How Can Tech Be An Enabler For Inclusive Growth And Minimalistic Bias At The Workplace?

"Cracking the people code is blending art, science, and tech to drive organisational success," Anjali Byce, CHRO, STL


Technology and human creativity work in tandem to achieve impactful results at STL. While technology processes large chunks of data, providing insights and analytics to guide decision-making, our teams play a very important role in crafting the problem statement and evaluating the proposed solutions for maximized benefit from technology.

Today, Anjali Byce, CHRO, STL will elucidate on how technology can help removing biases from workplace.

1. How has technology impacted the role of HR in modern workplaces? Do you also have some use cases at STL?

The availability of advanced tools and technologies have revolutionised the role of HR in modern workplaces, elevating it from a traditional administrative function to a strategic partner that contributes to organizational success. At STL, digital has been our core DNA. Our digital adoption started with easing out business processes through platforms like Salesforce, SAP, etc. but it gradually became all-pervasive. We are making smart factories by leveraging data into analytics towards building Digital Twinning, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. Alongside, we are also using tech in HR to eliminate bias and the list goes on. 

With a spirit of driving equality and inclusion, we moved to a role-based organisation. Using tech in the job evaluation process, we are empowered with a scientific and fair approach to leveling roles across our businesses, functions, and geographies based on role complexity. This helps us to implement all our policies and benefits aligned to grade levels in a fair manner. The role-based organisation enables us to design our compensation policy using competitive industry benchmarks. Additionally, for roles that demand niche skills eg: 5G skills, and a few other next-gen tech capabilities, we are able to build pay structures and levels that are fair and competitive enabling us to attract best-in-class talent. Our company has a digital corporate culture that empowers our employees to constantly adapt, learn, develop new solutions, push for unrelenting change, and upend the status quo.

2. While AI applications in HR have been a hot topic, what are some other tech applications that cultivate inclusive growth and remove biases at the workplace?

Technology and human creativity work in tandem to achieve impactful results at STL. While technology processes large chunks of data, providing insights and analytics to guide decision-making, our teams play a very important role in crafting the problem statement and evaluating the proposed solutions for maximized benefit from technology.

Right from the hiring process, we use tech to eliminate bias that may unconsciously creep in. We have adopted an AI tool to stack rank resumes based on the functional and skill requirement needs of the role, thereby bypassing any bias that might come in way. Then we have AI-powered employee assessment tools, D&I training, collaboration and communication tools, VR & gamification etc to keep our teams engaged through their employment lifecycle.

We are cultivating an innovative culture, making talent development investments, staying abreast of technical advancements, and laying a solid financial base. We have also been putting effort into creating a long-term strategy plan that can adapt to changing circumstances and account for challenges. We also leverage technology thoughtfully and strategically across our business and people to ensure we are able to scale with speed and agility while ensuring meaningful user experience.

3. When it comes to the L&D space of an organisation, do you believe that technology has been a key factor in revamping it? What is the role of tech in your organisation's L&D program?

Technology has made learning accessible through online platforms, learning management systems (LMS), and virtual classrooms, eliminating location and time limitations for flexible and convenient learning. Personalised learning experiences are enabled through adaptive algorithms, data analytics, and AI-powered tools, analysing employee learning styles, preferences, and performance data to deliver customized learning paths. This allows employees to learn at their own pace for more effective outcomes. Interactive and engaging learning experiences are created using videos, simulations, gamification, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR), resulting in higher retention rates and better application of skills in the workplace.

In our organisation, technology enables social learning platforms, discussion forums, and virtual collaboration tools for employees to interact, share ideas, and learn from each other, fostering a culture of continuous learning. For example, employees can access short training modules or microlearning content on their smartphones or tablets, enabling them to learn in short bursts during breaks or downtime. We track and analyse employee learning data to gain insights into training effectiveness, measure impact, identify skill gaps, and make data-driven decisions for optimization. Tool kits are provided for upskilling at speed, with access to Ivy League University courses. Over 1000 employees have taken courses across 5 modules, and we have partnered with Udemy for accelerated upskilling on digital technologies. Our People First Program is for People Managers, and our Hi-Potential Development programs (Accelerate, Evolve) stem from Succession Planning.

We are also integrating Gamification into training as a captivating way to engage employees and enhance their knowledge retention. Interactive games can be played on various devices, including laptops, television consoles, augmented reality eyewear, or simulators, leaving a lasting impression.

4. Talent sourcing is a major issue on the diversity and inclusion agenda. According to you, how does technology act as an aid in such a scenario, and how is STL implementing the same?

We use technology to aid in talent sourcing efforts, enhancing diversity and inclusion through expanding candidate pools, reducing unconscious bias, improving data-driven decision-making, enabling remote and flexible work arrangements, enhancing communication and collaboration, and improving employer branding. We have adopted AI tools to stack rank resumes based on functional and skill requirements to bypass bias in the hiring process. We use social media deeply. For example, we use LinkedIn's advanced search filters and algorithms that enable us to narrow down our search and identify candidates who match our specific requirements.

We conduct workshops, training sessions, and educational programs to raise awareness about unconscious biases and their impact on the workplace. We promote a culture of inclusion through various initiatives, ensuring all employees feel valued and respected, and fostering inclusive communication and collaboration. We provide opportunities for employees to share feedback and have introduced multiple formats such as exit interviews, pulse checks, and annual studies to become a listening organization. Our recent culture study showed that ~76 per cent of our employees believe we act upon the feedback collected.

5. The employee experience is one of a company's top priorities, and while it undoubtedly requires human intervention, how does technology fit into the picture?

Our organisation's purpose is to engage, energise and empower teams through a focus on skills, accelerated career growth, talent mobility, automation, and leadership development, supporting employees' ethics, beliefs, and values. We use technology to facilitate onboarding, automate workflows, and provide self-service portal for employees to manage their HR-related tasks, reducing administrative overhead and enhancing the overall employee experience. Technology also enables communication and collaboration among employees, fostering a collaborative work environment and enhancing engagement and productivity. Gamification is a powerful tool that we are using to transform traditional training approaches into immersive and impactful learning experiences. We provide resources for employee wellness through our EAP, Optum, promoting work-life balance and well-being. When used effectively, technology contributes to a positive employee experience. However, we maintain a balance between technology and human touch, prioritising employee privacy, security, and well-being.

6. According to you, what are some of the areas/processes that can benefit from technological interventions to promote inclusive growth and minimize bias in the workplace?

Starting right from the role description itself, there are inadvertent biases. Organizations build role descriptions, which are still not gender-neutral. It says, 'We are looking for somebody. He should be able to do this, he should have the following competencies, etc'. So, all of our job descriptions are gender-neutral which completely eliminates the chance of bias. According to several studies, even if men fulfill 70 per cent of the job requirement, they will apply but women, despite being 90 per cent there, will not apply for the job due to the gender-based role description. We have completely removed that even in our online applications.

Like I mentioned earlier, we utilise AI resume screening tools to eliminate bias in the selection process, streamlining the time-consuming task of reviewing resumes to identify the best candidates. We are looking at skills required for a role in an environment where organizations are looking at fungibility of resources and building capabilities. The entire process is also getting automated as a part of our tech applications. We are also hiring at scale to reach a large part of the talent base. We use social media deeply to mine talent.

7. As we’re aware, biases are not only limited to gender, so how does technology help get rid of other biases that may be present in an organisation?

I truly believe that developing an ecosystem of appropriate rules and putting them into practice, along with a sensitive atmosphere, enables employees to advance at STL. All policies must be gender-neutral. We have talked about how technology enables the elimination of bias. So that's AI.

Secondly, technology also enables equal opportunities through self-paced programmes, online courses, making sure there is an equal valuation of performance. Technology helps you determine that everybody is on the same page because then you can identify aberrations. What does technology do? It eliminates individual human biases. So, whether it's in performance measures, whether it is looking at technology scaling with speed, it ensures every individual gets an equal opportunity to apply to grow and to learn. We conduct online surveys and dipsticks. When people come back from a sabbatical, we conduct periodic check-ins with them. I think that is a great way to be a listening organization and create equal opportunity. Recently, we had a third-party agency that interviewed people who had left the organization and one of the questions they asked them was 'Would you join back STL? We had 90 per cent of people expressing interest in joining back.

8. What are some of the expectations that you have from technology in the coming times, and what plans does STL have around incorporating the same?

I would like to look at HR as 'High-Tech Revolutionaries. I think we are in a good space when it comes to technology advancements. I am foreseeing technology in HR evolving and advancing, with a focus on automation, AI/ML applications, personalisation, virtual and remote work solutions, employee well-being, analytics, ethical use, and integration. HR technology has the potential to transform HR processes, improve employee experiences, and drive positive organisational outcomes in the near future. It would be great to see technology more integrated and interoperable, with seamless data flow and integration across different HR systems and applications. This would enable a holistic view of employee data and enhance data accuracy, consistency, and accessibility.

At STL, we are implementing an AI chat bot based listening tool for pulse check, mood tracking, real-time engagement etc. We are also planning on leveraging Gamification elements and mechanics, to create a fun and engaging environment and use it for rewards and recognitions. We will have points, badges, and leaderboards for different challenges. These challenges can be related to work tasks, skill development, etc and can offer rewards or recognition to employees who successfully complete them.

9. In your opinion, what are the potential drawbacks or limitations of relying too heavily on technology to promote inclusive growth and minimize bias in the workplace?

It is important to strike a balance between technology and human involvement. We must address biases in algorithms, ensure accessibility and inclusion, prioritize ethical considerations, provide adequate training and support, and carefully evaluate costs and resources to effectively leverage technology.

Don't Tech it Too Far! Technology may not be equally accessible to all employees, especially those with disabilities or those from underrepresented groups. For example, if HR processes are heavily reliant on digital platforms, it may exclude employees who do not have access to technology or are not comfortable using it. This can result in exclusion and hinder inclusive growth in the workplace.

Not all technology solutions may be accessible to persons with disabilities (PWDs), creating barriers for their participation in the workplace. Some technologies may not be compatible with assistive tools like screen readers or lack keyboard accessibility, hindering effective use by PWDs. Additionally, some PWDs may lack the necessary technological skills or digital literacy to effectively use certain technologies, which can limit their ability to benefit from them in the workplace.

HR processes require nuanced understanding of human emotions, situations, and contexts, and humans possess empathy, judgment, and emotional intelligence in such situations. Technology may lack these human qualities, impacting processes like performance evaluations, employee relations, and conflict resolution.

Cracking the people code is blending art, science, and tech to drive organisational success!

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