How future-facing HR can empower digital transformation

As digital transformation shifts the way businesses operate and the products and services they offer, it only makes sense that it impacts the role of employees, too. A solid HR strategy is vital to ease the changes that come with this transformation. At the same time, the HR department itself must adapt to new, digital ways of working.

Skills for the future

Changes rarely happen without hiccups, and the digital transformation is no different. Tom: “As innovations – think of AI and machine-learning tools – find their way into the workplace, people start to fear for their jobs. Will they all be replaced by robots? Will the human touch become irrelevant? Or, will that humanity, on the other hand, gain importance as more processes become automated?”

Needless to say: the impact of digital innovation on employees is huge. “A thorough analysis of what that impact will be is essential to facilitate a smooth transition”, Tom says. “HR departments should look into the skills that will become crucial for the workforce of the future and propose ways to bridge the gap with the talents of current employees.”

Tom Mentens

"At the same time, they need to revisit the profiles they focus on in recruiting. The skills that organisations look for today may be replaced with others in the future. Those changes should be reflected in the recruiting strategy.”

Tom Mentens - HR Transformation Expert at Flexso

Guide for change management

“All this requires a clear view of what the future will bring, and a vision on how you, as an organisation, plan to respond to the changes yet to come”, Tom asserts. “Which steps will you take? How fast are you going to implement changes?”

“These transformation projects are often led by the IT department or by a dedicated transformation team. But because the HR department is inherently employee-focused, it’s important that they are also involved in the change process from the start.”

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There are three ways that HR adds value to the process:

  • The HR team can engage ambassadors in the project, who contribute to and provide support for the changes. Bonus: employees who take part in such projects tend to stick around longer.
  • HR can offer valuable insights on how to communicate about coming transformations in ways that the workforce will appreciate. Additionally, HR can provide information on how to train people in adopting new systems and ways of working.
  • New processes and systems tend to induce cultural changes. HR can help guide those changes and pave the way for a new work culture.

Practice what you preach

Besides guiding digital transformation at a business level and facilitating adoption by the workforce, the HR department itself also has to adapt to the changes at hand. Tom: “HR departments tend to follow up quite strictly on what happens in other teams and check in on how people are keeping up with evolving processes and systems. But as they do that, they may forget to rethink their own approach to HR.”

Traditional processes like training and performance management need to ride the winds of change, too. In fact, all future-forward HR tools must be accessible and easy to use. Tom: “Employees want a smooth user experience, but today, there’s quite a gap between those expectations and the reality. The same goes for job candidates. You can’t expect to attract digital-savvy job candidates with an old-fashioned recruiting approach. When you aim for innovative profiles, you have to be innovative in the way you target them.”

Internally as well, HR departments have much to gain by automating cumbersome tasks. Because as smart tools take over time-intensive manual work from HR departments, the people in those teams win back time to add real human value to their jobs.

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