By definition, the tech industry is all about bits and bytes. But is there an opportunity for tech to do more? How can we elevate our tech companies to their highest potential, to develop software that humans want to use, and also provide outstanding workplaces for our staff? Reena Merchant, a user experience leader at Google and Founder of OurVoice, shares her insights about making the tech industry more human-centric.
Why Considering the Human in Tech is Important
Elevating the human side of tech can be better both for business and for people. This includes considering human needs in software development, as well as within the workplace culture.
“I was interested in joining the tech industry because I am a logical thinker and enjoy problem-solving. But, on the other hand, I am also a very sensing, feeling person, so I struggled a lot with deciding whether the tech industry was right for me as a career path,” reflects Merchant.
Merchant decided to enter tech and was determined to integrate the two parts of herself into the data-focused industry. Having risen through the ranks of various high-profile tech giants, Merchant knows there is an opportunity to invite more humanity into the tech industry and that doing so will benefit everyone involved.
Users of software products can provide a unique perspective into their workflows, pain points, and needs. Understanding these can help shape new solutions and tools that can revolutionize technology and make human lives more meaningful. For this reason, it is essential to prioritize investing in people-centered innovation rather than relying solely on data-driven insights. The combination of the two is critical.
Additionally, we should ask ourselves: “How do we create diverse, inclusive cultures and environments where everyone can thrive? If we do that, it’s not only better for individuals and teams, but we can also create better products,” says Merchant.
As technology evolves and expands, it is important to remember the human aspects of business. To do this, there are key considerations companies should look at when creating a culture that emphasizes the importance of people within the organization and the products that they are developing.
How Tech Companies Can Take a More Human Approach to Business
Firstly, companies must redefine good leadership. “There is a perception that to be a good leader, we must have a louder demeanor. This is simply not true. It’s about driving successful outcomes, and this can happen no matter what our leadership style,” emphasizes Merchant. This inclusive approach will help create an environment where employees of all backgrounds can thrive. Merchant also stresses the importance of “authentic leadership.” Authentic leadership involves showing up honestly and transparently. It’s also about listening to everyone’s point of view and taking the time to understand different perspectives. By doing this, leaders can create a culture of collaboration and belonging that will help foster innovation and drive better results for the company.
Secondly, companies should ensure that they consider that humans will use the software they develop. “I believe building products on a core understanding of users is absolutely critical to success,” says Merchant. “If we create products or services that genuinely address an underlying human need, people will want to buy them. This not only drives up sales revenue but also makes people’s lives better.” User experience research is a fantastic way to incorporate human insights into the product development process.
Finally, companies need to redefine what product success looks like. For example, there is an opportunity to expand our traditional measures of financial success. By quantifying user sentiment in ways that can tangibly tie back to product engagement and revenue, we can ensure our products positively impact both users and the bottom line. Additionally, goals should include long-term product and brand viability, in addition to focusing on short-term performance indicators.
Tech companies have a vast scale of reach and have the ability to impact society and cultures. Therefore, they need to develop products that add value to the world and do not deduct from it. There is a responsibility for tech to deliver results that are great for business and humans.