The FT today reported on a new start-up that is the latest to use sophisticated algorithms to help companies in their quest to 'solve' workplace culture – or at least alert them to problematic behaviours.

Receptiviti, a Canadian start-up has launched a tool to monitor psychological variables manifested in the type and structure of language used by employees in their corporate emails. This can apparently highlight issues such as workplace bullying or propensity to take undue financial risk.

We have already seen apps such as TalkToSpot and AllVoices that allow individuals to actively report harassment issues. The difference here is that the algorithm would be monitoring content in the background, and identify particular (potentially subconscious) trends as opposed to identifying specific individuals.

Technology and culture

Corporate and workplace culture are big issues for employers at present. There are tangible ways to promote good culture – overhauling speak up policies, addressing tone from the top, looking at remuneration and reward. Technology such as this offers a way to pinpoint more intangible issues that need to be addressed – how we use language, how employees are behaving amongst themselves.

The obvious concern is the interface with employee privacy, and what will actually be done with the data picture once it is obtained. Such tools are no substitute for active engagement by HR and management with employees, and more 'human' ways of trying to spot workplace issues. Indeed, a separate piece in the same edition of the FT urged companies not to overlook the human element of their workplaces and interface with tech. 

Don't ignore the human factor

Both articles have been released in the week of World Mental Health Day and allude to the reality that as increasingly powerful robotics and algorithms are introduced into the mix, the potential side effect of neglecting the "human factor" can have some serious consequences, not limited to the breakdown in interdependence of your workforce. 

However, for those at the forefront of the interface between tech and human interaction, start-ups such as Receptiviti are an exciting development, as companies seek to combat their people risk issues and improve internal culture.

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Please note this blog post was written by a Clifford Chance LLP employee. Clifford Chance LLP is the parent company of Clifford Chance Applied Solutions (CCAS). The content within this post does not constitute legal advice.