Technology has the potential to address prejudices and build unity at work


Tech can play a critical role in the inclusion agenda, HR Indaba hears.

Technology can be used as a powerful cognitive training tool that can help to shift behaviour in a non-judgmental way in an effective way. That was the word from HR leaders at this year’s HR Indaba.

“Virtual reality (VR) is in its infancy in South Africa, but is an effective tool to address unconscious bias in the organisational setting,” said Malisha Awunor, human resources director, EOH.

She used the Japanese concept “Ikigai” (“reason for being”), referring to something that gives a person a sense of purpose.

According to Nick Keene, director solution management at Microsoft, the implementation of technology in your organisation is not something that can be done overnight. “You want to make little changes that ultimately benefit your team, and artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the engines that can be used,” he said.

“AI engines help digest some of the information collected about employee behaviour: things like bias. We are leveraging those tools at Microsoft by using analytics. Data analytics can also be used to create awareness around empathy or to bolster empathy in the workplace,” he added.

Jannie Malan, principal solution consultant at Workday, believes that it starts with identifying what the problem might be, followed by giving the employee a voice, which helps you as the employer to identify gaps in empathy. “We tell stories by bringing to the surface the data we collect and share it with team leaders, to tap into that data and explore interventions around awareness and bolstering empathy within organisations.”

Ahren Posthumus, CEO of Momint, said he felt technology has a propensity to make us less empathetic. He used virtual meetings as an example, and how there is a certain level of emotion in those engagements.

“How we interact and engage with one another has become increasingly important,” he said. “As such, it’s important to understand how to use it.” However, Ahren pointed out that technology can only be used as an indicator, but interventions will always be human. We have to allow ourselves to be human, he said.

“You are either part of the problem or the solution,” said Malisha. Technology helped significantly during lockdown, she said, especially at a time when she had to build an EVP. She shared Ahren’s sentiment and mentioned that she too uses technology as an enabler, but it will never replace the human element.

Choosing the right tech in a sea of tech

Attendees were given a chance to pose a few questions for the panellists. Many felt that while it’s good to explore the idea of introducing more tech in an effort to help with the HR, technology adoption on the continent is still behind, so they asked for possible solutions.

“It’s not about the lack of localisation around these solutions on the continent. Many people are coming off the back of using dated technology or legacy solutions – that’s all they know. As such, they have a relatively poor idea of what good tech looks like,” Jannie responded.

Nick added that Microsoft continued to drive investments in cloud, especially in South Africa.
He said Microsoft is more concerned about their customers and how they are getting value out of their current products rather than wanting to come out first place in the race of technology adoption.

When it comes to how HR professionals should go about the data collection process, Nick said it all depends on where your value lies as an organisation, what the challenges are in your organisation, and your employee value proposition.

Ahren referred to a concept called Decentralised autonomous organisation (DAO), which is a system developed to distribute decision-making, management, and entity ownership. He also mentioned emerging roles in the world of recruitment including roadblocks developers, discord managers, community managers, and prompt engineers (experts in AI) as some of the emerging roles in the world of work.

In an African context, Ahren believes that DAO technology can help with the transactions that happen in stokvels. In addition, DAO can also help recruiters to get people to come to them instead of recruiters seeking them out, Ahren concluded.

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