We all love digital. It makes our lives easier and faster. But I’m not sure we all have an appropriate understanding of what digital and analog really mean. The fact of the matter is that we don’t live in a digital world. Our world is purely analog. We just have digital processes that happen in some mysterious box in technology-land.
Let’s take an easy example: I use Google Voice. One of the things that Google does for me, is it takes my voice mails and turns them into text. That text is then loaded into my Google Voice site and simultaneously emailed to me. To be honest, I have not listened to a voice mail in months because for the most part, I understand the message that the caller is trying to get to me, even if the voice to text translation is not perfect. The order of the transaction goes something like this:
- Analog: Caller leaves a voice mail
- Digital: Google synthesizes and translates the analog signal to text
- Analog: I read or listen to the voice mail
I’m not making any judgments here – all I’m saying is that we as people are analog and we operate in an analog world. I’m not an expert, but I’m confident when I say that we will never touch the digital world. (we are not in the Matrix movies) That said, the increasingly digital influence our world has is pretty amazing. If we don’t live in a digital world, then what does digital do for us? Well, it provides speed, context and interpretation of the analog world around us.
In HR, every business process that we do is analog. We call technology “enablers” and they are. Employees enter personal data changes into the self service portal, managers call us to request reports, business partners update managers on their talent. Increasingly, rather than submitting requests, managers go to a portal (yes, that is an analog action) where data has already been interpreted and formulated for them. They can immediately view the progress of open requisitions, performance reviews and the turnover rates of their organization. The manager still had 2 analog actions of going to the portal and of receiving the data (through the eyes – yes, analog), but the digital world took all the data entered previously (analog) and created these outputs for the manager (digital) when she was ready for its consumption (analog).
Here is a thought though. The most significant contributor to employee productivity might be employee engagement. The most significant contributor to employee engagement is probably the analog direct communication with their direct supervisor. The conversations (analog) that every employee has with managers is what defines how well a business can utilize their talent. We can digitize as much as we can for the purpose of simplification, efficiency and context. But at the end of the day, the key HR transactions are still going to be analog, and for the foreseeable future, we’re not going to change that.