Today’s computers are so advanced that sometimes business owners and executives forget their role in the grand scheme of things. Simply put, a computer is a machine that does what it is programmed to do. Computers are good for providing data, and to a certain extent even some analysis, but what computers can’t do is offer personal contact. No matter how much you spend on technology, it isn’t an adequate substitute for a well-trained manager.
Data vs. Information
Let’s use graphic designer Joe as an example. Joe ‘s goal is to be spend four hours of his day on billable work. The company uses time-tracking software that allows Joe to track his billable time. The software then prints out a daily report and whoever looks at it can see how often Joe is or isn’t meeting his four-hour goal.
If Joe is only charging three hours of billable time per day, the computer doesn’t know why, it just logs Joe’s input. On the other hand, a manager can speak with Joe and find out what the problem is. Perhaps he is spending too much time dealing with customers, or maybe he is getting poor information. The computer can’t resolve Joe’s productivity issues, but a good manager can.
Despite the controversy over CEO, Marissa Mayer’s ban on Yahoo employees working from home, there are some problems with telecommuting that technology can’t solve. A company can spend thousands of dollars on an intranet system that telecommuters have to log into when they begin work, but the intranet can’t actually tell you if the employee is actually at his or her desk working. The employee could be outside working in the yard and answering emails via his or her smartphone, but not really working. While this isn’t always true, it is a case where technology can’t substitute for a manager who keeps track of his or her employees.
Email is another example of a case where technology can take over a business when it shouldn’t. Many people feel that it is easier to send an email to a co-worker to ask a question rather than call. In many cases, what really happens is that there is a communication disconnect between what one person writes and how the other person interprets it. At the end of the day, the employee may realize that he or she spent an hour or more exchanging emails over something that could have been resolved with a 10-minute phone call. Once again, a computer won’t notice these problems, but a good manager will. We often use systems like SmartRecruiter’s applicant tracking system, but those things help us to save time by streamlining the hiring process.
Technology has an important supporting role in every business, but the words there are “supporting role.” When business owners and managers delegate tasks to hardware or software, they only get the output, not feedback. Managers know how to work with employees and offer personal support that they can’t get from machines. Automation may work in factories, but it is a horrible way to try and supervise human beings.