Digitalization and Automation while used interchangeably, significantly differ in value and meaning. Automation refers to adding new technology to streamline processes. Digitalization, on the other hand, deals with how this automation reshapes the entire organization. Automation focuses on the tool and the process. Digitalization adds people and culture into the equation, and how it integrates into the whole business life cycle. Automation is a change in equipment or process. Digitalization is transforming a way of life.
Having established that, it goes without saying that HR, in their strategic role as change champions, should be at the heart of any Digitalization effort.
How do we make HR Digitalization-ready, then?
Keeping it simple just like Digitalization should be, here are 3 basic factors in preparing HR to be digitalization champions.
“Begin with the end in mind.” It all starts with defining your vision and aligning your strategy thereafter. Why are we going digital? How will it impact the organization? What tool will best support our vision and address identified problem areas? “Where are we now, where do we want to go, why would we want to go there, and how do we get there?” Addressing these critical questions, and more, is the first step in equipping HR to be on-board and take the lead. Owning these responses is vital as HR models adapting to the transformation and engages the entire organization after. Accompanying these what’s, why’s and how’s, should be an attitude and outlook that is always open to change and open to learning. In the same way that we anticipate technology to evolve non-stop, even more so learning will be never ending. Striking a balance between an appetite to always embrace change, upskill, and manage stability alongside continuous growth is a competency HR teams will need to master and should be second nature from hereon.
Strategic vs Transactional
“Follow Through” A follow through to mindset change should be the resolve to let go of the recurring urge for HR to be stuck with the admin and transactional. There’s nothing wrong with admin tasks – these are basic yet critical processes for teams and organizations to function. But how HR’s role has been viewed in reference to these, HR’s self-view included, has been lopsided for so long. It is time we come into terms that HR is way more than transactional processes. These admin functions are rather a means to dive deeper and lead us into our strategic roles, adding unique value to business decisions. And embracing digitalization will allow that. Streamlining pencil-pushing processes provide opportunities for regular interaction and collaboration with our business partners. With the right tool and a successfully implemented digitalization, we free up valuable time to work on other critical tasks that are significant as well to the organization: attracting the right candidates, meaningful performance discussions, retaining high potential talent, purposeful career pathing and clear succession plans.
“Employee Buy-In” Without workforce buy-in, any digitalization effort will be futile. That’s why improving employee experience as a goal is just as important as streamlining processes or costs saves. Whatever reason you have defined as to why the organization will undertake a digital transformation, it should always ultimately benefit the employees. From being transparent to the reasons and processes behind the changes, to providing learning opportunities to equip and facilitate the transition, to continuous check and balance to immediately address any bottlenecks, to realigning policies and procedures. All that will help build (or rebuild) a culture of accessibility, empowerment, and trust – is key to a rewarding employee experience.
There is a reason why HR is at the heart of any digitalization transformation. It is to never disregard the basic truth that no business will run as effectively and as sustainably when you remove the people factor in any equation. While technology may be replaced every now and then, there is no alternative for the need for human interaction. At the end of the day, it’s always about the people. And that is HR’s uniquely significant and strategic contribution to any innovation – while transformation initiatives may seem to be an on-going process, it always begins with HR.
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