Using Tech to Rehumanise, not Dehumanise the Workplace.

By Lyndy van den Barselaar, Managing Director, ManpowerGroup South Africa

Digital and technological innovation has rapidly changed the way we work over the last few years – some would say work has changed for the better, while others fear for their jobs. Digitisation of processes and implementation of new technology should be seen as a way to improve productivity and streamline workflows – and it’s essential not to forget about the human aspect amid all the change.

A study by the World Economic Forum has shown that automation will result in a net increase of 58 million jobs. Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technology is driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI), and it’s the ‘artificial’ that we need to focus on. The tech still needs to be developed, taught and trained to perform tasks, which requires human intervention – and once it’s operating efficiently, it frees up people to perform more creative tasks instead of repetitive ones.


The Human Touch

Although technology underpins the future of work, it has never been more evident that management needs to lead with a human-first approach. It is crucial that organisations define, communicate and educate their workforce about the virtual strategies and new technologies they onboard and how this will impact what employees do, how they do it and where they do it.

This approach needs to start at the recruitment stage. By starting off any contact with prospective employees in the digital space and deploying technologies to improve the recruitment process, they will set the tone for attracting and retaining the right talent. Potential employees are no longer merely influenced by singular factors such as payroll, benefits and perks, or a direct manager. It is critical to redesign working policies with the employee at the centre of this model and technology as the enabler.

Technology also lies at the heart of retaining company culture and guiding behaviour. If the right digital strategy is implemented, it can bring people together more than ever before. Organisations may find it more difficult to build those cultures initially. Still, as digital strategies become a reality and are more ingrained in how employees work, culture will simply be incorporated alongside that technology. Essentially we will see an evolution of culture. Fundamentally, technology does not change the values of an organisation - merely the way it can operate.


Add Value with Tech

Technology like AI or automation is most commonly deployed to perform tasks that humans find repetitive or challenging – like processes that are easily replicated or handle large volumes of data. Digital strategies that leverage technology’s ability to automate such tasks will improve the quality of human work by allowing them to focus on more strategic, value-creating and personally rewarding tasks. In the new work experience, human workers will operate side-by-side with ‘digital co-workers’, enabling human workers to focus on higher-value activities or those that require human input.

From a performance perspective, the continuous training and development of staff must remain a top priority in any digital transformation strategy. The ability of the workforce to implement agile decisions that can be adjusted if they are not working will become critical.

Communication is also crucial. Before an organisation has its specific digital transformation plan established, communicators can start to create employee awareness about technological evolutions and relevant industry changes. This way, employees will know what to expect and their role in the organisation’s digital transformation.


The Future of Work

This future has already happened – and change will only accelerate from here. Four trends are driving that change:

  • Demographics are shifting: As birth rates continue to decline while the population ages, severe talent shortages are looming, with lower labour force participation in many countries. With youth unemployment numbers nudging 5 million in South Africa, there’s never been a better time to close this gap
  • Technology is breeding choice: Many employees want more choices about when, where and how they do their jobs without work-from-home becoming ongoing work. They value things like personal fulfilment, learning and growth over simple career advancement
  • Digital skills need to grow from within: As organisations continue to invest in technology, they will need to foster digital skills from within while seeking external talent to maximise return on investment. Companies that focus on supporting their people in career advancement will attract, retain, create and curate the next generation, bearing in mind that as technology adoption advances in 2025, at least 50% of all employees will need to reskill
  • Competition is rising: Access to highly skilled talent is a distinct competitive advantage in a digital-first global economy. Skilled workers have always been highly sought-after, but today, the demand is more acute than ever, with 69% of companies globally reporting difficulty recruiting — a 17-year high, according to ManpowerGroup’s 2023 Talent Shortage Survey

What is clear, then, is that leaders need to commit to designing a robust digital strategy that ensures work-life balance, drives talent growth and advancement and increases prosperity in communities and work environments. Technology is here to stay – let’s ensure our people are, too.



About ManpowerGroup

ManpowerGroup® (NYSE: MAN), the leading global workforce solutions company, helps organisations transform in a fast-changing world of work by sourcing, assessing, developing and managing the talent that enables them to win. We develop innovative solutions for hundreds of thousands of organisations every year, providing them with skilled talent while finding meaningful, sustainable employment for millions of people across a wide range of industries and skills. Our expert family of brands – Manpower, Experis and Talent Solutions – creates substantial value for candidates and clients across more than 75 countries and territories and has done so for over 70 years. We are recognised consistently for our diversity - as a best place to work for Women, Inclusion, Equality and Disability and in 2022 ManpowerGroup was named one of the World's Most Ethical Companies for the thirteenth year - all confirming our position as the brand of choice for in-demand talent. 







About Lyndy van den Barselaar

Lyndy van den Barselaar is the MD of Manpower Group South Africa.



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