Digital is transforming the way organizations build competitive advantage through people. Take just recruitment as an example. Mobile devices now account for over a billion job searches per month.  Seventy percent of job seekers using mobile act within an hour as compared to 30% of job seekers using a PC[i]. In a recent US survey of people seeking jobs,  52% use FaceBook, 38% use LinkedIn and 34% use Twitter[ii]. Glassdoor, an online career community, has a database of 6 million company reviews[iii] – largely contributed by employees.

There’s no doubt that HR is aware of the way digital is accelerating. In a recent survey of HR professionals, over 80% agreed that mobile technology would become the most common medium for employees to voice their opinions[iv]. And we are seeing organizations that have benefited significantly from integrating digital into their HR operations. UPS, within three years of introducing digital into its recruitment strategy, saw the number of recruits through digital channels increase from 19 to 15,000[v]. NTT Data, which started using gamification techniques to build leadership skills, saw a 50% increase in the number of employees taking up leadership roles[vi]

But is this a major performance upgrade, or is HR maybe guilty of just tinkering under the bonnet?  Our annual survey of HR leaders – the Global HR Barometer – is not pointing to Formula 1 performance. Almost 75% of the organizations in our survey still rely on traditional recruiting and branding techniques.

While these figures might be disappointing, it’s more worrying that companies seem to be sidelining digital HR when they tackle specific problem areas. In cases where companies identified recruitment and retention as major challenges, a mere 6% of companies are using social recruiting and branding techniques and only 5% use digital media and platforms for employee engagement. We also found that close to 80% of companies still rely on traditional methods for Learning & Development.

Why do we have this lack of acceleration when you would expect HR to have its foot to the floor?  We found that the number of HR IT systems – and their legacy  nature – are blocking a  seamless and integrated view of HR operations. Close to 70% of organizations in our survey stated that they face integration issues with existing HR IT systems and 44% say they face compatibility issues with latest technologies. And this situation is compounded by familiar perception issues. Senior management continues to perceive HR as a cost centre and not as a profit driver, therefore viewing any additional investment in HR as non-critical. In a recent survey of HR professionals, only around half saw HR as a profit driver[vii]. Last but not least, a lack of data-driven insights impedes HR’s ability to take informed decisions on strategic issues, such as identifying and prioritizing investment areas.

It’s time for HR to move into the fast lane, moving from  acknowledging the impact of digital to taking concrete steps to make it an integral part of its operational processes. Not least because your employees are not hanging around. They are reinventing and equipping themselves with new-era digital tools, and it is imperative for HR to match them step-for-step. Otherwise, employees will disappear off into the distance, leaving a forlorn HR stalled on the starting grid. For more on this, read our paper: Using Digital Tools to Unlock HR’s True Potential.

[i] Talent HQ, “20 Mobile Recruiting Insights #mrec13”, September 2013
[ii] Jobvite, “2012 Social Job Seeker Survey”, September 2012
[iii] Glassdoor website
[iv] Hrmagazine, “Half of HR professionals think the traditional employee survey is dead”, November 2013
[v] Slideshare, “UPS Jobs Mobile Case Study at MREC 2013”, September 2013
[vi] Forbes, “Gamification In Leadership Development: How Companies Use Gaming To Build Their Leader Pipeline”, September 2013
[vii] Oxford Economics, “The Digital Transformation of People Management”, March 2012