Strategic HR

How Digital Transformation is Opening Up Opportunities for HR

As the old saying goes, “The only thing that is constant is change.” Thanks especially to technology advancements—from cloud computing, mobility, big data, and now, artificial intelligence—each technology brings different challenges and opportunities for every organization. In fact, with worldwide IT spending expected to total $3.5 trillion by the end of this year, organizations are charging through their digital transformation journey.

automated work

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But when the term “digital transformation” is such a hot topic in today’s business world as more services, processes, and products become digitized, how can a company ensure its success? What’s the best approach for creating and executing a comprehensive strategy for successful digital transformation?

The Digital Dilemma

Employees expect that today’s technology will be frictionless—that the systems in place are simple and mirror the types of systems they use outside of work. The irony is, however, that workplace technology can be unnecessarily complex. Employees are becoming increasingly overwhelmed with the onslaught of digital tools and processes they are needing to learn and adapt to each day.

A survey of 350 large companies a few years ago, for example, found that enterprises are using an average of 831 cloud services. At one company, there were 24 file-sharing services and a staggering 91 collaboration services being used. It’s not uncommon to set up a conference call and use Skype, Zoom, join.me, or yet another service in the workplace. In short, workers are exposed to too many new platforms at once.

The second challenge is that despite every organization having unique business and technology needs, leadership still attempts a “one size fits all” approach to rolling out new applications. While Millennials have overtaken Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation—and have been brought up using digital technologies, this doesn’t mean that they will have a high digital IQ when it comes to enterprise applications. Rather, the aptitude to learning a new system boils down to the individual user, and how the technology experience specifically meets their needs and can easily guide them on how to complete a task.

Finally, there’s poor engagement with mandated platforms, particularly as software continues to be updated. Research has shown that we’ll forget 70% of what we learn in a day unless it’s applied immediately. Yet, when employees of varying digital skill sets are all expected to use a new technology to the same degree of comfort and confidence, it’s more likely that unless companies successfully lead employees through this transformation effectively, technology usage and adoption will fail.

The Strategic Role of HR

In the past, Human Resources has been perceived as being the least active in technology innovation. Viewed more as a cost center focusing on recruitment, employee performance reviews, and administrative tasks, HR had a limited scope in the digitization process.

However, as HR systems are virtually the only business applications where everyone in the company must interact with at some point—and as onboarding and training typically fall under a HR manager’s responsibilities—HR teams are uniquely poised to take the business through a successful digital transformation.

By tapping into more intelligent and automated digital tools, HR has a better chance of playing a strategic role in the organization and providing the desired digital experience for all employees. There are four different approaches to managing and supporting employees throughout the digital transformation journey. These are:

  1. Static—This is the starting point for many companies, as they aim to support their employees in using the digital tools. At this level, it’s a highly reactive approach, with everyone provided the same format of assistance and a linear path to digital adoption. For example, training and onboarding employees on new technologies could be in the form of classroom style training, followed by a FAQ document or e-mail providing a guide on how to use the system.
  2. Multichannel—In this approach, companies attempt to provide a greater variety of options for training, rather than a single format en masse. This could be conducted by one-on-one training within departments as new people come on board, providing personalized and individual assistance based on the employee’s skills and background.
  3. Algorithmic—In addition to understanding someone’s needs and providing an array of options, HR teams can capitalize on technology advancements and review the data to understand what types of training will resonate. When a new system is implemented, there will inevitably be late adopters who will need further engagement and guidance over time. Using analytics, a company can determine who is using a particular system, to what extent they are using it, and whether they are accurately using the tool to complete a task. Such insights can also determine what adjustments need to be made to better guide and engage employees when using a tool.
  4. Automatic—Ultimately, with the rise of artificial intelligence and automation, enterprise applications will be highly predictive, suggesting a course of action to the user based on his or her skills and behaviors to guarantee engagement and adoption. Static forms of training will become obsolete as the tools themselves will provide contextual guidance, delivered within the application to overcome any obstacles to change. Organizations will also have a clear picture into the success of the technology implementation itself, with strong return on investment in the form of reduced helpdesk calls, greater data integrity, lower training costs, and significant productivity improvements.

Establishing a Futureproof Framework

Organizations across the globe are in the throes of digital transformation—yet an estimated 84% of these companies could still be on the path to failure. Despite all the time and resources invested in the digital transformation journey, there are significant inefficiencies, duplicated efforts, and frustrated employees occurring.

Fortunately, there are solutions emerging that are enabling the journey to be much easier, while ensuring that employees are engaged and productive. For HR teams, it’s the perfect time to focus on aligning the company’s culture, talent, structure, and processes to balance efficiency and innovation, and invest in the tools that can measure the impact of digital transformation as the company continues to evolve.

Rephael Sweary is the cofounder and president of WalkMe, which pioneered the digital adoption platform. Over 1,000 organizations around the globe use WalkMe so that their systems can engage, contextually guide, and adapt to the needs of their users. For more information, visit www.walkme.com.