The Digital HR revolution – are you ready?
As we move to a technology-centric society, Dave Ulrich could well have been right when he included being a ‘technology proponent’ as a key part of HR Business Partnering concept. I didn’t quite grasp the significance of what he was saying at the time, but now I do, with alarming clarity.
Many HR functions are desperately trying to convince the C-Suite to invest in people systems that deliver a whole new host of data led reasons to drive better strategic actions.
What are the key benefits and what are the pitfalls of moving towards a fully serviced Digital HR approach ?
Getting better results, faster
The ultimate aim of any technology is to automate a manual process to get faster, smarter, better results. In terms of HR and HRD that means we can more quickly understand the reactions, final outcomes, ‘did it work or not’ to create faster response times to make more effective changes.
That must ultimately mean we achieve greater engagement.
Example: Imagine you were implementing a new reward policy and you wanted to quickly understand reactions after implementation.
Analytics on usage, take up, comprehension, communication timing, ease of use, relevance, audience and general feedback in an instant way through an app or online feedback/forum groups would allow you to speed up any refinements so your staff engagement process would not be adversely affected at the crunch time.
The danger, like any polling and public opinion results, (as any American politician might tell you), is any minor flutter or hint of negativity has a quick and dramatic impact on your next action. You live on the polling figures.
People are more involved at every stage
The greatest benefit of technology it seems is fast communication. That also has it’s downsides in terms of value and quality, however, it is possible more than ever before, if you are cleverly resourceful, to quickly engage groups of people in interesting ways (that requires great communication profiling skills). That means creating better solutions first time around that already has the backing and support of key stakeholders. Getting your message heard above the noise and the operational churn of daily life is another yet more difficult challenge.
Example: Picture this: a major piece of change is required – a financial challenge which requires significant different ways of working to avoid job losses. Instead of senior leaders racking their brains to come up with ideas, it’s designed from the bottom up and validated at every stage in a design process online (popularity voting is 1 option, but there are more) as every piece of the puzzle is transparent and opened up to critical audiences at the relevant times.
Popularist decisions aren’t always the best and senior leaders may not be too keen on the solutions proffered. Careful attention must be paid to timing and audiences. Who is and who is out can have devastating effects. However, people support what they design, it’s a fundamental human trait (and engagement tool).
Innovation, creativity, and learning get a boost
Technology allows us to do many, many things. How we do things can creatively shake up the world in which we live. In HR and HRD terms that means getting creative with fewer resources. Instant just in time solutions that don’t take an age to develop (youtube is one example) but they can engage with their visual and audio entertainment capabilities.
Example: Exploding onto your phone is your company’s learning app. Engaging, short burst videos from experts, podcasts from senior leaders, handy tip guides (downloadable) and quick quizzes, plus simple activities to boost thinking, skills and knowledge great habits on subjects that are really relevant right now. They update and change on a regular basis.
Learning technology can get complex and expensive. There are alternatives, many easily customisable, ready to go solutions can be found online and with some design skill you can create your own inexpensive credible solution that’s up and running in no time.
Make informed decisions based on facts, update processes faster
Tech-based communication such as instant chat, email and video conferencing and many of the tools of the modern office, especially those working flexibly or in remote teams, creates a channel whereby decisions have the potential to be made faster (and smarter) if the right information circulates amongst the team at the right time. That also requires good analytical and decision-making skills. In HR terms, data gives credence to smart strategic decisions, especially when the data is sense checked and multiple perspectives are engaged.
Reviewing our processes, like our polling feedback, enable us to determine relevance and usage and potentially comprehension too. Discussion and editing and online collaboration tools are a seriously safe way to re-engineer key operating processes and ensure they are fit for purpose. The online tools allow for different voices to be heard from the far reaches of the organisation.
Example: Listing your expense policy for review to a selected audience against judgement criteria such as a) ease of understanding, b) comprehensiveness, c) restrictiveness, etc allows for input and understanding of functionality.
The dangers exist in the 80/20 rule. Processes usually work for the majority 80% of the time and disadvantage some 20% of the time, in some way. It’s the nature of rules. So we can’t keep everyone quiet (and satisfied).
The digital age is coming to HR, sooner or later and you need to be on the right side of this revolution. Its benefits can be enormous, but the pitfalls, like everything else, can be avoided if you go in with your eyes wide open.
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