EXCLUSIVE: Google advises employers to invest in people as much as technology


Employee Benefits Live 2017: Employers should ensure they invest in their people as much as in new technologies in order to create an empowering organisational culture and a strong business environment.

In the closing keynote address at Employee Benefits Live 2017 in a session titled ‘How can HR lead the workplace and digital transformations?’, Yuval Dvir (pictured), head of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) online partnerships at Google, said: “Technology can only be as good as people. People are still as important, if not more important, than technology and I think in the past decades we’ve been focusing too much on technology and less on people.”

During the session, Dvir explained the influential impact that senior leaders and managers have on shaping organisational culture, and how this culture is vital in enabling employees to feel secure and autonomous enough to be innovative and creative to deliver business goals. “People also have a constraint or a restraint in a way; they can only be as good as the culture,” he said. “If it’s open enough, if it’s providing the physical, psychological safety, if [employees] are free to speak up, empowerment and all those things are crucial for the culture. Culture is derived from the leadership.”

However, modern workplace practices, such as flexible-working arrangements, can dislodge how managers feel about their own chain of command, because these arrangements can remove the level of control that some managers are used to. Instead, managers should be the ones to initiate flexibility. Dvir said: “[Employers] have to lead by example, and not just the person at the top. That bit really needs to trickle down to managers and that’s a difficult thing to do because, nowadays with the demands and the requirements of employers, it takes a lot of the control that managers used to have.”

What people expect and want from their jobs has also transformed, with many employees swapping a work=to-live mentality for an ethos based on having purpose and meaning within the workplace. This leads to questions around the validity of the traditional nine-to-five working day and whether employees should instead be compensated for work that they perform outside of these hours.

Employers should, therefore, avoid categorising their people. Being able to create a well-balanced team with a positive culture is more important than the individual employees who comprise the team, said Dvir. “When we talk about performance review, we talk about individuals, not teams,” he said. “How the team operates and the culture of the team is way more important than who is on the team because as humans, we like to pigeon-hole everybody. We like to categorise everyone. The key thing that’s missing over here is context.”

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For example, certain employees may be categorised as one personality type in some situations, but have different characteristics when dealing with another situation, which should be taken into consideration when forming teams.

“Nothing is done in isolation,” said Dvir. “Everything is really well connected and that’s an important thing because context in the workplace, context when we talk about employee benefits or anything else, needs to be taken into consideration because if [employers] can forget one variable or another, then [they] miss out on everything.”