Human Attributes Matter In A Tech-Enabled World


BACK IN 1965, Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, predicted that the number of transistors on a silicon chip would double every year. For the computer industry, Moore’s law became something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Today our lives are different in so many ways thanks to advances in technology. Much of that is to be welcomed, but in our rush to adopt the latest developments there is a risk that we overlook something that no computer has yet mastered – and that’s the qualities that are unique to humans.

Many businesses are working on transformation projects involving new technologies, such as AI, both to make work more productive and to accelerate the speed of market impact. But despite the fact that we are constantly developing and adding new technology to the workspace, we are seeing a rapid decline in company longevity. The average lifespan for firms in the S&P 500 is now less than 18 years, compared to 60 years in the 1950s. That’s an alarming trend. It seems we have placed so much focus on technologising the work of humans that we have forgotten the flipside – recognising the human attributes that are needed for the effective implementation of new technology. 

“Computers can make decisions faster than us, but they cannot employ empathy”

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Sue Bingham, founder of HPWP Group, pointed out that, in 2019, more than 50 per cent of HR leaders struggled to ensure employees had the skills necessary to cope in an increasingly digitised workplace. Covid-19, she says, has changed the playing field. 

She’s right. The arrival of the pandemic and the increasing need to navigate areas such as furlough, business continuity and redundancy have demonstrated that technology can’t replace some of the attributes that are uniquely human. Computers may be able to make decisions faster than us, but they cannot employ empathy in the process and AI certainly can’t compete with humans when it comes to effective leadership.

As HR professionals, we need to leverage the wake-up call that Covid-19 has given organisations. We need to engender a higher level of focus on the human attributes required for our technology and transformation journeys, to deliver the speed and acceleration required in the current business context. In other words, we need to make sure our companies continue to value what HR professionals have always known is a core component of business success – and that’s the people they employ.

We Work Magazine, December 2020 edition, published by Haymarket Publishing.


Ei World is a boutique consulting firm in the UK with over two decades of experience in working with CEOs and CxOs from significant global companies. Ei World has delivered projects in 45 countries with proven results at both an individual team and organizational level. Ei World’s mission is to change one leader and one team at a time, creating balance, synergy and harmony in the workplace. Contact Ei World to learn more.

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