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Why HR should be involved in digital strategy

By Michelle Pittorino

With digital transformation sweeping through workplaces at a rapid rate, you could be forgiven for thinking it was all about IT.

But with the culture of change, digitising of human resources (HR) functions and need to improve employee experience occurring across organisations, your HR people should be on the stage with IT.

KPMG People and Change consultant Sandhya Krishnan told a CCIWA workplace relations conference that the future means HR should be involved in the digital strategy, based on insights from the KPMG’s annual global Future of HR survey.

The survey revealed that 63 per cent of companies are undergoing or have recently undergone a digital transformation to improve efficiencies, with one of the easiest ways companies can transform being via their HR or human capital management (HCM) systems.

In 2018, 43 per cent of HR executives in Australia invested in a HCM system in the previous two years, and for 31 per cent that was a move to the cloud.

Krishnan offered the following tips for facing the HR challenges of the future:

1. Have a digital plan

While 63 per of HR executives are undergoing digital transformation, only 46 per cent have a digital plan in place, and without a plan it’s more difficult to get to the future.

Much of the confusion lies in companies with old systems, systems that don’t speak to each other and data that just no longer cuts it.

“They ask ‘how do I get to the future?’

“Typically, that is how people put together a digital plan. And really, if you are planning for a digital transformation, it is very important to have a digital plan in place.”

2. For ethics sake, get HR a seat at the table

The future workforce may be heavily augmented, in the coming years. You might be planning on expanding, but not all the extra resources will be human. That doesn’t mean HR shouldn’t have a seat at the table.

You don’t want to leave yourself exposed to a serious gap in ethics.

“Today, 50 per cent of executives think that IT should be involved in setting the digital strategy for the company but only 10 per cent of HR executives believe that HR should be at the table when you are discussing digital strategy,” Krishnan said.

“You are talking about Alexa in your homes, driverless cars on the roads and you’ve seen a lot of ethics and security issues coming up. Last week Google set up an ethics office. There is a gap, right.

“When we leave things like setting the digital strategy just to IT we are missing a bit of gap between the two, so step up and make sure HR is involved in the discussion.”

3. Your data is crucial, analyse it properly

Some companies are effective at analysing their data, others are not.  The future is in analytics, including predictive data, to help you plan your workforce.

“Think for a second how much data a company will have on you. When you scan your pass they know when you are coming, when you are leaving, when you are logging in, how much time on your laptop, how much time in meetings, possibly know what you are doing in the meetings and possibly know how much of your time is productive,” she said.

“Two challenges we’ve seen is that data is not clean or it’s not valid enough to produce insights. Second is you don’t have people who are capable enough to look at these reports, understand insights and then transform them to a format that your leaders can use. How many records are generated in your company that are not turned into insights?

“HR data is really powerful as long as we can analyse and use that data.”

Data analytics is moving from descriptive to diagnostic and predictive.

4. Great employer experience, you will need it to survive

Entrepreneur Richard Branson famously lives by the mantra ‘customers don’t come first, employees come first’ and Krishnan concurs, especially as the future means a changing culture of workers.

“If anyone is telling you customers come first, challenge them because if you don’t have employees who are happy, your customers will not be happy. If you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of the clients.

“At some level we can have all the technology, all the systems in the world and innovative CEOs but all of that is not going to mean anything if the workforce doesn’t want to come and see what we have on offer.

“Your employers are critical in how you run your company.”

With digital transformation sweeping through workplaces at a rapid rate, you could be forgiven for thinking it was all about IT.

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