The world is rapidly changing in the wake of digital disruption.

Accelerated adoption of new technologies combined with an increasing digitally enabled and connected society will have huge impact on organisations and the people who shape them, and ultimately make them a success.

If you look at the top 7 digital imperatives that are driving many transformational efforts in business today, it is clear to me that HR has a terrific opportunity and sits in a pivotal position to support rapid migration in skills, capability, productivity and collaboration – whilst also supporting critical organisational and cultural shifts to address company adaptation during the Industry 4.0 revolution.

And the opportunity is this:

To become an enabler of the new relationships that need to improve dramatically in order for companies to adapt, innovate, collaborate and engage.


HR’s mission


If HR’s mission is about anything, it should be about driving productivity into the business.

Eliminating risk to revenue streams, product stagnation and profit erosion.

Future proofing the business by selecting strong talent and keeping people engaged and motivated to improve output across the enterprise.

Working with leadership to shift optimise organisational design and bring on-board new ways of working.

Help architect a new culture that supports real-time customer centricity and strong alignment to their employee experience to embrace data analysis, direct and constant feedback and learning to love change as the ‘new normal’ in the fail fast, learn faster and adapt quickly world we all live in now.

I believe that HR needs to become an internal management consultancy that knows the business inside out, what drives it, and what will propel its success, whilst mitigating risks that could undermine a positive velocity.


The top digital imperatives that HR should own and deliver:


  1. Maximise evolving technology – think omni-channel digital experience for employees

  2. Adopt your customers’ perspective – learn to love customer feedback, real-time

  3. Exploit your data – workforce analytics is the bridge to ultimate credibility, program architecture and course corrections at speed

  4. Innovate and iterate products & services – drive agile working, cross-functional teams, and provide an environment of trust and ‘sharing is a good thing’ approach

  5. Embrace new ways of working – mobile but connected, OKR and dashboard oriented, collaboration across silos and disciplines – everyone creates, everyone produces, everyone sells

  6. Build future talent – understand digital competence, new roles and build communities across all networks – social and professional – and create an employer brand that tells a story and delivers a mission with meaning

  7. Drive a digital mind-set – the world is connecting across every aspect of internet and cloud connectivity – understand open source, sharing and gig economies, and find ways to make exponential your company’s route to market


1. Maximise evolving technology


HR teams have suffered for years being the intuitive, analogue, psychological ‘black-art’ people.

This will change. You now have ‘science’ and data to indisputably drive what you may already have thought was true.

ERP, ATS, LMS, workforce analytics, CSAT, ESAT and a constant stream of individualised data coming from Finance, Sales, Marketing and Customer Service – you can wrap them all into a tidy bundle and let Artificially Intelligent tools drive deep correlations that  would blow your mind.

As with all parts of a business, HR will increasingly need to successfully understand, adopt and leverage technology in order to bring benefits in many ways, such as:

  • The opportunity to achieve high levels of credibility by applying more ‘science’ to your capability through reporting, analytics and predictive capability. With this data you can optimise every aspect of the entire talent life cycle and take the guess work out of the equation. Recruitment, on-boarding, training & development, pay, performance, promotion, leadership development, succession planning, and positively affecting the bottom line by hiring, developing and retaining the best talent for your organisation.
  • Driving transparent objectives throughout the business that are linked directly to corporate targets, collaboratively engaging, dash boarded for all to watch and linked directly to performance feedback and training to each employee.
  • Learning and development should be supported with new digital tools for just-in-time and eLearning as well as peer-to-peer learning. It becomes an integral part of change management, tool adoption, new ways of working, and personal development.
  • HR should have the ability to understand how to successfully blend ‘human’ and ‘machine’ elements for optimal organisational success. HR is still the beating heart of the organisation and getting that marriage between data and emotion is essential.


2. Adopt your customers’ perspective


All organisations need to be increasingly customer focussed and driven.  And the same should be said of your people.

The lines between ‘customer’ and ‘employee’ are blurring.

Think of these two populations as both requiring attention, personalisation, engagement and a proactive feedback discussion. They don’t have different requirements and it’s not about the money – it’s about being treated with respect, dignity and recognition of your individuality.

Organisations, and critically HR, need to drive internal collaboration by becoming organisational design experts. HR should be driving agile work structures, flat organisations and cross-functional team constructs.

HR needs to work with senior management to create a culture that trusts people to make decisions within a framework, fail fast and learn fast, and to transparently deliver exponential returns.


3. Exploit your data


The media hype around ‘Big Data’ and business analytics has been kicking around for about 3 years now, but now and real companies and consultancies are actually bringing powerful results.

Analytics will increasingly allow companies to demonstrate the links between investments in the workforce and real business outcomes.

Being data driven in every aspect of talent management (HR analytics, being proactive with predictive patterns and trends) will become a key factor in organisational success.

Create transparent OKR matrices and tools & dashboards the organisation can use to attack a complex array of projects and work streams (such as BetterWorks, Pinipa, Perdoo and many others).  Openly publish key objectives, milestones and completed work, such that activity is broadcast across the organisation and anyone can contribute with dashboards for progress tracking.


4. Innovate and iterate products & services


HR has the ability to become the active facilitator to nurture innovation and the evolution of new products and services.

HR should drive internal communications and build/curate a reservoir of critical information – ensuring the entire company stays informed and up to speed regarding market conditions, sales efforts, new products/services, and how to access key reference points to support people in their roles.


5. Embrace new ways of working


‘Work from anywhere’ approaches

Gone are the days where a daily commute into work is a necessity.

The HR function will embrace new ways of working utilising mobile applications, cloud-based tools, and ‘work from anywhere’ approaches. In turn this will allow talent pools to expand and the business to tap into the best in class, irrespective of location.

Improve employee engagement

Tie in performance management to agile working sprints so that feedback to people is constant, timely, relevant and supportive of improvement.

Do away with annual performance reviews and instead have quarterly ‘catch-ups’ to ensure people feel as if their growth, progress and areas for improvement are being addressed in a positive manner.

Train leaders and managers to understand a new approach to mentoring and coaching – showing them that the traditional command and control methods are no longer required (unless in emergencies), but rather it’s about supporting teams with high-level, strategic direction, coaching when barriers are hit, lifting obstacles and encouraging failures whilst rewarding successes.


6. Build future talent


Strategic recruiting – hiring not only the best talent in the market for existing requirements, but anticipating future needs and preparing to develop attraction, adaptation and engagement strategies for roles required just around the corner.

Get into the business of being predictive regarding your talent work force, be proactive in directing the strategy of the business (M&A decisions, cultural development, product and solution design, entering new markets and geographies, expanding or contracting and potential pivots).


7. Drive a digital mind-set


By driving a digital mind-set both within the HR function and disseminating this out to the rest of the business will help to organisations to foster the right culture, structures and agility to rapidly change and adapt to the forces of digital disruption.

By aligning HR to these 7 digital imperatives will allow the traditional ‘HR function’ to evolve into one that is increasingly future ready – adopting the right processes, practices, tools and systems for success.

If you are interested in topics such as the Future of Work, HR Analytics, Business Transformation and the evolution of HR, please keep an eye out for new blogs and updates on Twitter and LinkedIn.