Digitization of HR is now a necessity and organizations are compelled to make tech investments. Whether one is at the beginning of that journey or part way through, I would like to explore the challenge of whether technology alone is sufficient and to what extent is the human side of HR still relevant, considering the skills shortages and dynamically evolving workforce.
Digital transformation is a reality within our businesses, as well as for our people. Whichever projections you look at, the numbers are staggering — there will be an estimated $20 billion connected devices by 2020. HR is rightly responding by eliminating time-consuming and overly customized processes, automating form filling and administrative tasks, and providing simpler, consumer-led experiences. This will bring significant benefits to our businesses including improvements in productivity, providing a consumer focused (Amazon and Uber-like) experience candidates and employees, and reaching a wider audience in the war for talent.
Your competition has access to the same or similar ‘HR Apps’, and with the cost of deployment and ownership falling (of Cloud technologies), any advantage will be short-lived
Strive for competitive advantage
Technology alone will not drive sustainable competitive advantage. Your competition has access to the same/similar ‘HR Apps’, and with the cost of deployment and ownership falling (of Cloud technologies), any advantage will be short-lived. The real question facing us is where and how do we gain a competitive advantage and drive value for our businesses? This is where the human side of HR has the chance to shine.
Managing your workforce
By 2020, 50 percent of the global workforce (even more skewed in India and South East Asia) will be the ‘troublesome’ millennials. Employee expectations are changing. There is no longer a desire for a ‘job for life’; the contingent worker proportion of our workforce is rising and people want the flexibility to enjoy different experiences during their working life. The role of HR in our organizations has to change as there is no one better placed to lead the business in managing the disruption to our workforce. There is also a growing recognition of the importance of the human side of business, ‘people working for or with people, to help other people’. Therefore, we need to look at the different ways of attracting, developing, rewarding, and retaining our people whilst also recognizing that mobility is not always the enemy.
Managing your workplace
The workplace today is more transparent than before and the interactions with peers outside of the organization are just as important as the interactions within the organization. Collaboration is the new norm and it aligns how work gets done across technology, organizational, and geographic boundaries. Candidates already know more about an organization then the organization is likely to know about them and there is also a rising trend of ‘tribalism’, where networks are becoming more powerful than the formal hierarchical structures we have been used to.
Employee engagement is even more critical and there are new factors that influence engagement that organizations cannot directly control. Worryingly, a recent Gallup poll showed 70 percent people are not engaged in their work.
Agility means different things to different people. The definition that resonates the most with me is the one that states “agility is the ability to operate with speed and manage unpredictability”. Not only do we need to factor in the expectations of the millennials but also of generation Z that is entering the workforce. Mercer research indicates that 90 percent of employers anticipate more talent competition, especially in India, Southeast Asia, and North America. Agility may be a mature science in the IT world, it is a much tougher challenge to embed that into the mindsets of our organizations and particularly our leaders (who are predominantly baby boomers).
In my experience, HR needs to step-up as it currently does not have the skills to adopt this way of working. We are still talking about what ‘strategic HR’ should look like and when designing our processes, we are still searching for ‘best practice’ as a quick solution to our challenges. There is no magic bullet (one-size-fits-all) solution but more importantly, this mindset is not congruent with an agile approach.
There is also a growing recognition of the importance of the human side of business — ‘people working for or with people, to help other people’
HR transformation journey – Key considerations
Acknowledging that technology will play a key part in our future (in fact, I would argue that it only provides the baseline for driving competitive advantage in our organizations), it is also crucial to recognize that it does not fully address what we need to consider when embarking on the next stage of our HR transformation journey. But here are a few steps that organizations can keep in mind:
Apply a consumer as well as a digital lens in everything. We need to harness the power of the latest consumer technologies in HR but putting the candidate/employee at the center will help us drive a better experience and help us re-design the (human side) HR roles.
Adoption beats Change Management. Traditional change management approaches are no longer effective. In fact, we should stop using the term change management anymore as the value is driven by adoption. In the world of adoption, you have to personalize and build a compelling and memorable experience.
Bring back the focus on values and culture. Not treating these as buzzwords on a PowerPoint, poster or mouse mat but using them to define who you are, what makes you different, and translate that in all your actions and behaviors. This will not only help attract talent but also creates ‘stickiness’ in the organization.
Look at the future of work. Distinctions between work, life, and community are blurring and are intertwining with each other. Added to this is the interaction between human and cyber resources. This changes the way we work, the roles we will do and how we are organized. Organizational effectiveness roles are increasing in popularity within large corporates and in short supply.
Go beyond employee-centricity. Purpose of HR changes is not only to support people but also invest in their personal success. Yes, of course, we need to look for ways to make employees more productive in their roles but in addition, we need to build connectivity into our business processes, support their learning to help them achieve their best, learn to embrace mobility and support transition in and out of the organization, and build interactions and engagement with our communities.
It may feel daunting that I am suggesting HR also needs to be a technologist and marketer, when we have enough to deal with already. However, I believe the time has come for HR to think big. There is no one better placed than us to help our businesses succeed through disruption, digitization, and any other trends that you can think of!