Rewriting The Book On HR Intensifies The Potency Of Digital Transformation

Peter Howes

Part 2 of “HR-Driven Digital Transformation” series

The workforce is changing in ways that are challenging every business imaginable. With every new hire, it’s becoming increasingly digital, global, and diverse. Employees are at ease with sharing information online, automating the tasks they loathe, and opening up new opportunities for meaningful work.

Effectively attracting and retaining these workers may be challenging, but it’s also a significant opportunity to use the technology they love in order to rethink talent engagement, leadership development, and organizational practices. However, many business leaders question whether the HR team is up to the task. According to the IDC research report HR Must Deliver on Transformation,” sponsored by SAP SuccessFactors, only five percent of companies view HR leadership as a capable steward of one of the most potent forms of business re-engineering: digital transformation.

So I ask: Is this small percentage assuming considerable risk in their digital initiatives? Or do they know a secret that hasn’t yet reached the remaining 95%?

Disruption and transformation: An untapped wheelhouse for HR

Contrary to popular belief, digital transformation is well within HR’s competency. However, the function’s proficiency in this area is hidden under misguided thinking. Less about technology and more about impacts on the workforce, every digital strategy is a classic exercise of change management traditionally managed by HR.

Businesses cannot afford to engage digital transformation that separates the workforce into winners and losers. Management must consider how new technology will impact employees’ broader business objectives and outcomes across three fundamental aspects:

  • Skills: Talent attraction, retention, and engagement must be integrated with regular performance and development feedback to discover new ways to unleash everyone’s potential everywhere and anywhere.
  • Culture: A culture of continuous learning must be nurtured, and career paths need to be rebuilt to encourage digital training and redeployment of displaced workers.
  • Engagement: Leaders should readjust their focus on KPIs, not observations; leadership, not supervision; continuous-loop feedback, not one-way recommendations.

The HR function can certainly guide the business through such transitions. But first, it must realize that operating based on aggregated insights is not very effective in this new landscape. By combining their expertise with predictive analytics, HR professionals can evaluate information captured across their internal IT network supporting self-services, benefits enrollment, performance management, and training to individualize employee experiences, automate the right processes, and streamline everyday tasks appropriately.

Strategic HR: A foundational element of digital transformation

Imagine proving how digital technology is influencing employee productivity and engagement and how those outcomes affect bottom-line sales. Or better yet, what if you can design a learning program that increases retention and helps ensure the best talent rises through the ranks?

Predictive analytics empowers HR to become an active partner in achieving these goals by maximizing the opportunities brought on by digital transformation. By reinforcing change with data-driven strategies and an individualized view into employee needs and potential, HR can secure the intended change by communicating the overall digital vision, providing relevant training, and making the workforce feel empowered and valued throughout the transformation experience.

Find out the five key trends and actions that can help small and midsize businesses address the challenges of digital transformation and the development of the HR organization. Read the IDC interactive report “HR Must Deliver on Transformation,” sponsored by SAP SuccessFactors. And don’t forget to check every Wednesday for new installments to our blog series “HR-Driven Digital Transformation” to explore what these findings can mean for your company.


Peter Howes

About Peter Howes

Peter Howes is a vice president at SAP SuccessFactors (SAP). With over four decades of experience in human resource management, as well as founder and former CEO of Inform, Peter has a distinguished global reputation as a consultant in workforce metrics, analytics, and workforce planning. He has extensive experience in developing HR information and measurement systems and processes, and over the past 15 years, he has developed the Inform Program, which had over 150 clients in Australia, North America, Europe and Africa before Inform was acquired by SuccessFactors. For the past five years, Peter has spent most of his time consulting global companies in North America and Europe. In addition, he has spoken at more than 500 conferences and workshops across the globe over the past thirty years. To date, Peter has been involved in more than 100 consulting assignments in workforce planning over the past 30 years.