For Your Benefit

Technology That Benefits Us All

By Jennifer Benz | Benefits Beat

I

spent a couple of days with a well-known high-tech company earlier this summer.

Their gorgeous campus included new, modern buildings and lots of walking paths and green space. And there was an extra treat: a very cute, round robot who glided down the sidewalks, a friendly greeter doubling as security and showing off the company’s new technology. (Yes, it was much like a scene from the HBO show “Silicon Valley.”)

After watching the robot in action, a couple of my teammates and I decided we needed a selfie, of course. When we went to take the picture, the robot stopped us. “Too close!” it said firmly.

We all laughed, but I think that sentiment captures the gist of how we’re starting to feel about technology. It’s too close. Too pervasive. Too in our faces. It knows too much. And we’re not sure we can trust it, but it has already invaded and taken charge of all aspects of our lives. (A friend told me recently that his outdoor grill can be programmed via Bluetooth!)

Your employees share this concern. Results from a 2017 Deloitte survey on internet trends capture what consumers are doing to address data privacy concerns: 64 percent of respondents delete or avoid certain apps; 47 percent adjust their mobile privacy settings; 28 percent disable cookies; 27 percent avoid certain websites altogether; and 26 percent closely read privacy agreements.

At the same time, the potential for it to solve very significant problems in the workplace continues to grow. And organizations that make wise technology investments and position them with employees are seeing incredible results.

One of our clients, Intuit, recently launched a service to support employees struggling with stress and anxiety. The program combines cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness training with real coaches for additional support.

We were able to get it into the hands of employees quickly and easily via targeted Facebook ads that were primarily viewed on mobile devices. Those ads promoted the program and prompted employees to download the app immediately. Employees report great success and improved ability to focus and connect with those around them.

Technology often feels too close. It’s too pervasive, too in our face, it knows too much.

This is just one piece of Intuit’s global Well Minds program, a multiyear effort to support employees by helping them reduce stress, increase resilience and get the right care for their mental health. Jen Gentry, Intuit’s benefits manager, said, “This is another piece of our robust Well Minds program. We are seeing great uptake across Well Minds and we’ve seen significant and meaningful clinical outcomes. The majority of our programs are enabled by new technology that removes many barriers for accessing mental well-being support. But the purpose is very personal: helping our employees be their best in their day-to-day lives so they can reach their goals.”

A win for technology all around.

For my team of 30, we recently rolled out a new platform called Imperative. This tool provides an individual assessment that helps each of us understand how we derive our sense of purpose from our work, and it shows us how to tweak our day-to-day activities and interactions to better align with that purpose. The in-depth assessment of purpose and the technology that enables the ongoing coaching is super-impressive.

But even more remarkable is how quickly this tool changed our one-to-one and team interactions. It had an immediate impact on how people related to each other, giving feedback and mapping out future goals. We quickly reworked our whole goal-setting and performance management process to be just as nimble and further support those ongoing interactions. (Full disclosure: I’m on Imperative’s board.)

At work, as in the rest of life, people want to belong. They are looking for ways to create meaning and connections. But, too often technology investments and the way they are implemented fall short on connecting to employees at all.

Just as with many HR programs, new technology is often deployed with a very company-centric focus. This new platform/tool/provider/system will save the company time/money/people and help accelerate and/or eliminate a strategic/critical initiative around people/paper/processes.

Employees read these statements as another clueless company initiative. When, instead, the same technology could be envisioned and positioned as helping further your company’s purpose and impact in the world. It could be about helping employees achieve their goals, connecting them to their colleagues and what matters, allowing them to create value for themselves and the organization.

And that’s exactly where HR leaders should and can be prioritizing investments. Let’s focus on technology that brings us closer to our goals, our dreams and most importantly, each other.


Jennifer Benz, is CEO and founder of Benz Communications, a San Francisco-based employee benefits communications agency. She was honored as one of Workforce’s Game Changers in 2013. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.