Digital in HR | Impact of Digital Technologies on HR

“Technology is teaching us to be human again!” – Simon Mainwaring

Perhaps there is no topic more relevant than digital in HR in the current context. Most of the organizations and the HR functions are struggling to deal with the advent of digital. Gone are the days when presence on social media was considered digital in HR, when implementing the HR ERP was considered digital in HR and when using the mobile apps to do HR transactions was considered digital in HR. The definition of digital in HR has undergone a vast change in last 4-5 years. Digital in HR in the current context is using the confluence of technologies to achieve 3 outcomes. First, making internal people practices agile, second, providing best in class employee experience, and third, making boundaries of the organization soft (both internal & external).

The rate at which businesses are adopting agile and scrum to develop products and services is absolutely mind boggling. Under this approach, the products get developed iteratively and incrementally while taking feedback from the customers at every step. Companies usually produce the base version of the product, release it to customers, take feedback from customers, learn from the feedback, create second version of the product, release it to customers, take feedback from customers, learn from the feedback, create third version of the product and so on… In simple words companies pivot their products and services multiple times in a year in response to the changing customer preferences. Can we use the same methodology to create products and services in HR? Unfortunately, in many organizations HR still operates in the annual rhythm. Goals setting and evaluation is done on annual basis, manpower budgeting is done on annual basis, training needs identification is done on annual basis and so on. The rhythm of HR does not seem to be in alignment with the rhythm of the business. Can HR also work in shorter loops? Can HR also take feedback from employees more often? Can HR also work transparently? My answer is a resounding YES. It is possible with the help of digital in HR. Using the right sort of technologies can help HR to become more agile in almost all its people practices.

Second outcome of digital in HR is providing best in class employee experience. The narrative in HR has shifted from employee engagement to employee experience. Employee experience is the sum total of all the interactions which an employee would have with the organization from before joining to after leaving the organization. It’s very important for HR to be always mindful of the experiences it is providing to its employees/potential employees through all of its people practices such as talent acquisition, talent management, performance management, learning and development, HR operations, rewards etc. Digital in HR can help provide consistent and seamless employee experience across people practices which are in alignment with the overall brand proposition of the organization.

Third, and perhaps the most important outcome of digital in HR is to make the boundaries of the organization soft. Gone are the days when organizations used to have only full-time permanent employees on its rolls; current composition of the workforce consists of full-time employees, part time employees, temporary employees, contractual employees, work-from-home employees and free lancers. All this is made possible only with the help of using right sort of technologies in HR, in other words, digital in HR. Similarly, internal boundaries of the organization across functions and geographical locations are becoming more soft as a result of digital in HR.

I see immense possibility for HR to leverage digital and provide world class services. Boundaries of HR will also start to overlap with functions such as digital marketing, data sciences and product management. Correspondingly the skillset requirement in HR is also likely to change. Digital in HR will surely bring the much-needed shakeup in HR!