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Highlighting the Human Side of Digital Transformation at Spring HR Technology Conference 2021

March 25, 2021

Spring HR Technology Conference

It’s an intensely debated topic—digital transformation. How will technology permanently change the way we connect at work? And, the second-order effects on our personal lives? A year ago, the debate may have been theoretical in nature. Now in the COVID-19 era, HR professionals are seeking to solve it in real-time. Thankfully we have events like HR Tech Conference, now virtual like so many others, to reflect on a year like no other and look ahead to what’s next.

I was honored to represent Paychex, a diamond event sponsor, at the spring event by delivering two sessions in partnership with my colleagues Alison Stevens, director of HR services, and Amanda Miller, a product manager on my team. Alison and I shared best practices and expected results from a tight partnership between service and IT. At the same time, Amanda and I demonstrated the latest innovations in Paychex Flex®, our cloud HR technology.

While presenting alongside these talented colleagues highlighted my time at the conference, the show was chock-full of thought-provoking insights. Here is a look at my top three takeaways:

1. Technology is an enabler of human connection.

In a COVID-19 environment that drove workforces to disperse in many organizations, technology that drives connection – not isolation – has been critical to maintaining engagement and productivity. This is something that I am personally passionate about and reinforced by keynote presenters Josh Bersin and Mimi Brooks. Josh declared “technology requires human skills” and that all businesses are services companies at the center, regardless of industry. According to Mimi, a business-digital ecosystem is driven by human value. She projects the Organization of the Future will include three principles: (1) leading with purpose, (2) systems thinking, and (3) acting in the interest of humans. That last one strikes a chord with me because, in my role leading the user experience and platform strategy teams, we are constantly iterating and innovating with the human impact as a foundational and shared point of view. In addition, our ability to deliver value to customers relies on a blend of cutting-edge technology and world-class service. Paychex Flex would not be what it is today without input and data from our service organization. 

2. "Leadership is a quality, not a title."

My title infers that I’m a leader, but it doesn’t make me a leader. There’s a big difference and it’s a point that Katy Tynan focused on during her keynote address – Not All Leaders Are in the C-Suite. Katy began her presentation with two eye-opening stats: (1) the average age an employee takes on their first management job is 30, and (2) leadership training doesn’t start until employees are 34-42 years old. She went on to make the case that leaders exist everywhere, even in the most unexpected places. From my perspective, hierarchy is important in any organization, but what’s more critical is building a team of passionate individuals and empowering them to achieve great things together. Being a leader is not synonymous with managing individuals.

3. Data void of human intervention is meaningless.

Perhaps my favorite statement of the week came courtesy of Torin Ellis, whose closing keynote challenged all of us to shift our openness and reframe our commitment to inclusion and company culture. He said: “If you think technology is going to be the fairy dust that’s going to bring you D&I, you are sorely missing the point.” Torin went on to point out that analytics and human intelligence are a complement to organizational culture. Data – and what it tells you – should be challenged. In my session with Alison, I made the point that data is emotional and that I can make it tell me anything I want. Data is a bunch of numbers, but it’s the human interpretation of that data that reveals truth. Understanding and working within this core principle is what will help shift thinking, whether for DEIB, employee experience, flight risk, and anything in between.

I love the daily grind of my job, but I also welcome the opportunity to step back and hear from other thought leaders who shape our industry. It’s an exciting time to be in HR technology, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to represent Paychex and its human-centric digital transformation.

Nathan Shapiro

Nathan Shapiro

Nathan is the director of platform strategy and user experience at Paychex where he leads a team of more than 100 designers, ux researchers, content writers, product managers, and requirements analysts that is responsible for shaping Paychex Flex®, the company’s HR technology application. Nathan believes in developing technology solutions that foster human connection and independence rather than isolation. His teams have been able to thrive in a technology environment that is evolving at warp-speed because he’s cultivated a culture of collaboration, access, and being in it together.