Will HR Be the Last Department to Offer Telecommuting

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.

Will HR Be the Last Department to Offer Telecommuting

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 leads me back to my earlier HR-related notion. Productivity and teamwork are the technologies’ driving forces. How will HR change? Many HR professionals believe that it is important for them to be seen. The “face-to-face” encounter, whether it is in the hiring process, the development process, or eventually the termination process, is extremely important to HR. They would be doing away with the “human” element of their work if they did it all digitally.

There are a few HR professionals that I am aware of, but they are uncommon in the corporate sector. Will face-to-face communication become obsolete as our workforce ages? How much will HR use the employee collaboration tools? How much of HR can be completed solely online? Will those in HR who work with digital technology be perceived as not doing their jobs properly?

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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Mike Haberman

Michael (Mike) D. Haberman, SPHR is a consultant, speaker, writer of HR Observations, and co-founder of Omega HR Solutions, Inc. After over 30 years in HR he got tired of the past and focuses here on the Future of HR. Connect with Mike.

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