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People or technology? Leaders have been grappling with this question even before the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital transformation in the workplace. Now more than ever, organizations must be strategic in allocating resources to achieve their short- and long-term goals.

Tech Vs. Talent: What Goes Behind Organizational Choices?

Artificial intelligence and machine learning have been redefining the business landscape by making jobs obsolete while creating new ones in the process. In 2014, a survey by Brother International Corporation and small business mentoring consultancy SCORE showed that small business owners believed that investments in tech will lead to better returns than similar investment in new employees.

Fast forward to 2020 and tech still takes center stage. Data from Deloitte’s 2020 Global Technology Leadership Study showed that while the numbers varied per industry, there were substantial spending increases in technology. The pandemic in turn has further compelled organizations to rapidly shift to remote or hybrid operations and speed up technology investments to meet current challenges.

Many thought leaders, however, argue that investing in people and digital skills development is equally, if not more, important. As organizations navigate the Great Resignation and the lingering effects of the pandemic on the workplace, leaders recognize that supporting employee engagement and well-being benefits the overall business. They are rethinking and revamping the employee experience to boost job satisfaction and employee retention.

A Delicate Balancing Act

There’s no one size fits all approach when it comes to deciding whether an organization should invest more in talent or tech. In most cases, it should be targeted investments on both.

Research by MIT Sloan Professor Erik Brynjolfsson emphasized how business performance depends on both IT and organizational capital. Organizations will not get the return they want if they spend heavily on IT without adopting digital workplace practices. Similarly, changing a company’s work practices to adapt to the digital age won’t work if leaders don’t make technology investments that are fit-for-purpose while minimizing noise and app-switching.

While intelligent tech solutions have created a myriad of growth opportunities, these have also led to a widening skills gap in the workforce. Organizations must not only recognize the importance of their people but also the need to provide the right digital skills, training, and tools that will empower their employees to thrive in the ever-changing world of work.

To translate technological innovations into real organizational results, leaders must involve employees in the digital transformation and tech deployment journey. By integrating people’s insights and input into tech investment decisions, leaders can make smart tech choices that will create a long-term competitive advantage.

Investing in the right people and human capital development is a strategic decision. Investing in the right technology and tools to empower talented employees will ensure they feel happy, engaged, and motivated enough to stay or even advocate.

Future-proof: Making The Right Investment To Boost EX

Tech is no longer a ‘backroom’ concern but a strategic ‘boardroom’ issue. Training and technology both have significant impacts on the employee experience — and must be leveraged to drive recruitment, retention, job satisfaction, and sustainable business growth.

Leaders must be part of the debate about where investment needs to go, and make sure that they are thoughtful and meticulous about their choices. Investing in employee experience always pays off in the long run as it enables your organization to attract and retain top talent, outlast the competition, and maximize the return on your tech budget.

At the end of the day, when we talk about talent and/or tech one truism remains constant transformation is always about people, and never just about tech.