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The Future of HR: Let's Get Digital

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The HR tech business is booming; Digital HR is here to stay. In 2015, the venture capital market poured $2.4billion into HR technology startups, and according to Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report, more than 40 per cent of all companies are currently in the process of replacing their core HR technology with cloud systems. For them, the reasons are pretty clear; better visibility and management of talent, integration and simplification of procedures and information.

The digitisation of the HR space offers some interesting possibilities other than just streamlining existing processes. For example, one global energy firm has introduced the concept of gamification into its drive to improve the completion of mandatory health and safety tests. Traditional training materials have been replaced with an interactive app that records progress, awards badges for completion and makes results visible across the employee base. There’s stick as well as carrot though; the use of email is restricted for those who don’t complete the tests in the required timeframe. The scheme has been so successful that uptake from employees has almost reached 100%.

The above is quite an extreme example of the possibilities technology can offer HR, but if you’re interested in deriving some of the more traditional benefits then there are a few considerations to make.

Firstly, you need to consider what you are trying to achieve from a business perspective. Do you need to expand, train new people or maybe identify new leaders? The (digital HR) HR strategy must, as always, follow the business strategy.

Then consider the easy wins you can achieve quickly. Look at your HR processes individually and ask, what are the low hanging fruit that we can digitise? More ambitious programmes will involve a holistic solution like Workday or SuccessFactors, which can standardise processes and offer joined-up talent management features. However these enterprise–level solutions are expensive and take a lot of resources to implement, and tend to work better for larger organisations where talent visibility is more of an issue.

In this vein, you need to consider the appetite for, and your ability to deliver, large scale change. If you are a smaller business it often works out better to engage a third party to help implement a solution whereas larger organisations generally have better capability to manage projects of this importance. Bear in mind that HR has traditionally had very little project rigour, which ultimately impacts quality and cost.

Then there is the question of ownership – should this be an HR-led business initiative? Historically digital HR projects have been IT-led, however it’s vitally important to foster a customer-supplier relationship with IT, mainly because there is an inherent risk of IT not being sensitive to the business needs of what the solution is trying to achieve. HR needs to act as a quality gateway to ensure the end result meets all the needs of the function and business. If not, it will simply end up as a costly mistake, rejected by users and management.

In the HR SaaS era, especially with self-service solutions, it is even more critical to train employees to use a new platform. It becomes an exercise in behavioural change, and if there are more bespoke elements such as the gamification example mentioned earlier, it’s important to bang the drum until the behaviour becomes entrenched.

Wade Macdonald’s ‘Future of HR’ series aims to explore some of the real challenges and opportunities facing the world of HR as working practices evolve. Stay tuned for further insight.


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