Article: The digital metamorphosis of HR

Strategic HR

The digital metamorphosis of HR

Digitization and tech-enabled learning has transformed the role of HR. Read on to know more.
The digital metamorphosis of HR

For years, the Human Resources (HR) department has effectively upheld the structure and functioning of an organization by managing its most crucial resource - the employees. Then again, it has often been held back by the archaic practices of ensuring compliance and record-keeping. As with any other function, HR too has evolved over the years, gradually shifting into technology-enabled information storage, recruitment and payroll management with consequent improvement in efficiency too.

In this decade alone, HR technology has witnessed a tumultuous trajectory influenced by technological changes, predictive analytics, Big Data and more of the kind. The influence of cloud-based applications has been particularly evident with personnel data, compliance data etc. being stored and organized on the cloud, available just a click away hence, greatly reducing the need for physical storage and IT support.

Digitization and tech-enabled learning transformed the role of HR as we knew it, which has now metamorphosed into employee management along with learning and development function. According to a recent report by Deloitte titled - HR Technology Disruptions for 2017: Nine Trends Reinventing the HR Software Market, what began as HR process automation modified into integrated talent management later moved into cloud-based 'Systems of Engagement', has now shapeshifted into Apps That 'Make work life better'

The true change, however, lies in the fact that HR professionals too have upped their tech game. With more digital natives joining the core team, HR has now opened its eyes and started to learn from the digital adopters in the company. And what HR has learned from the digital savvy across the company has helped in redesigning the enterprise’s digital mindset and capabilities entirely. 

Quoting Oracle’s Cara Capretta, “For the first time in HR, our profession is being told that we need to be a technology proponent. Technology is not just for the IT department anymore. It’s for the HR professionals.”

According to Deloitte’s fifth annual Global Human Capital Trends Report and Survey, it all boils down to 3 major areas of change

Digital workforce

The core question: How can organizations drive new management practices, a culture of innovation and sharing, and a set of talent practices that facilitate a new network-based organization?

The workforce of today is not just globalized and mobilized, it is also highly digitalised. The role of HR here is not just to organize, recruit, develop, manage, and engage the workforce, but also to and leverage the trends for employees’ comfort with integrated technologies and make HR tools more accessible and attractive. With mobile and cloud technology at the forefront of workforce digitalisation, organizations now tend to pay more attention to these aspects.

According to a study from Avanade, a business technology solutions and managed services provider firm, “61 percent of companies report that most of their employees use personal computing devices at work, and 54 percent say most employees use smartphones for basic work tasks. 71 percent report that they have changed at least one business process to adapt to this influx of mobile devices.” A thought echoed in Deloitte’s report, “Fifty-six percent of companies surveyed are now redesigning their HR programs to leverage digital and mobile tools.”

As the HR's role also extends to that of the CLO’s, the focus should be on creating an open environment through Mobile Learning wherein the employees can learn freely without be constrained by the location or time. It is often described that mobile learning is not only about delivering content on mobile, it is about creating learning opportunities in a diverse environment, sharing new techniques and encouraging knowledge retention, often on-the-go. A robust Multi-device, Responsive Learning Management System allows the HRs to do just that. 

The HR's role that also involves performance management, people management and now people analytics too, is gradually pushing towards an integrated HR and learning system that can streamline all the processes. 

Quoting from the report, “Companies are hiring young, digitally savvy workers who are comfortable doing things themselves and sharing information in a transparent way. They want an integrated, digital experience at work- one designed around teams, productivity, and empowerment- and HR is expected to deliver it.”

Digital workplace

The core question: How can organizations design a working environment that enables productivity; uses modern communication tools; and promotes engagement, wellness, and a sense of purpose?

Deloitte’s research with MIT shows that 'digital organizations'—and every company that is trying to become digital—have distinctly different management practices than more traditional businesses. It even says that “Digital DNA” runs such organizations, which is described to be like human DNA. According to the definition, it carries 23 underlying “instructions” for development, functioning, and replication. These “instructions” are expressed as digital traits and characteristics. They are present in all areas of the organization, including business models, operating models, customer interaction, organization structure, talent, technology, cyber security, culture, etc. There are four levels of digital maturity: exploring, doing, becoming, and being.

In simple terms, as the workplaces become digitized, it faces the growing requirement to redesign itself towards a more agile platform which includes HR systems that adapt quickly, facilitate seamless learning and provide impetus to employee development. APIs and their integration is the first step towards this. The integration of HRIS, HRMS, PMS and other software systems used by the HR for storing and managing employee information with the Learning Management Systems creates a single networked system that enables easy data exchange and management. 

Combining the potential of digital workforce and workplace, the HR's focus lies on the power of informal learning, leveraging the potential of Social Learning & Knowledge Collaboration tools in LMSs for building employee engagement and for improving productivity and teamwork. LMSs provide the apt platform for sharing knowledge among peers, working together and learning from the know-hows shared in the portals. 

Digital HR 

The core question: How can organizations change the HR function itself to operate in a digital way, use digital tools and apps to deliver solutions, and continuously experiment and innovate?

All the above-mentioned points towards one big transformation, i.e. Digital HR. As organizations become digital, HR essentially stands at the forefront of this change. This, however, isn’t just about digitizing HR platforms for developing the digital workplace and workforce but about designing and implementing technology to meet the organization’s specific needs which the HR needs to engage in, in close collaboration with the IT.

As the report points out, “HR leaders are being pushed to take on a bigger role in helping to drive the organization to ‘be digital’, not just ‘do digital’.”

Digital HR runs on innovation and experimentation to meet employee expectations. With HR taking up the role of L&D too, full featured, Cloud-hosted LMSs with ready APIs and Integration libraries are now used to build a learning ecosystem, that engages and empowers that learners to be skilled, knowledgeable, and productive. 

As Josh Bersin puts it, “The tools of AI, robotic process automation, and self-service transaction integration can enable a total redesign of the employee experience, dramatically reducing costs and improving the value of HR itself. And these tools obviously also reduce the number of administrative workers needed, helping HR professionals work instead as consultants, improving employee engagement, and preventing HR from becoming a bloated operation.”

New changes are inevitable

With the paradigm shift in organizations, technology, and the workforce demographics, new approaches and changes are inevitable in every domain including HR and tech-enabled learning plays a crucial role in fuelling this change. In the words of Geethaa Ghaneckar, HR Director at Raymond Limited, “HR Tech is becoming a way of life in some areas like learning, performance management, policy and benefits implementation, recruitment, etc. There could be a lot more that can be done in talent management, succession planning, leadership development, strategic workforce planning, diversity and inclusion, employee engagement. However, the future of work is firmly anchored in flexibility, choice, and experience. Anything that enables this will be extremely useful for organizations as the war for hiring and retaining appropriate talent intensifies.”

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Topics: Strategic HR, Technology

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