Dimension Data MEA is unlocking new benefits for employees and enriching the employee experience while also saving the company money – here’s how they did it: “We have a robotic expectation of human performance.”
These are the words of Michaela Voller – Human Resources Executive at Dimension Data Middle East and Africa (MEA) – at a recent Business Day Dialogue in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Voller spoke about how to reimagine your employee experience, save your company money and simplify your business processes.
What’s driving the change in HR?
Voller explored three macro trends that are driving transformation in HR: changes in the technology landscape, the way we work and organisations of the future.
Voller said that new and emerging intelligent technologies are giving HR new functionality. At the same time, disruptors – for example growth of AI, a tsunami of data and an explosion in the contingent workforce – are driving change in the workplace. However, as employees feel more overwhelmed in the modern world, providing wellbeing programmes ness will be a key differentiator for companies. “In this hyperactive new working environment, HR technology should make work easier or most people simply won’t use it,” she said. 
Inside Dimension Data MEA’s transformation journey
When Voller took the helm two years ago, people had a poor perception of HR, its budget was flat and shrinking, and business and employees expectations and complexity were rapidly increasing. “You’re only as good as your last disgruntled employee,” she said. 
Voller faced a mammoth task: How do you attract talent, hold on to people with scarce skills, accommodate people with different abilities and meet your legal reporting obligations in this environment?  Seventy-two percent of the company’s employees are millennials and there’s no retirement age.
Voller believes that companies can overcome challenges by becoming smart and data-driven in their decision-making (like Amazon); by redistributing the power-balance to become less discriminatory (like Uber); and becoming more end-user centric (like Apple). 
“Your organisation needs a purpose,” she said. “What does your brand stand for that’s not just profit?” 
How Dimension Data MEA transformed their HR
The company tackled its HR challenges by developing a shared services platform that allows employees to be in charge of their own data at the touch on an app. But first, it had to simplify its HR enterprise architecture and in the process saved the company money, which then assisted in funding some of the digital transformation programmes. 
Dimension Data MEA adopted a Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) methodology to scale lean and agile work practices. With Workday, the company developed a global HRIS (human resource information system) platform that allows employees to search and apply for open job opportunities, make referrals, create a professional profile, flag their career interests, map their learning journey and view their full job description. This makes workers more self-sufficient, mobile and interactive in a meaningful way.
Robotic assistants and outsourced partners are now in charge of routine tasks. “It’s about time we hand over the mundane tasks to robots, so we can focus on work that inspires us,” Voller said. Robotic assistants screen CVs, read sick notes, look for patterns, pick up fraud, and spot discrepancies between where policy and legal gazettes. 
With programmes like ServiceNow and FeeBee, the company can keep up with employees’ feedback and engagement – which gives HR a window into the workplace culture. “Data is the new currency,” Voller said, explaining that data analytics is helping companies be more proactive in how they interact with clients and employees.
Insights from Dimension Data MEA
• The journey doesn’t have to be linear, but start the journey.
• You need to form a new partnership between the CIO and HR.
• Refocus HR on human connections.
Overheard in the panel discussions
Dominic Gaobepe led the Johannesburg panel discussion while Aki Anastasiou led the one in Cape Town. Here are snippets of wisdom from the guest speakers:
Stephen Green, chief technology officer at Dimension Data: 
“You have to understand the information of your employees. Allow data to inform your services and how you interact with staff and clients.” “Are you brave enough to challenge the traditions that created your organisation? The biggest problem is the culture of the organisation. Change is not easy. We must make sure to include HR in every conversation.” “When Dimension Data started introducing lean, agile teams, people were asking: ‘But what is my job description?’ – You create it.”

Julia Robson, full-time eSports personality and live streamer:
“We [millennials] grew up with arcade games – now it’s the biggest entertainment source in the world. South Africa has a 24/7 eSports channel on SuperSport. There are a lot of things people proficient in gaming can offer companies, for example in marketing. How you market something to us doesn’t have to be complicated. Just give us the what, where and how. Don’t offend us. And don’t try to be our friends.”
Barry Hatfield, chief digital officer at Dimension Data
“How do you integrate a digital workforce? We’ve had to employ robot teachers. Robots only know what you teach them. To create a new type of world that is unbiased, we need an entire new field of work to remove bias [from algorithms].” “We have to accept that the jobs we start in won’t be the ones we end in. That’s why we hire for attitude, not necessarily skills.” “It’s important to understand what millennials want in the workplace, and what motivates them. How do you treat the people sitting next to you?”

Colin Browne, author and founder of the Happy Sandpit think tank
“The way that change is done is often the number one cause of stress. We’ve fallen in love with changing trends, but some old things keep us on track. We need to embrace nostalgiasm as well as futurism. Don’t create change for the sake of changing.”
Jannie Malan, Workday consultant: 
“It is about retaining the employee at the centre of the organisation and making it easier for them to make an informed decision.” There is increased competition to attract high quality resources into an organisation – we rely on crowdsourcing initiatives within our business to get the top talent.

Chantal Butler, head of HR, Woolworths
At Woolworths, we aim to become an attractive employer and retain employees through a business model that fosters home-grown specialisation to enhance employee job satisfaction. There was a growing call within for more customisation and less categorisation. It is not necessarily true that low-level jobs will be threatened by automation and that creative jobs will remain sacrosanct, but rather it is important how humans approach working alongside technology.

Pieter Malan, Dimension Data
“Once you develop something it’s old – don’t expect it to last. Digital transformation is an ongoing process.”
“Innovation is not a linear process; organisations should be setting themselves up to be more flexible to change.”  “There needs to be a relentless focus on solving a problem; it’s crucial to find the right people for the job. Ultimately, people will reject designs that are not people-centric.”