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Finding the balance between human and tech

As technology evolves and the implementation of tech in the workplace becomes more apparent, there is constant concern over the battle between the automation of jobs and human interaction. While some people believe technology will replace the human worker, the actual outcome is probably not as simple as this, since human interactions remain superior in a number of instances.

Since the pandemic, this need for technology in the workplace became essential for businesses to stay afloat, yet since then, the use of it doesn’t seem to be slowing down, and many businesses are using technology to make operations more efficient – which begs the question, are human employees being replaced by tech?

Although this is the case, now more than ever, people are looking for human interaction, as we have missed out on it for so long. So, it’s important that businesses are finding the right balance between human and tech. 

The latest roundtable hosted by haysmacintye and the Great British Entrepreneur Awards sees a group of experts and founders discussing this topic, providing their expertise, and tips on how to achieve the perfect balance between human and tech.

Discussing the effects that tech has had on businesses in recent years, Ali Rohafza, Co-Founder & CEO of Altered Carbon said, “We ran an IoT Communications business before Altered Carbon, and used this as a platform to test out various payment methods, e.g. klarna, cryptocurrency, etc.  We quickly realised that it wasn’t suited to our clientele, and so are now looking into better-suited applications.”

Dr Nick Inoue, Co-founder of GroundWaves, agreed with Ali, stating that many people have now got “app fatigue”. 

On the other hand, discussing how tech can be needed in industries, specifically in the garment industry, Roseanna Jiggins, Founder of the SwatchEditor said; “As our climate is changing, we all need to work together to cut down on physical sampling as much as possible using energy-efficient tools. The garment and textile industry are one of the highest pollutants and there is a global necessity to reach a Net Zero carbon society asap. 

“Using and understanding 3D tools will be an important requirement for all future designers, and the more that you do now to learn, the better you will be positioned within the new digital revolution. This will also put you at the forefront of selling your designs in the Metaverse,” she added.

Discussing her own experience with people and the use of technology Tanuvi Ethunandan, Co-founder of Data Duopoly, said, “People can be quite reluctant to try something new. We’re a technology company and we’ve had to engage in so many marketing and in-person interactions to help promote the product.

“I think it’s really important to understand that using tech is not just one solution, but it’s everyone working together echoing what’s being done – and that’s really the critical driver for technological change and success in the industry.”

Luke Loveridge, Founder & CEO of Propflo, explained how for all businesses, the consumer should be the priority, saying, “You need to know from a consumer point of view what they want and when. When I’m shopping or looking around for things, it’s about outcomes, and what tools can meet those outcomes. Sometimes that might require actually talking to someone in person, and other times it may be that technology is the way forward. For example, I don’t really want to go into a bank anymore, so I can conveniently go onto my banking app.”

He went on to discuss how tech can be really efficient, however, it is really important to keep a balance between human and technology. “We still need those trusted advisors, unless you’re really confident in using technology. I’ve used online estate agents before and pretty much did it myself, but I still needed advice from a real person at some point. We’re not yet in a place where we can replace these people, and until we get to that point, we need those professionals who know their trade and can provide advice and support to everyone,” he said. 

Agreeing with Luke, Ian Dibb, Founder & CEO of Keylu said, “On our app we’ve made it really straightforward and we find that people in their thirties and forties fully embrace it, however for those who are slightly older, we get the best results when they are introduced to Keylu by one of our partner firms, who actively work with them to create their account.

“Over COVID we learnt that we needed to make our product far easier for everyone to use. We’ve developed an API and a partner portal, which enables companies to sit down with their clients, taking them through the process of creating an account. From this, we found that technology alongside the human element is vitally important in helping to build trust. In my view, those organisations that offered a solely digital solution without the need for human engagement are now seeking ways to bring it back in order to maintain an ongoing relationship with their clients.”

Oli Cook, CEO and Co-founder of ekko, added “Customer expectation is incredibly high for technology, they expect it to work seamlessly every time, and the moment it goes wrong, they’re done and don’t want to use it again. Whereas if you’ve got the human element, people accept failure more if they can speak to someone.

“If you use tech and it goes wrong, they can call up a human who can say ‘Oh, sorry that didn’t work, let me see if I can fix that for you’. If you can combine those two things together, then you’ve got a great business. If you choose to be solely digital, it becomes really challenging.” 

Tobias Hofmeister, Head of Innovation and Community at Embodied, agreed that the key to a successful digital business is to still have human elements throughout – with the main priority being community. 

“Since 2020 we have focused on building a community, and out of this community is where the product truly develops, from conversations with your customer base. We need that level of interaction to actually see transformation because yes, we can have technology and it can generate a transaction, but in order for it to actually evolve, we do need to have human contact. 

“I find having a community and a tech product is the winning combination in the current market conditions. Community is there to empower you, employees, customers, and what we still find is that whether you’re an employee or a customer, tech is simply a transactional relationship – and people often want more than that. Ultimately it’s about being able to understand what’s going on in the world and what your customers want.”

Karen Allan, director of haysmacintye said, “As new and existing fintech firms establish themselves in the market, they will continue to face the question of “how much tech is too much?”. How firms integrate tech into their day-to-day offering from both an internal and external perspective presents a hurdle given the varying levels of “tech-savviness” of customers in the market.

“A lot of start-ups have integrated tech into their everyday operations for efficiency and in some cases have seen this improving human connection – specifically using Teams or Skype has allowed employees to work remotely and improve their work-life balance. It is clear that in this age of tech it will become increasingly more integrated into our work and personal lives and whilst the knee-jerk reaction will be to slide further along the tech-only route, we must remember that many customers and employees will always value some level of human touch in their interaction with the future of tech.”

Overall, the group were all in agreement that both tech and human connections are just as important as each other today. Tech is changing the way businesses are working and evolving, making operations far more efficient – however, they would not succeed if we were to eliminate humans entirely. Having human interaction available whenever customers need it is the key to success, as not every consumer is comfortable using tech. It is important that in all businesses you are not excluding a whole market by eliminating the human element. Having a good balance between human and tech is the key to success.