appeared at https://www.hrtechnologist.com/articles/digital-transformation/can-humans-and-tech-hold-hands/