HR digital transformation: the future of your workplace depends on your people

HR digital transformation potential showcased through three origami swans in progressive stages of take off

HR digital transformation is the key to keeping your organisation competitive and successful in the fast changing world of work. Here’s how.

Technology is constantly evolving the nature of work and the world as we know it. Take for example the simple act of ordering a pizza. From mobile apps to online delivery services, today you can place your order digitally and effortlessly when cravings strike. Digital orders make up such a large part of Domino’s pizza sales that they now consider themselves an e-commerce company that sells pizza!

The evolution of technology consistently transforms our daily activities and experiences, from ordering a pizza to performing our best in our workplaces. As technology evolves, so does your workforce and the audience your business caters to.

Human Resources (HR) or People teams play such an important role in organisations’ digital transformation: from safeguarding the wellbeing of employees to spearheading solutions to their workplace challenges. It tracks that they also play a crucial role in digital transformation.

HR teams can help to create a resilient, thriving workforce ready to adapt to the evolution of technology. Here’s why they’re crucial.

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Why HR digital transformation is crucial to the success of an evolving workplace

HR’s digital transformation plays a key role in how successfully you can implement tech advancements for your workforce overall. It’s about adapting to change and leveraging opportunities, from optimising internal processes to developing the workforce’s skills to meet the demands of the modern market.

Your people are crucial to successful digital transformation, and therefore so is your HR team. The Technology Fallacy, written by Gerald C. Kane, describes transforming an organisation to reach digital maturity, as: “aligning an organisation’s people, culture, structure, and tasks to compete effectively by taking advantage of opportunities enabled by technological infrastructure, both inside and outside the organisation.”

HR touches every part of your organisation – so HR digital transformation is done best when it involves the workforce as a whole rather than just a single department. It can be used to empower your people to address ethical considerations and compliance issues as they evolve, including data management, privacy laws and effectively implementing new technologies. 

The HR, People and Talent teams impact not only your current workforce but the long term future success of your company as well.  Influencing the future of your business through shaping a new culture within your organisation, one that embraces rather than resists change. This allows you to adapt more easily and more effectively as tech advances. 

In CIPD’s forecasting report, People Profession 2030, digital and technological transformation is identified as one of five key trends that will influence the future world of work.

Inspiring examples of HR 3.0

HR 3.0 is about making human resources more focused on people. It aims to better connect with remote workers and build a strong team that can handle change. The goal is to be open, diverse, and inclusive.

We’ve listed some inspiring examples of HR digital transformation from leading companies below to inspire your HR 3.0 plans!

1. IBM’s and Burger King’s digital transformation of HR processes

IBM has become well-known for the way they experiment with digital HR solutions like their celebrated digital learning platform customised to each employee’s needs. Another great example of their approach is their partnership with Burger King Brazil: they introduced a virtual assistant to take over repetitive HR tasks which quickly took on 50% of employee requests like requests for paid leave, freeing up more time for their internal HR team to focus on strategic priorities

2. Amsted Rail’s all digital HR processes

Amsted Rail decided to do away with paper-based HR processes and simplified things with Beekeeper Forms. Employees can now turn to their mobile devices to complete forms and HR managers have more time to dedicate to other tasks rather than spend time on manually filing paperwork and reviewing documents. 

3. Tata Consultancy building bridges with IT and HR

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) launched the “TCS Manthan” program to integrate its Research and Innovation culture across the organisation, enhancing creativity and leveraging employee knowledge for business benefits. Sponsored by senior leaders from both IT and HR, the program involved ideation contests, hackathons, and design jams. By 2020, the program significantly increased event participation and innovation output, contributing to TCS being recognised as a top global employer and a valuable IT brand.

If you’re looking for a way to increase employee retention rates, read our handy guide featuring 3 Technology Trends HR Can Use To Solve Their Talent Challenges

HR should be part of the technology transformation

There are lots of benefits to your company undergoing an HR digital transformation such as reduced costs in the workplace, improvements to daily operations, and an elevated workplace experience for employees. Implementing automated systems saves HR time and resources, allows them to tackle new projects, improves overall workplace efficiency, and uses data analytics for better decision-making.

“HR has always been heavy on admin. With the tools available today you can reduce that burden by introducing technologies that allow HR to work smarter without endangering compliance and increasing risk to the business. This frees teams to focus on value-add HR work that can make a real impact.” 
Laura Maxwell-Smith
People Director, Salt Global

As we’ve seen in these examples from leading companies, digital transformation is most likely to be successful within an organisation when departments work together. It’s also crucial to integrate HR into digital transformation strategy for both hiring and retention, as employee perception with automation and technology plays a significant role.

As the CIPD Workplace technology: employee experience report highlights, automation brings it’s own set of opportunities and challenges for the workforce:

  • While many employees don’t anticipate their whole role being automated, automation will change the way they work. Despite this, only 28% of respondents have received training for potential role changes.
  • Among the respondents expecting to see more automation in their workplace in the near future, 32% think this will improve their jobs.
  • Overall however, 80-93% respondents feel that technology has not improved business performance, and that with portable devices blurring work-life balance, it’s in fact hurting the health of the workforce.
  • Shockingly, only 35% of employees have been consulted on new technology implementations.

These figures make clear the importance of HR’s role in implementing change and transformation. HR and People teams are able to address issues like training and workforce planning to enhance employee satisfaction, trust, and overall organizational performance.

Establishing your goals for HR digital transformation

The first step of any digital transformation project is to establish a clearly defined goal. It’s also important to consider your employees’ experiences – as this provides more context as to why your business is experiencing a challenge. 

You must reflect on how your digital transformation focus will impact everyone else in your organisation. For example, a goal like improving your learning and development program impacts more than the people that deliver this service.

Solutions are only effective if they’re solving existing challenges and taking your employees’ needs into account. 

“The key for successful HR digital transformation is to use a consumer-based approach. If your employees cannot see the value in the change, you will fail before you begin.”
Laura Maxwell-Smith
People Director, Salt Global

Examples of goals for HR digital transformation

The process of digital transformation can feel so wide-reaching and ever-changing, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are a few examples of common challenges and goals for digital transformation we’ve encountered with leading HR teams around the world, where evolving technology can play a key role in improving employee experience and business performance, now and in the future.

Some common HR and People business challenges include:

These challenges connect with common HR digital transformation goals, such as:

  • Hire more quickly and more inclusively
  • Better onboard and engage new employees 
  • Save time on repetitive HR operations tasks
  • Improve internal communications to increase engagement
  • Respond more quickly to employees’ HR requests 
  • Empower employees to learn new and needed skills
  • Address unconscious biases in the organisation
  • Use data to inform your decisions and HR strategy

Implementing HR digital transformation step by step

As tempting as it might be, you can’t do everything at once. For a successful digital transformation, you’ll be starting with a focus on just a few of the issues in your workforce. Your overall goal should be the one that will have the highest impact, and one that you can learn from.

The solution you find to meet your first digital transformation goal for your organisation can solve multiple workforce issues at once. For example, if you’re looking to improve the speed of your hiring process, you might invest in automated communications technology that you can also use to improve communications overall. 

However, just like a science experiment, to identify what works well for your organisation you’ll need to control the variables. A step-by-step approach helps both to sustainably manage your internal resources and to identify the impact of the change or changes you’re making. If it impacts many teams and processes, you’ll need to investigate the impact for each before iterating and adapting the solution to work better for your users. If you’re making too many changes or making changes too quickly without understanding their impact, you won’t have clear results and you won’t have a clear learning to take away.

“When you’re prioritising with a Must, Should and Could list and your Could column is a mile long, it can be overwhelming. Many products available aim to solve a wide spectrum of HR challenges, and your ultimate goal can get lost in the shiny features and functionalities that are possible with a new tool! It’s imperative to stay focused on the core business challenges you’re trying to solve. It’s OK to start with the basics.”
Laura Maxwell-Smith
People Director, Salt Global

Your list is likely to grow along your digital transformation journey.

When it comes to HR, processes seldom happen in a vacuum, and they impact other processes. Change takes time. Even if you hit on the right tool or process to resolve the challenge or challenges you’ve identified, it might take some time to implement it properly. 

It might also show up other issues within the workforce that need to be considered as part of your Future of Work strategy, or digital transformation road map. For example, having hiring more quickly and inclusively as a goal could uncover issues with your onboarding process and internal biases.

It’s important to take your transformation journey one step at a time, recording the impact of each change and noting needs and blockers as they occur. It might feel like your taking one step forwards and then two steps backwards at first, but however frustrating it is to run into issues remember that these are learning opportunities that will help you build the best version of your workplace for the future.

Embracing change as part of your company culture

However successful your HR digital transformation is, change is a constant in the digital world. No solution you implement, however effective and popular with your stakeholders, is likely to work forever. As the world of work continues to evolve it’s crucial to keep checking in with your stakeholders and users and cataloguing areas for growth and improvement.

An HR digital transformation is an opportunity to build a culture that embraces change, learning and growth across your organisation, laying strong foundations for future digital transformations as you continue to evolve with the market. 

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