If you’re harbouring any doubt that business has gone through a massive paradigm shift in recent years, you need only look at businesses like Amazon, Uber or Air BnB to assuage them. These and other innovative businesses have changed the business landscapes in which they operate by changing the very rules and the processes of businesses. They did it by embracing the digital revolution.
Today any company that wants to maintain a competitive edge must have a digital transformation plan in place. Traditional established companies have been heeding the call. Home Depot recently invested $11 billion in their digital transformation process –– enhancing online shopping and providing a more seamless customer experience in all departments and stores. Sporting goods powerhouse Nike used its digital transformation process to jumpstart a corporate culture that was starting to become stale. These companies are finding ways to add significant value to their operations through digitization.
Typical digital transformation plans focus on business aspects like marketing, customer experience or inventory management. HR is also a vital component, but one that is unfortunately often overlooked. A good digital transformation plan should be developed holistically, with every department interconnected and working together. To achieve that, HR must be involved in a fundamental way.
A digital transformation can be a complex process, but it can be made simpler by establishing clear goals. Consider the automated tasks that an HR department needs to complete. Recruitment, onboarding, payroll, employee development, and more recently keeping employees safe –– all these typical HR tasks can be effectively digitized or supported by HR technology. It’s important to prioritize them and implement them in a logical step-by-step fashion.
The transformation can be a powerful enabler for an HR department. Automated hiring processes using AI can streamline things like candidate searches –– mining huge numbers of prospective employees through social media, on job boards and by harvesting online resumés.
“By sifting through a host of criteria, including innate capabilities and future potential, it allows HR professionals to zero in on the workers who are perfect for the roles being filled,” says Spiros Paleologos, Group VP, UKG Canada. “By narrowing the field to top quality candidates, they can spend more time with each candidate, making for a very effective search.”
Remote work has become a huge boon to companies in recent years. The opportunity to work from a remote location can increase employee satisfaction and creativity levels, and it can be a powerful incentive for attracting new talent. Remote work renders geographic location relatively meaningless, opening up the possibility for companies to attract and hold international talent. A digital transformation plan can address this strategy by giving employees the tools they need to work and network remotely, and securely.
But beyond benefiting directly from a digital transformation, an effective HR department can also bring valuable perspectives to the table when it comes to establishing a transformation plan. HR professionals can provide insights on critical functions like training, professional development and maintaining company culture.
In the end a digital transformation strategy is only as good as the people it serves. The goal of digital transformation is to serve the people who work for the company –– to give employees the digital tools they need to make more effective decisions and find solutions faster. If done properly, the company’s culture should remain intact throughout the transformation.
“Culture is one of the most important components of an effective corporation,” says Paleologos. “A good company culture is a precious asset – one that your competition can’t easily duplicate. You don’t want to lose it in the rush to digitize your operation. Making sure that HR is a key part of your digital planning strategy is important for protecting that culture.”
The term “digital transformation” isn’t one that conjures up feelings of human warmth and connection but that can be misleading, according to Paleologos. “Keeping the human element firmly at the centre of your digital transformation strategy is essential for developing a strategy that works for your organization. The best way to do that is to make HR a key part of your digital planning strategy.”