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How Simple Tech can Make a Big Difference in HR

By Christos Tsaprounis, Head of People & Culture, Auto Trader UK

Christos Tsaprounis, Head of People & Culture, Auto Trader UK

I ’m regularly asked how Auto Trader, a leading digital business and one of the UK’s largest websites, uses technological advancements from AI to ‘big data’ in our people function, and the answer is: with simplicity. I’ve found that it’s the simpler applications that have the biggest impact on our people.

We strive to welcome and retain a diverse workforce that is representative of our customers and the communities we serve, which we do through creating an employee experience that is inclusive for all. Diversity and inclusion is a strategic priority for our business and technology that offers endless opportunities and solutions to help us achieve our goals. Sometimes though, it’s not about using the latest expensive tech, even if that might appeal to our inner tech geek. Instead it is about having a considerate and creative approach to explore the most effective solutions which could even be free.

For instance, we learnt a lot during the process we went through to become the first business in the world to be given “Autism Friendly Company” award by the National Autistic Society. Technology played a key part in this achievement. We made changes throughout the business, from installing adjustable lighting in our meeting rooms and providing noise cancelling headphones to limit or reduce outside noise and assist with concentration in our open plan offices; to giving access to apps such as “Calm” to colleagues and visitors to use in our designated Quiet Room to ensure they can have some time away from environments that could potentially overload the senses. Neuro-diversity is one of the key focuses of our wider diversity and inclusion strategy, as 7 percent of our colleagues identify as neuro-diverse. One very popular software solution with our dyslexic colleagues is Read&Write, which helps them to become more effective with proof-reading and helps them understand data and information more quickly, including emails and other documents. We’ve had great feedback from colleagues who use this software, who say it has helped them become more independent, has boosted their confidence and increased their overall job satisfaction. Technology also makes our internal events more inclusive. For the past two years we have been working with Action on Hearing Loss to increase our awareness around hearing difficulties and deafness. Colleagues have been supplied with Phonak Roger Pens, wireless microphones that are used in combination with hearing aids which helps users hear and understand more speech in environments where it is noisy, and where there are lots of hard surfaces or echos. We have also started using Subtitles on Microsoft PowerPoint for live presentations, which add live captions and make presentations more accessible. It is easy to set up and it is surprisingly accurate even when it has to deal with my Greek accent!

"We strive to welcome and retain a diverse workforce that is representative of our customers and the communities we serve, which we do through creating an employee experience that is inclusive for all"

We do a lot of work to support our employees’ mental health, and one of the ways we’ve been leveraging technology is by offering subscriptions to ‘Headspace’. This popular app is great for meditation, breathing exercises and sleep casts, and – my personal favourite part of the app - bedtime stories which help you unwind. This is a really simple technological solution but it’s really effective in the way it helps and supports our staff.

People analytics tools have completely changed the way we collect and analyse information about the employee experience of our workforce. We’ve used Culture Amp for the last four years, for surveys including onboarding, exit, wellbeing and overall experience. Using this we have been able to analyse the results by the different diversity strands and the insight has resulted in us revising our diversity and inclusion strategy and its various initiatives. For example, when we compared the results on the tech platform of our disabled and non-disabled employees there was a significant difference in the views of the former feeling when they didn’t have “the tools and equipment to perform in their job”.

As a direct result of this, we made it a commitment for our Disability & Neuro-diversity Network, and we’ve since been collaborating with different charities and specialists and how we offer the different tools previously mentioned.

We’ve also made sure our recruitment experience is more inclusive by implementing some really cool tech as well. We used Textio to make our recruitment communication more gender neutral which has resulted in our recruitment team taking more care to ensure more inclusive language is used in job adverts. We also listen to the feedback from candidates and then ensure this is then fed back into the job adverts so we are always improving.

Technology advancements such as AI and big data can be effective, but sometimes it’s in their most simple applications that make the biggest difference. With such a diverse workforce, we are always looking for ways to improve the environment for all our staff, and technology is a key way in which we do that.

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