Will HR Be the Last to Actually Telecommute?

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I was reading an article in Information Age the other day. The author was talking about importance of unified communication platforms at work. It is important to have good digital communication because that is an increasing need in the workplace and beyond for the reasons expressed below. In reading the article it made me wonder if HR will be one of the last groups to adopt telecommuting as a way of working.

Two Groups of Employees

The author of the article, Nicholas Ismai, said there are basically two groups of workers in the workplace today. He said “On the one hand, we have workers who aren’t ready for the digital transformation of the workplace […] On the other hand, there is a large part of the workforce that wants more and better communications technology as soon as possible.” Ismai said that it will be a challenge to get everyone onboard to using some of this digital technology. If it is too much, too fast, then the first group just won’t get it. If it is too little then the second group will feel constrained and may even be tempted to leave in order to get better digital communication opportunities. I will let you guess what the label is that goes with this second group, but it begins with M and consists primarily of younger workers. Ismai said:

“A majority of younger workers, in particular, millennials, who will constitute 50% of the workforce by 2020, say they prefer to communicate electronically at work rather than face to face or even over the telephone, and they have been known to change jobs to get better tech at the workplace […] Younger workers routinely make use of their own technology at work already, and they believe that it makes them perform better.”

Older Workers

On the other hand Ismai says that older workers prefer communication tools that make use of calling and conferencing. Many of them have been around longer, have become the experts in their areas and “if they are obliged to struggle with repeated system failures, or to memorize complicated steps to communicate online, they will stop trying.”

HR Workers

This brings me to the thought I had about HR. The driving force behind this technology is productivity and collaboration. How will HR adapt? Many HR people feel it is necessary for them to see and be seen. To HR the “face-to-face” interaction is of vital importance, be it in the hiring process but also the development process and ultimately the termination process. If they do this all digitally they are removing the “human” component from their job.

I know of some HR workers that can operate totally digitally but not many in the corporate world. As we get an increasingly younger workforce will face-to-face become passé? How much use will HR make of collaboration tools with employees? How much HR can be done just in a digital manner? Will digital HR people be seen as not fulfilling the definition of their job?

These are the questions that made me think that HR may be the last profession to truly adopt full-time telecommuting. What do you think?

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