HR Blog - HR Best Practice, Thought Leadership and HR Technology Updates

The Digital Transformation Of HR

Posted by Mathew French

12 June 2018

Digital transformation isn't just ubiquitous, it is ultimately unavoidable and quickly being absorbed into HR best practice. Twenty years from now, few aspects of the world of work will have escaped the digital revolution. But what exactly does it mean for HR, and how can such transformation be successfully implemented, both within the HR department and organisation wide? What we're really talking about here is a change management process. A process which HR Professionals and business leaders are often being called on to execute in a new and constantly shifting context. Not since the third Industrial Revolution has there been such a significant change in the way we work, meaning that lived experience of this type of quantum leap in workplace practices simply don't exist in boardrooms and leadership teams. That's why resources such as i-Scoop's 'Online Guide To Digital Business Transformation' are so valuable. The guide offers a highly educational deep dive into what digital transformation is, what it requires of businesses, and how to implement such transformation successfully. 

What Is Digital Transformation?

i-Scoop defines digital transformation as:

'The profound transformation of business and organisational activities, processes, competencies and models to fully leverage the changes and opportunities of a mix of digital technologies and their accelerating impact across society in a strategic and prioritised way, with present and future shifts in mind.'

Phew! Just reading that sentence takes effort, so it is fair to assume that the transformation process would also take considerable effort too. 

Of course, business isn't the only context that is being transformed by technology. The tentacles of the digital revolution extend into every aspect of our daily lives, but the focus today is on the digital transformation of business. According to i-Scoop's research, digital technologies (and the ways we use them in our personal lives, work and society) have changed the face of business at such a rapid rate that many businesses find it nigh on impossible to keep up. This pace will continue, and it is difficult to predict where that transformation will end (if at all), and what the world of work will look like 5 years from now, let alone twenty. Change is the only constant in life, so transformation, in life and business, has alway been present. However, the pace of change in life is accelerating much faster than the pace of transformation in organisations. And therein lies the problem.

In his new book 'The Digital Workforce,' Jarrod McGrath explains that the transformation to digital workforce management in business 'extends beyond traditional notions of scheduling, headcount, and optimising the talent mix (full-timers, contingent workers etc) and must be viewed through the eyes of employees, business leaders AND customers.' McGrath asks, 'how does each of these stakeholders stand to benefit from a shift from manual workforce management to digital?'

Readers would do well to contemplate whether each of the above mentioned stakeholders are taken into account when implementing change in your workplace.

What Needs to Change?

i-Scoop's detailed Guide makes it abundantly clear that digital transformation is a holistic process. They recommend that such change should be conducted in an integrated and connected manner, with a thorough assessment, and possible resultant transformation of the following aspects of your business:

  • Business activities/functions: marketing, operations, human resources, administration, customer service, etc.
  • Business processes: one or more connected operations and activities to achieve a specific business goal, whereby business process management, business process optimisation and business process automation come into the picture.
  • Business models: how businesses function, from the go-to-market approach and value proposition, to the ways it seeks to make money and effectively transforms its core business. Tapping into novel revenue sources and agile approaches, sometimes even dropping the traditional core business if pivots make this a relevant option.
  • Business ecosystems: the networks of partners and stakeholders, as well as contextual factors affecting the business such as regulatory or economic priorities and evolutions. New ecosystems are built between companies with various background upon the fabric of digital transformation, whereby data and actionable intelligence become innovation assets.
  • Business asset management: wherein the focus lies on traditional assets but, increasingly, on less ‘tangible’ assets such as information and customers. Enhancing customer experience is a leading goal of many digital transformation 'projects' and information is the lifeblood of business, technological evolutions and of any human relationship. Both customers and information need to be treated as real assets in all contexts.
  • Organisational culture: whereby there is a clear customer-centric, agile and hyper-aware goal which is achieved by acquiring core competencies across the board in areas such as digital maturity, leadership, knowledge worker silos, etc.
  • Ecosystem and partnership models: with among others a rise of co-operative, collaborative, co-creative and, last but not least, entirely new business ecosystem approaches, leading to new business models and revenue sources.
  • Customer, worker and partner approaches: Digital transformation puts people and strategy before technology. The changing behaviour, expectations and needs of any stakeholder are crucial. This is expressed in many change sub-projects whereby customer-centricity, user experience, worker empowerment, new workplace models, changing channel partner dynamics etc. (can) all come in the picture.

It’s important to note that i-Scoop's research indicates that digital technologies are never the sole answer for tackling any of these human factors, from worker satisfaction to customer experience enhancement. In the first place, people involve, respect and empower other people and technology is only ever an additional enabler of the human factor, and never the star of the show.

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How Should Change Be Implemented?

Both McGrath's book and i-Scoop's report illustrate the reality that despite being in the midst of the fourth Industrial Revolution, many HR Professionals, business leaders and institutions are still trying to implement change using tools that date from a bygone era. McGrath's experience points to the fact that much like policy makers, business leaders have not been able to keep up with the change happening all around them, and are thus failing to leverage and implement technology in areas such as human resources, payroll and workforce management to create positive and successful change.

So how do organisations meet their business objectives when a process of digital transformation is implemented? The Digital Workforce explains that business areas, particularly HR and payroll, often have differing views on how to achieve value from the workforce. Thus, there is often a lack of pertinent, cohesive information to make an informed business decision and tie this back to the organisation’s objectives. As a result, change management and implementation methodologies often concentrate solely on successful technology platform implementation, but they fail to account for the changes required to adopt this successfully into day-to-day business activities and translate change into the culture of the organisation. The point being made here, is that the aim of the exercise often gets lost, resulting in less than optimal outcomes.

Given the rate of transformation happening is all aspects of our lives, it serves all of us, but HR Professionals and business leaders in particular, to remember that change management is first and foremost about the human dimension: internal customers, stakeholders and the broader ecosystem within which organisations operate.

The Transformation To Digital HR

The transformation to digital HR has been underway for many years, and will no doubt continue for many more to come. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that such transformations have always been successful. It is easy to get too caught up in the 'digital' aspect of digital HR, and forget about the 'human resources' side of the equation.

i-Scoop's Guide insists that if you want to understand digital transformation, it is critical 'to put people and processes above technology, even if technology is a change agent.' Their research, and the subsequent report they produced, make it clear that digital transformation is about using digital technologies to make continuous improvements. In a business context, this translates into improving the efficiency of processes and actively working to enhance customer experiences.

Such transformations offer organisations the opportunity to focus their lens on the convergence point where business and customer value meet, to uncover new and better possibilities, while using different and digital-intensive ways to realise them. From i-Scoop's perspective, digital transformation goes beyond the use of digital technologies to simply support or improve existing business processes methods. It is also a way to alter and even build new business models, using digital technologies as the foundation. In that context, transformation goes beyond mere digitisation (although that’s often a condition to make it happen).

However, their report writers make it abundantly clear that digital transformation is also about responding to the changes that digital technologies have caused; in our daily lives, to individual businesses and organisations, as well as to industries and society as a whole. The human dimension is not just an important focus of digital transformation, it’s a catalyst whereby the ways we use and see digital technologies can have very unexpected consequences, regardless of whether those consequences relate to consumer / customer behaviour, business improvements, or not.

As life in the workplace continues to change, building a human centric culture is more essential than ever. A culture that can make technology fade into the background, or serve as a means instead to an end, whilst at the same time maintaining a focus on what people need, far beyond the digital context, is the way forward. This is the measure of a successful digital transformation, and HR is at the pointy end of creating workplace environments where this is what success looks like.

If you're still using spreadsheets, or a bunch of different systems held together by sticky tape, its time you explored digital HR. If you're ready to discover the difference digital HR software can make in your business, start your FREE TRIAL NOW.

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Topics: Digital HR Software, Digital workforce management, Digital transformation, Digital HR, HR best practice

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