Why Businesses Need To Treat People Like Humans And Not Like Machines

Career Climbers / 27th June 2024

We are on the cusp of a revolution as significant as the Industrial Revolution in how we utilise human talent. Two hundred and fifty years ago, machines disrupted ways of life that had been established for hundreds of years, and now they threaten to do the same. Our changing attitudes towards work, changing expectations from businesses of their employees, the long tail economic impact of Covid, a mental health time bomb, difficulties with the supply of goods, cost of living, geo-political unrest, the climate crisis, and the icing on the cake – Generative AI – mean we cannot operate our organisations as we have done for the last two hundred and fifty years.

And yet, with a few tweaks, that’s what we try to do. We look for efficiency savings, treat people like cogs in a machine, only value what we can measure, and talk about making it safe to take risks, but what we mean is only take risks that pay off. We talk about psychological safety, inclusion, and bringing your whole self to work, but ultimately, we want people to be predictable and productive and set aside their emotions to make logical, data-driven decisions like machines. We say we trust people but have myriad processes and systems to ensure people operate within tight controls. We say we trust people, but when we can’t reach them at 2 p.m. or see their car in the car park, we wonder where they’ve disappeared.

This is because two Victorian Age beliefs still sit at the heart of business:

1. People are merely second-rate machines.

2. People are trying to get away with something.

In fact, belief one is true – people are second-rate machines. Machines are reliable and predictable. They don’t need you to care how they feel. If they break, you fix or replace them. Today’s AI, let alone tomorrow’s, can analyse data, carry out research, make recommendations, produce reports, and do repetitive tasks without errors creeping in (and without complaining of boredom) far better than a human.

But humans bring qualities that a machine cannot replicate. We’ve not even scratched the surface of what humans could do for our organisations if they were liberated from doing what a machine should be doing.

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