The business world has been steadily moving in a remote-first, digital-friendly direction for years now. Over time, companies great and small have gone digital in Human Resources, marketing, e-commerce, and so on. Remote work capabilities have also rapidly continued to gain ground.
Digital transformation was accelerated even further in early 2020 when the coronavirus shuttered brick-and-mortar businesses for months on end. With their physical storefronts and offices closed down, companies across the globe began turning to the digital world to remain operational.
If your organization counts itself among the ranks of those that are shifting their operations onto the cloud, it’s important you don’t overlook the HR department in the midst of so much digital transformation.
The Benefits of Going Digital in HR
When it comes to the digital world, the HR department is one of the easiest things to leave by the wayside. Other focal points, like sales, product development, and IT, cast long shadows that often leave HR as little more than an afterthought.
Nevertheless, it isn’t just wise to digitally transform your HR department—it’s an essential aspect of long-term success. For instance, implementing digital upgrades throughout your HR department can enable your team to do a variety of things more efficiently, such as:
- Manage information and analyze data: Organizational data can be better tracked and employee files and information can be easier managed when a universal, often cloud-based digital management system is used.
- Recruit more effectively: Digitizing the recruitment process can enable HR to locate quality talent more easily and streamline onboarding programs.
- Communicate and improve employees’ experiences: Modern employees expect transparency and communication. Digitizing HR allows reps to maintain instant, accessible, and open communication with your staff.
- Maintain continual learning: If HR becomes digitally savvy, it can open up countless opportunities to provide online employee development programs, both individually and as a group via a remote classroom setting.
In addition to these more functional benefits, by taking the time to digitize your HR department, you can help cultivate an inviting company culture. Most of the benefits listed above are internally focused and can help create a forward-thinking work environment that fosters employee trust and engagement.
Cultivating a positive and inviting company culture of this nature can have a dramatic effect on talent acquisition and retention. For example, in one survey, 54% of employees responded that they had stayed at a job longer than was in their best interest specifically because of a strong sense of belonging and community.
By enabling your HR department to do its job in an efficient, modern, digital format, you open up the doors for your HR reps to both manage the hiring process effectively and bolster a positive company culture that will naturally benefit your recruitment and retention efforts over time.
It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about company culture or pure functionality; the benefits of going digital in HR are both abundant and easy to identify. The question is: How can you make the shift to digital effectively?
Taking HR Digital: A Step-by-Step Guide
The specific path toward a digital HR department will look different for each business. A local business with under a hundred workers is likely going to have a dramatically different approach than, say, a national Fortune 500 company with thousands of employees.
Nevertheless, there are several aspects of going digital in HR that tend to be the same for all scenarios. Here are five distinct steps that should be addressed throughout the change to a digital format.
1. Lay the groundwork. Before you look at a single piece of software or begin to plot out the stages of your digital shift, it’s important to identify whether your business is truly ready for a digital HR department. Here are a few questions to ask to ensure your organization truly needs to make the proposed changes to a digital department:
- Do you have a large enough company to require the investment of a digital HR department? While the specific answer to this question will vary, if you have fewer than 50 employees (the number that requires employee benefits), you may not need to commit to a full-blown digital transformation.
- Are you ready to use a Human Resources Information System (HRIS)? This is a piece of software that serves as a master location to manage information like recordkeeping, HR strategy, and compliance data. In addition to having an HRIS, do you feel your HR team is competent and comfortable when it comes to handling digital data in general?
- Does your company have an IT department? You will want to have an IT department readily available to help support your efforts as you migrate information and integrate existing activities into a digital format.
By asking questions like these, you can assess if and when you should begin your HR department’s digital transformation. If you find that you are, indeed, ready to make the leap to digital HR, then the next step is to set goals.
2. Establish goals. You can’t efficiently shift to a digital HR department if you don’t actually know what that department should ultimately look like. Once again, each company’s digital HR goals will naturally differ. Nevertheless, before you begin to make detailed plans, it’s important you identify and establish what your specific goals are. A few goals to consider adopting include:
- Going paperless in all transactions
- Training your staff on your chosen software and tech tools before beginning the shift to digital
- Making all decisions with the perspective that your organization’s employees are the “end users” who must be satisfied with the results
Goals give your team something to focus on and work toward. They also provide a critical element of accountability throughout your transition.
As an additional suggestion, remember to make each objective a SMART goal. In other words, don’t create vague objectives but rather set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. Goals of this nature will naturally provide measurable metrics that you can use later on to measure the effectiveness of your efforts.
3. Plan thoroughly but simply. Once you’ve set goals, it’s time to plan how you’ll specifically go digital with your HR department. At this stage, it’s important to open the floor to ideas from your staff. As the future core of your digital HR department, it’s important their voices be heard.
Vet them for ideas on everything from potential remote technology to how data should be collected and managed.
In addition to the functionality of your digital HR department, make sure to address cybersecurity concerns, especially in sensitive areas like e-signatures. Look for ways to maintain digital integrity throughout all of your HR interactions with your staff.
Choose reputable tools that are regularly updated, train your HR reps on how to use those tools, and utilize newer technologies like two-factor authentication to keep everything safe and secure.
As you go through these various activities, remember to prioritize and organize your plan. The goal should be to end up with a streamlined, straightforward, and simple program that can be easily communicated to everyone who will be impacted by the proposed changes.
4. Communicate properly. Once you have goals set and a plan in place, it’s time to communicate them to everyone they may impact. This can include, but isn’t necessarily limited to:
- Your HR staff: They will be the front line of your digital transformation efforts and should be well aware of every detail.
- Your employees: Employees must be made aware of the impending change and eventually be taught how to operate within the new digital system.
- Other departments: Any department that may be impacted by the changes to HR should also be notified.
- Leadership and stakeholders: Stakeholders should remain well aware of the planned changes, and the C-suite of your company should be carefully informed and kept up to date throughout the process.
- External considerations: If your HR efforts are going to impact agreements, other branches within your company, or any other entity outside your enterprise, it should also be informed.
Communication with all parties involved is always a key aspect of successful digital transformation.
5. Cultivate and assess. Finally, once you’ve made your plans, set your goals, and communicated with the right people, it’s time to initiate your HR department’s digital transformation. Both throughout and after this initial process, it’s important you do two things:
- First, begin to cultivate a digital-first HR culture within your company. This should apply to everything from hiring to communication and even leading by example as you overcome the various challenges that come with digital—and especially remote—teams.
- Second, schedule regular times to assess the effectiveness of your new digital efforts based on your previously established metrics. As you do so, be ready to adjust, pivot, and even abandon activities entirely if they aren’t yielding the necessary results.
By cultivating a digital culture and assessing the effectiveness of your digital transformation, you can optimize your chances of success as you shepherd your company’s HR department into the digital realm.
Going Digital in HR
There’s nothing new about going digital these days. However, HR has been, and always will be, a human-focused part of every company.
As such, it’s important that you organize, communicate, and prioritize your efforts. If you can do this, you can digitally transform your HR department in an effective manner that will help it remain relevant and effective far into the future.
Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college, he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics, but business and digital marketing topics are his favorite. When he isn’t writing, you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.