HR Leaders Guide to Digital Transformation - EmployeeConnect HRIS
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digital transformation

HR Leaders Guide to Digital Transformation

The topic of digital transformation is a hot favourite amongst analysts, consultants, and researchers. It is indeed a multifaceted process with the promise transformational benefit. The primary objective behind digital transformation is to improve the level of performance and productivity and exceed business goals. The question is what does digital transformation mean for organisations in general and HR leaders in particular?

HR leaders play a dual role. Acting as leaders within the HR function, they need to walk their talk and portray the true picture of digital transformation within their own team. In the greater context of the organisation, the process of acquiring and retaining digital talent, developing digital skills across the employees of the organisation, and fostering digital understanding at the senior leadership level include in their priorities.

This article serves as a roadmap to guide HR leaders through digital transformation within their own organisation. The article lists out some of the critical milestones towards successful digital transformation.

1. Conduct an Audit of the Digital Culture and Talent within the Organisation

An important starting point of digital transformation is to carry out an audit of the present state of the organisation. This will help in identifying the key areas to focus. It will also provide a good benchmark to measure the progress of digitalisation.

  • An audit of the digital culture and talent within an organisation should include the cultural readiness, technology, organisational skills, structure, and leadership. The audit needs to assess:
  • Digital technologies are already in use for supporting communication and collaboration both internally and externally.
  • Lessons learnt during the adoption of such technologies including the state of readiness from a digital transformation standpoint.
  • Identify key change agents and also the agents from where resistance may be expected.
  • Priority of digitalization in the current organisational structure and job design context.
  •  Information that is presently available on digital skills and capabilities at an employee level.
  • What metrics have been deployed to understand and measure the digital skills and capabilities.
  • The level of savvy and prepared is the leadership of the organization to lead in this age of digitalisation.

All the above points while critical while assessing the current state of digitalisation, will also help to highlight the opportunities as well as the challenges that the digital transformation mission is likely to face.

2. Have a Clear Vision of the Desired Digital State

Just as with any other change initiative, it is significant to have crystal clear vision of the future desired state of digitalisation. HR leaders of play a crucial role in facilitating this vision. They do so by laying down the change strategy with the senior leadership. They also need to involve other relevant stakeholders both within and outside the organization.

HR leaders also need to clearly describe what the future state of digitalisation will look like, what it plans to achieve, how feasible it is. They need to ensure that the vision is indeed a transformative one and is not one where only minor tweaks are done to the present business model.

While the HR leaders play a major role to facilitate this transformation, the digital and technical leaders contribute their specific knowledge and experience towards the mission. Individuals who are involved in customer-facing roles have a major role to play as well in terms of changing the key customers’ perspective. Most organisations seek the expertise of speakers who come and deliver their programs on the latest trends, innovations, and research initiatives prevailing in the marketplace with respect to digitalisation.

3. Create a Digital Transformation Road Map

Once the audit of the present digital state is complete and a clear future, digital, vision is laid out, the next step is to plan how to get there.

Some of the key areas to focus upon while designing the digital transformation road map include the following:

  • Technology: Identify the type of investment that is required depending on the types of digital technologies.
  • Skills: Identify what kind of skills need to be acquired and developed, for whom, and at what level.
  • Organisation: Identify the type of changes that are required for how the teams and the jobs are organised and managed.
  • Stakeholders: Identify the key stakeholders and their possible reaction towards the vision.
  • Costs: Assess the level of financial investment required as well as the estimated return on investment.
  • HR Framework: Identify the type of changes that are required regarding hiring, training, managing, assessing, or rewarding employees in the context of digital transformation.
  • Leadership: Identify the most capable and engaged leaders to lead this digital transformation.
  • Metrics: Assess how to measure the success of the mission.

4. Implement the Roadmap Effectively

Most of the principles laid down in the roadmap are common to all change programmes. The key aspect is to execute this roadmap effectively and communicate it across the entire organisation in a sustained manner. Include the broad population of employees to implement the specifics and invite them to contribute towards the success. To illustrate the benefits of this transformation, it is important to allow the resistance to change to breathe and use it to generate value driven discussions.

One of the key challenges this strategy is likely to face is cultural change. Cultural change includes things done in a different manner, roles defined differently, more fluid and less hierarchical structure, new skills, and new ways of collaborating and communicating. While all these changes may sound exciting for some, they are stressful to others. Care needs to be applied while implementing these changes. A generation divide may also emerge during this process. The younger generation is likely to be more familiar with digital technologies and mindset as compared to the older generations. Hence, it is important to reinforce the need to work in a partnership where the younger generation may benefit from the knowledge and experience of their older colleagues.

5. Identify and Build Leadership with Digital Capabilities and Skills
Whenever any significant and major transformation takes place in an organisation, it often requires radical changes depending on leadership style. Some leaders may not agree to this change or rather they are unable to accept this new mindset and ways of working. However, there may be some leaders welcome this new digital vision and are willing to contribute towards the successful implementation.

It is important to focus on identifying the appropriate leadership skills and capabilities that are necessary for a digitally transformed organisation. While some of the  skills may relate to technology, other capabilities may pertain to how people, teams, and processes are managed.

HR leaders also play a significant role in identifying leadership traits and skills by providing the necessary evaluation tools and development programmes. In this manner, HR develops the leaders of an organisation to work towards improving their digit skill set and qualities. Organisations which are digitally enabled are more likely to survive with a kind of leadership which fosters innovation, encourages, and accepts that change is a constant.

6. Consider Adopting Suitable HR Technologies

Organisations which have the most suitable HR technologies are likely to manage their talent effectively. HR teams in collaboration with their business colleagues needs to focus on how best to manage talent by depending on robust HR technologies. These technologies focus on  transactional handling processes and reporting. Another significant aspect of digital transformation is the adoption of workflow driven HR portals for managers and employees. With a plethora of HR technology tools available in the marketplace these days, it is advisable that organisations look out for an integrated cloud-based system that supports  all HR processes.

7. Promote Organisational Transformation

Digital transformation means new technologies and processes. To ensure successful integration, it’s important to understand how work is organised, how value is defined, and how employees relate to one another. To promote organisational transformation, teams and jobs need to be much more agile, fluid, and engaged in cross-functional collaboration. The challenge lies with  HR leaders in terms of harnessing digital technology and adopting new ways of recruiting, managing, assessing, organising, rewarding, and retaining talent that is needed to drive the digitally enhanced organisation.

8. Ensure the Integration and Ease of Passing Data

With the new teams and jobsdefined, its niw time to implement the digital technologies required to make this strategy work in a cohesive manner. IT  will be responsible in the successful implementation of these technologies. Hence, it is critical to ensure the integration and the passing of data back and forth. While the technology is certainly significant, one of the most challenging aspects is to ensure that the individuals who will be using it have the required skills, knowledge, and confidence to effectively execute this mission.

9. Develop the Skills Needed for Digital Transformation

One of the growing concerns of HR leaders across the globe is that digital talent is increasingly difficult to find and even harder to retain in this volatile global economy. The various global social and professional networks are supporting HR leaders in their search of targeted talent. The big data capabilities of the HR systems facilitate the analysis of high volume of candidate data in almost real-time.

Once the digital talent requirement are met, an embedded learning culture is one of the prerequisites to ensure the knowledge and skills of these candidates are continually upgraded and developed. These tools provide access to all the relevant content, expertise, and online communities for support. With digitalization taking an upward trend, more and more people will be acquiring the digital technical expertise, and even the HR leaders will have a wide range of tools at their disposal for talent hunt.

10. Measure the Progress

Effective measure includes formal and detailed assessment of digital transformation. It includes various other Key Performance Indicators to assess any gaps. For example, the competencies required to asses training success. The organisational technology also needs to be evaluated to asses the state and impact of digitalisation.

It’s important  for organizations to realse that a digital transformation  continues to evolve. This means the need to continually asses, iterate and re-adjust their strategies and plan new milestones to facilitate a smooth and ongoing transitioning into digitalisation.


Oriane Perrin

Customer Success & Growth Manager