Article: Deloitte’s Walt Sokoll on HR tech in times of crisis

HR Technology

Deloitte’s Walt Sokoll on HR tech in times of crisis

In this exclusive interview with People Matters, Walt Sokoll, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP talks about how the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a massive shift in the way organizations leverage technology and how the HR tech landscape has evolved in these times.
Deloitte’s Walt Sokoll on HR tech in times of crisis

Walt Sokoll is a Principal in Deloitte’s Human Capital practice and leads the US HR Transformation practice. He specializes in HR transformation projects including the implementation of new HR service delivery models and technology. He brings more than 20 years of HR transformation experience across various industries. Aside from implementation projects, he has a wide range of additional consulting experience including HR service delivery assessments, software selections, business process design projects, and organizational assessments.

In this exclusive interaction, Walt talks about how the pandemic brought about a drastic change in terms of how organizations leverage technologies, the trends around HR tech adoption in HR amid this COVID-19 crisis, and how organizations can unleash the true power of HR technology in a way that is futuristic.

Here are the excerpts from the interview. 

Isn't tech essential for businesses to operate in this new world of work? Is everyone up for the game?

Technologies impacting work, the workforce, and the workplace had significant momentum before the pandemic. The importance of these technologies was even more evident as the roadmaps to virtual work shrunk from years to months. At Deloitte, we are thinking about the technologies associated with the work itself. How do you tie together all technologies that are used in daily work - from communication and collaboration tools to talent networks to knowledge sharing repositories? With work becoming virtualized, the connectivity and integration of those work technologies will continue to be crucial. 

While technology plays a bigger role in accomplishing work, we cannot forget the human aspect to work as well. Deloitte’s 2020 Human Capital Trends report focuses on individuals’ connectivity to the purpose of an organization and finding meaning in the work that they do.

When technology efficiently enables remote work and employees find purpose in the work they do, companies will achieve the outcomes they desire.

How has the HR tech landscape changed over the last few months? What trends have you observed around HR tech adoption in HR amid this COVID-19 crisis? 

Amid the pandemic, the HR tech landscape has experienced an increased focus on the need for collaboration and knowledge management tools.

Effective knowledge management helps connect people to shared information in a way that extends their capabilities; and that's ultimately what's going to help organizations to realize their potential. 

To capitalize on this opportunity, organizations need to create a culture that recognizes the value of knowledge sharing and that leverages worker experience and expertise to maximize human potential at work. Additionally, even with the pandemic, we have seen an increase in worker mobility. Knowledge management technologies ensure that as people move to different positions, knowledge does not leave with them.

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To do so, organizations must give the people the ability to be in connection with the right knowledge at the right time; and to connect people and knowledge, you have to go beyond silos and team borders to be intentional about the use of tools and technologies to interact and replace “water cooler” talk and live whiteboard sessions.  

How can HR up their game amid this uncertainty to become mission-critical to business? How can next-gen HR technologies play a role here?

Deloitte ‘Exponential HR’ point of view urges HR to operate in new ways, to support ever shifting business and workforce demands. It means reimagining HR and becoming more Adaptable, Agile, Architecting, and Augmented. In terms of Agility, HR must adopt a ‘Fail fast – learn faster’ mindset to deliver iteratively, drive and enforce a culture of collaboration over individual contribution, and enable rapid decisions with embedded HR teams, democratized data, and frequent reflection. 

Tomorrow’s HR operations necessitate collaboration with other support functions, and the business to lead the continuous transformation. As expectations from the business shifts, HR Operations must deliver new solutions, that require new capabilities and roles. This agility will mean creating an open dialogue with the business to ensure organizations are solving for what really matters and developing continuous improvement capabilities to actively monitor and then manage behavior.

How are top organizations leveraging HR technologies in the areas of AI, people analytics, talent acquisition tech, RPA, and blockchain?

Concepts from the 2020 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends come to mind, including superteams and human/AI collaboration. Our report also found that 70 percent of respondents said that their organizations were exploring or using AI at some level.

Superteams are combinations of people and machines leveraging their complementary capabilities to solve problems, gain insights, and create value—extending this concept beyond the individual to the group. Superteams bring together the redesign of jobs and the redefinition of work to focus on how teams operate and utilize technology. 

Organizations that actively search for strategies to integrate robotics, AI and analytics, into teams can produce transformative business results. These superteams enable organizations to generate new insights to create new value and meaning while giving workers the potential to reinvent their careers in ways that increase their value to the organization and the broader talent market. Organizations that continue to manage AI and humans on parallel tracks will continue to be able to make moderate gains in efficiency, while organizations that choose to integrate humans and AI into superteams can realize much greater value by redesigning work in transformative ways.

Given the several constraints including budget that many organizations are facing in the wake of the crisis, how can HR continue to digitize the function and ensure employee productivity?

There is something to be said about how HR can enable enterprise productivity beyond the HR function by focusing on work technologies, analytics, and collaboration. We anticipate the ability to build business cases that are driven by innovation and productivity enhancements for the business and not just for the HR function. 

New technology should be driven by the desired workforce experience and designed to reduce drag for employees and managers that prevents them from working on things that add value to the organization. Given that many organizations are now working virtually, there are opportunities to evaluate and improve the Moments that Matter and the overall experience. 

Highlighting priorities for innovation and productivity that are specific to one’s own organization, allows the organization to focus on the workforce experience, evaluate productivity gains, and inevitably see value flow through the business results. When HR starts to influence and drive those enhancements, the business case will be clear. 

In what key areas of the HR function have you seen maximum tech implementations in the last few months and the reasons for it?

Talent management and capability development, especially remote learning, performance management, and workforce/talent marketplaces are areas where we have seen a lot of movement. 

We also are seeing engagement platforms that combine portal, case management, and knowledge management playing a significant role in enhancing the entire enterprise’s ability to get work done. 

At a crisis moment like this, how should organizations assess HR tech solutions with viability, scale, and alignment to business? And what should be the best practice strategies for HR tech implementation amid this crisis moment?

During the crisis, people are willing to be more agile and try new things. As we mentioned earlier, the timeline of what needs to be done to make HR more efficient and better equipped to lead the business has very much accelerated. That acceleration provides a unique opportunity to deliver in an agile way – because we must move quickly. In order to achieve this quicker timeline, organizations must be willing to iterate and to adopt a culture of continuous improvement. 

Amid this pandemic, Deloitte has shown that we can be successful with remote implementations. Using a variety of collaboration tools, our teams have executed numerous global design sessions, testing cycles, cutovers, and go-lives – all virtually. We have been able to work with, collaborate, and iterate with our teams and clients, ultimately proving the value of the collaboration tools and the integration of work technologies with human insights.

With COVID-19 triggering an acceleration of Digital HR with new ways of working becoming the norm, how can organizations strengthen their digital base of HR and unleash the true power of HR technology in a futuristic way?

When COVID-19 hit, the knowledge workforce had to pivot and largely work from home. Companies rallied to make this happen and were largely successful. However, a new truth emerged – the employee experience is now almost exclusively digital. 

The Digital Experience (DX) at almost every company, is falling desperately short of expectations. As a consequence, Deloitte is seeing an exponential upswing in organizations investing to re-imagine the DX for their workforce, incorporating many of the aspects that we already discussed. 

We are seeing ecosystems of HR, Workforce, and AI technologies come together to deliver a superior DX, that is personalized, contextualized, intelligent, and proactively engaging based on an individual’s anticipated needs. Not just because that’s what people want and need, but because, when done well, it drives valuable business outcomes, such as, productivity, innovation, well-being, collaboration, connection, and yes, diversity, equity, and inclusion. As mentioned, we are also seeing the emergence of the Unified Engagement Platform to deliver all this and many tech organizations are currently racing to be the one-stop-shop for everything you do at work and beyond.

Read more such stories from the November 2020 issue of our e-magazine on 'The State of Digital HR

Read full story

Topics: HR Technology, #HybridWorkplace

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