Our fascination with digital technology has opened up Pandora’s box – and no matter how much we resist, we can never go back. Everything from how and when we communicate, collaborate, and engage with each other to what we expect to gain from those interactions has been fundamentally rewired. And we may have even reached a point of no return, where today’s reality is unlike anything that was seen in the past and will not be experienced again in the future.
Nowhere is this new truth more evident in small and midsize businesses than in the HR function. According to the SAP report, “SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart,” supported by Oxford Economics, 47% of HR executives from companies of this size expect digitalization to further evolve talent management over the next two years.
The more things change, the more they (don’t) stay the same
So far, these changes in the workplace have been nothing short of stunning. More women (but not enough!) are in leadership positions. More nontraditional contingent talent is hired for critical roles. More millennial – and even younger – talent is integrated throughout the business.
But digitalization is not yet done changing the world of work – and I dare to say that it may never be. An increasingly digital workplace presents many more opportunities to tap into the best talent regardless of gender, age, socioeconomic demographic or disability, and then develop their skills and nurture them for leadership roles.
The pool of workforce perspectives, skills, and experiential preferences continue to broaden, which can be challenging to keep up with. To succeed over the long term, HR organizations need to look beyond 2020 to anticipate how hyperawareness of the potential of all people and technologies transforms the workforce 5, 10, and even 15 years from now.
The workforce is evolving – and so must HR
The Oxford Economics executive study, “The Transformation Imperative for Small and Midsize Companies,” revealed that digital investments are expected to significantly impact HR strategies for the retraining of existing managers and employees. In some ways, HR organizations are already seeing this shift as they ask themselves four critical questions:
- What traditional approaches to workforce learning are not resonating anymore as people begin to rely more on their digital devices?
- How can we deliver learning programs that are meaningful and nondisruptive?
- Which leadership skills will be needed to move the business forward?
- Do we have employees who can be further developed to help deliver the future vision of the company?
Consider a common pastime that nearly three-quarters of the world’s population enjoys: watching a favorite show through a streaming service, such as Netflix or Hulu, on a mobile device. Very rarely do I just watch an episode anymore. I am looking at pop-ups to learn trivial details about the guest stars, recurring actors, and filming events. And sometimes, I go as far as using a second device to look up more information to find out which upcoming movies or shows will feature the actors I like.
This growing trend is reflective of how people worldwide prefer to learn and where the opportunity to gain new insight and knowledge resides (hint: it’s everywhere). Employees want to challenge themselves by acquiring new skills and extending their current capabilities to new areas. But whatever the learning experience, they want it to be as nondisruptive as possible.
HR organizations that consider the long view of their digital strategy are beginning to overcome the unpredictable and omnipresent nature of learning. Companies can integrate skill-building opportunities into every day work experiences. For example, embedded chatbots can guide employees in real time. The workforce can quickly learn how to use a new application; discover best practices for better decision-making; and retrieve information to answer questions, analyze insights, and engage with colleagues meaningfully and effectively.
By being less event driven, learning becomes a streaming interaction that is highly personalized. HR organizations can leverage this innovative approach to sense how employees perform day to day and to identify precisely the skills they need now, the potential they could offer in the future, and the best path to move them forward.
Digital HR needs to go along for the ride
If HR plans to stay in the long-term game as a strategic partner for business growth, the workforce experience has to be as great as the digital interactions that we experience at home. And just like leading brands are working to deliver next-generation customer experience, HR must deliver next generation employee-experience to build a workforce that is ready for the future.