HR at the heart of the digital revolution

The impact of digital technology on organisational thinking is so significant that it has been likened to a fourth industrial revolution. It is changing the way companies think and act because today’s employees have higher expectations about how they will be treated and where (and how quickly) their careers will take them.

Many old practices are obsolete or at best open to debate, and structures are changing; some companies now think in terms of “networks of teams”. Most importantly, building an inclusive corporate culture has become a priority, meaning many traditional HR functions are now embedded in everyday work and businesses.

Keeping the pace

That is exciting for HR professionals, because it provides for an expanded role within a company and puts a lot more focus on strategic thinking. But it is also challenging– and can become overwhelming – because of the enormity of the task and the rapid pace of change.

HR departments are having to rethink everything they do: how they design programs, the tools they use, who they buy them from and how they roll out and communicate solutions.

Mobile devices are dissolving the barriers between work and private life and companies seek constant feedback (even daily) from everyone about everything. Employees are glued to their digital devices, and want more and more information delivered in this way, but also are closely monitored by other digital devices. We know more than ever before about where people are, what they are doing and even what they are thinking

The ability to harness and understand data about people and pass it on to management is now a core HR function. It is vital to understand analytics and to integrate this capability as part of a digital platform, not just think of it as an add-on. The need and potential is so great that we are seeing analytics experts moving into HR from other domains.

Putting data to good use

It is equally important to understand behavioural economics – to be able to interpret what the plethora of employee data is saying about what employees are doing and thinking, so that management can actually use the results.

At the same time, HR departments must think of employees in the same ways as they do customers – looking to meet their needs and expectations and provide user experiences, rather than simply doing things the “company way”. That means imagining the employee experience in real time and putting a greater focus on peer-to-peer learning and digital delivery.

And that means more than just building apps; it is about developing an integrated mobile platform that incorporates cloud-based tools and analytics technology.

There are a lot of options out there, and a growing pool of providers. The digital revolution has also helped new small vendors challenge the established players.