How Does HR Drive Digital Business?

Jiaxin Liu
7 June 2019

Digitalisation starts from paperless, modernisation of IT infrastructure to process optimisation. Disruptive technologies enable companies to build new business models and bring their business to the next level. Sales, marketing and customer services transform themselves to be more customer centric and bring real value to their customers. Whereas, HR is often left behind in digital transformation although HR plays the most important strategic role in empowering the future of enterprises and their employees.


A survey conducted by Gartner indicates that developing skills, competences and strengthening leadership bench are the most important priorities for HR. Therefore, HR managers establish learning and development programs to re-skill and up-skill their employees. Further, HR managers work on how to attract and recruit young talents to join companies and bring in new sets of skills. They need to develop leadership programs to create future leaders within the company. Another priority for HR is to improve the whole employee experience. Most of the workplaces were designed and built during the period of the industrial revolution. Back at that time, the main goals were standardised processes, structured organisations and smooth workflows. However, today, with young generations entering the job market and additional disruptive changes in our daily life, working in a modern workplace with ultimate employee experiences becomes a priority and demand of candidates and current employees.

These topics become the focus of executives and HR managers but this leads immediately to many questions within the HR department:
How to engage employees at work? 
How to manage different generations in the workplace?
How to improve and modernise the workplace? 

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Unmistakably, the current situation is tense and complex for HR. According to Gartner, there are challenges that hinder the transformation in HR departments. For example, employees appear to be less motivated at work than in the past. According to the Gallup report, 87% of employees are disengaged from their work. On the other hand, due to the low employment rate, HR has higher pressure to attract new talents in order to satisfy the organisational strategy and goals. Additional social and political changes, lead to a higher emphasis of candidates on values, mission and corporate social responsibilities of a company.

In fact, digital transformation is not just about technologies, systems or software. It is more about people. Within a company it is the HR department that has the closest connection with the employees. No one in the company knows the employees better than the HR department. Therefore, with this deep understanding and focus on employees, digital transformation led by HR will facilitate the change among all employees. But how can HR start?

The Rocky Road of Employee Experience
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The first step is to understand the current situation: how do employees experience in the workplace?

Employees have to walk through a rocky road and the journey starts even before they submit their resume, for example, negative reviews on social media that affect their motivation to apply. They have to fill out tedious and discouraging application forms, go through fragmented on-boarding processes and deal with information silos and outdated learning platforms or content. Once in their new work environment, employees may encounter issues with traditional performance measurements  and a lack of innovative culture, which does not encourage people to experiment or even fail. Each of these roadblocks disengages employees at work, which ultimately affects their productivity and creativity. As a worst case scenario this might push A-players to leave companies.

The Paved Path of Employee Experience

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What can HR do to pave the path for employees and build ultimate experiences?

  • Delight candidates even before they have applied for a position. Build an attractive employer brand, use digital recruiting to target the ideal candidate. Leverage the strong network of the current employees to find the right talent.
  • Provide new hires a great on boarding experience, having access to information and having contacts with managers and colleagues. Make them feel integrated into the teams and company.
  • Make continuous performance management possible. Therefore, build a new ongoing process for goal setting, coaching, evaluation and feedback.
  • Reinvent corporate learning. Gamify and modernise learning programs to make learning effective and fun.
  • Introduce agile mindset and build an agile organisation, giving employees more ownership and autonomy and ensuring organisations respond to changes more quickly and adapt faster.
  • Create an innovative culture. Give employees space to try new things, to fail and to improve.

Bottom Line 

As the working environment keeps changing, so will the needs and expectations of your employees. Therefore, it will not be a one-step solution to transform HR. HR will be on a journey of iteration and continuously improvement of employee experience inside the company.

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