Whether organisations are formally developing a strategy to transform themselves in the wake of digital impact or they are being engulfed by the digital wave, it is evident that HR is at the epicentre of the massive change that is sweeping across the business. At this juncture, it is essential that HR reflects upon how to adopt technology actively in its functioning and create a new environment for employees at the workplace. If in the past, IT played a supportive role to enable HR carry on with its activities, today HR has to recognise that many of its services and methods of functioning have to be radically redefined in order to stay afloat and also seize the opportunity to rethink how HR can lead the change. In order to realise the full potential of digital power, HR heads need to build a new equation with the chief digital officer or the CIO and create a new arrangement for collaborative working. Why is there a need for the new partnership between HR and Digital team and what can the partnership deliver?
For a long time, HR function drew importance from its mandate for recruiting the right talent, building learning and development programmes for productivity and career enhancement and ensuring that their needs such as payroll management and exit management are effectively handled. In order to support these activities, the CIO had to provide the systems and once they were built, by and large, HR managers were self sufficient, there was not much need for the CIO and the HR managers to team up with the lines being clearly drawn for their respective areas of functioning.
Lately the lines are crossing much more as the organisations are trying to grapple with the digital phenomenon. The first big realisation for all top leaders of the businesses is that there is a need to move away from operating in silos to working on a collaborative mode. While HR function still has the responsibility for the deliverables listed out, employees expect new modes of delivery of these services and in addition to this, there are a whole host of new avenues available for HR to make an impact, if it chooses to do so. The departure from the past is experienced in the speed, scale and the necessity to adapt to the dynamics of changes on the run. These are the key factors that are inducing the HR and digital functions to collaborate and lean upon one another for common good. Social media, cloud, analytics, mobile apps and a plethora of tools available to harness their power will remain the preserves of the personal space unless the Digital team works closely with the HR teams firstly to create awareness and then to identify areas for delighting the employees with their smart deployment.
As is the case with all things new, in order to get the buy-in from the stakeholders, it is important to establish the relevance of these technologies and the possible outcomes by cherry picking the areas in close consultation with the HR teams and building pilots around them. We have seen over the last five years how the HR teams have learnt to quickly adapt to the new modes of reaching out to the employees or prospective employees through social media to put out the right messages and also to build better connectedness with the stakeholders. Now is the next crucial phase of the transformation journey—to make dynamic changes based on the insights that could be tapped from the social interactions and the new communication channels that have opened up. Digital teams will have to understand the needs of the HR teams to tap into the knowledge flows, the communication flows and the information flows to provide them with appropriate tools to get more accurate feel of motivation levels of employees and their learning needs that would help them segment the communities and sharp focus on curating the right content for each of them with ease and speed.
Many organisations invested in intranet-based portals with built in features focussed on ease and speed of information, reimbursements, leave approvals and exercising other benefits. With organisations supporting the needs for work away from office, BYOD (bring your own device) and “pull information” as and when needed to serve the customers better, it would be worthwhile to explore the possibilities of creating apps that could address some of these needs.
Digital teams should present use cases to HR teams to help them appreciate how the use of apps could add value to their employees and help in identifying the apps that could be designed for use by their employees with built-in security and privacy features.
All the talk about the possibilities of digital impact for the benefit of employees is meaningless unless there is a clear plan with common goals and regular review of the metrics. It must also be recognised that not all plans will work right straight away,therefore there should be willingness to do course corrections and not give up half way through.
Once the organisation decides to chart the digital path, there cannot be any going back and it is the careful synthesis of the lessons drawn and the speed with which course corrections are made either to the technology or the content or the application that would determine success. It would also be helpful to have tech and HR representatives implanted in both the teams to make the collaboration work and develop each other’s perspectives better.
The writer is CEO, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company.