Professor Vlatka Hlupic: Organisational culture is key to getting the most out of technology

Vlatka Hlupic

Dealing with the impact of technology on the workplace is, to a large extent, a matter of mindset. We can choose to adopt either one of the two scenarios: the first one is to get drawn into a fear-based and fixed mindset and worry that technology might take away our jobs, make us redundant and win the war with humans. The other scenario is that we adopt the growth mindset, adapt continuously (which the neuroplasticity of our brains enables us to do), and use technological advancement to our advantage, as technology is, and should be, about enhancing our lives.

Adopting the latter scenario has many advantages. The future is about people and machines collaborating in harmony, with complementary strengths and weaknesses in the context of intelligent organisational design. Machines are better at processing a large quantity of interpretable data and improving decision making, but they are not good at asking the right questions, they cannot explain why they made a certain decision, they cannot make sense of unstructured data, and they do not have intuition.

While technology should be supporting what employees are doing in workplaces, there is a discrepancy between what technology can do and what mindset, organisational culture, and organisational processes the majority of organisations have. To get the most out of technology, and to motivate the workforce to give a high level of performance, organisations need to foster the development of organisational cultures that are based on people, collaboration, purpose, transparency, openness, communities, interaction, and ubiquitous communication. Power and decision making should be distributed and employees should have the autonomy to experiment with new ideas and new technology. Organisations that get this will get the most out of technology while creating high-performing, supportive and purposeful workplaces.

In traditionally managed organisations, based on hierarchical command and control, and top-down communication and decision making, technology will not be fully utilised. People will use it as they are told by their managers to do so, communication will be mainly top down, trust and transparency will be low, and the full potential of technology will not be realised.

To get the best out of technology, organisations need to get the best out of people. We have not always modernised our management approaches in line with advances in technology, leading to intelligent IT, but unintelligent organisational design and outdated management practices. That leads to low performance, engagement, productivity that no technology can compensate for. After all, it is all about people.

Vlatka Hlupic is professor of business and management at the University of Westminster, chief executive officer at The Management Shift Consulting, and author of The Management Shift.