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Embracing digital change

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Be it social media or data analytics, digital has shaped and changed the role of HR and will continue to do so this year, but have HRDs really got to grips with what’s required to embrace digital and use it effectively?

The impact of digital on organisations, and specifically HR, is not new – so why does it still pose such a big challenge? Indeed, at Criticaleye’s recent conference for HRDs, including around 50 HR leaders from global organisations, the impact of digital on culture, leadership and innovation was invariably top of the agenda. Rather than being a great enabler, it continues to test HRDs and their teams, as well as having wide reaching implications for the rest of the organisation.

Culture change

Steve Hearsum’s recent piece on HR leadership in a digital world made the point that digital is less about technology and more about culture change. Perhaps this is why many businesses have found the digital learning curve a little steeper than expected. It also explains why the shift to digital can never lie solely with an IT department and HR must play a pivotal role. 

Indeed, the opportunity to share data quickly and easily, as well as changes to the way individuals communicate, means that organisational culture must adapt to keep up with the brave new digital world. The days of divisional silos are long gone. There is no room for individuals or departments within a business who try and own or segregate information.

Digitalisation has provided a catalyst for organisations to become more open and transparent and HR has a key role to ensure the workforce is aligned to this new way of working. 
Greater openness and transparency of information may also prompt the desire for a flatter organisational structure, and a more open leadership team. This should aid the process of data sharing between teams, as well as encouraging greater collaboration and innovation overall. 

Leadership change

The transformation to a digital organisation impacts on the leadership team in two ways – the accountability of its c-suite and their ability to lead change. Leadership development should look to accommodate both of these if organisations and their boards wish to reap the benefits of digital. 

In the first instance, leaders should have an appreciation that employees and customers now expect greater openness and accountability from authority figures. Information online and via social media means it is more critical than ever to align your personal and professional values. Do not underestimate the power of the web to expose personal or social activities that conflict with your professional standing.

Equally, while leaders have always been required to lead their organisations through times of change, the digital revolution has made this skill more important than ever. HRDs looking at leadership development need to make this a top priority. Similar to culture change, digital transformation is all encompassing, not just about getting IT to put different systems in place, and it must be led right from the top of the tree.

People and data

Looking at the organisation in its entirety and we see that different skills sets are required from existing and potential employees in a digital world. Within the Criticaleye Community, HRDs report that personality traits and trainability are becoming more of a priority. In other words, in a digital environment where change is the norm, the ability to learn and evolve skills quickly and fluidly becomes a highly desirable trait. 

Our Members also comment on the value accrued from increasing volumes of HR data. Companies may still bemoan the cost of recruitment, but it is now possible to get a more holistic snapshot of the cost and value of recruitment including how long people recruited stayed within the organisation and how quickly they became competent, to get a truer view of their value to the business. 

In addition to employee value, data can reveal if the leadership team is delivering on its results, as well as giving a view on whether the business is achieving its objectives and the direction of travel. This type of data is critical for HR planning and talent management, helping companies to invest and get the best return out of their human capital. 
The future

2016 may be the year when benchmarks for digital are established although this will be a challenge considering the rate of change.  What’s clear is that HRDs have a key role to play in facilitating that change, whether it is helping the leadership team embrace greater openness or providing a framework for younger employees to excel.

Charlie Wagstaff

By Charlie Wagstaff

Charlie is the managing director, executive membership at Criticaleye

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