The fact is we are living in a digital age, so the key question seems to be what are ‘the right’ digital opportunities for HR. My colleague Sam’s blog last week took a look into why there is a perception that HR are lagging behind in adoption of digital technologies, and now I will consider what digital tools HR should invest in.
Let’s start with defining what it is HR is here to do. Sticking with the widely used ‘Ulrich’ model HR should: support transactional services, provide specialist support, and provide strategic direction.
If this the purpose of HR, then what tools are needed to deliver effectively?

  1. Support transactional services: listen to customers and provide good value for money

Apart from self-service functionalities which are now fairly mainstream, digital solutions such as social listening technologies provide excellent options for improved customer service. HR needs to identify the best solutions available for the particular circumstances to add value to the business through removal of ‘paper pushing’ and improved access to real time people information.

  1. Specialist support: identify what customers cannot get from Google!

HR and employment information is no longer at the hands of the few: it is at the finger tips of everyone. An employee only needs to conduct a Google search and hey presto they can more often that not find their answer! An eGovernment survey published last week found that the Government is not satisfying its customers in providing digital support for social situations (e.g. debt counseling, housing, access to health promotion programmes), and that the most important reason for not using eGovernment tools was that the customers prefer personal contact. This got me thinking that if in some instances it is personal support that is valued by customers, then surely the key is to understand what it is that customers value most and then explore the options and cost implications to deliver the service. By enabling employees to easy access to the rules laid out by the company for example policies, processes and procedures using a simple knowledge portal: would release HR to provide more complex advice and focus on areas where ‘deep knowledge’ is required, and to be more innovative in its delivery of solutions. Taking the simple portal one step further HR could use tools such as ‘gamification’ to build capability and encourage collaboration.

  1. Strategic direction: leading the people agenda

It has long been said that in order to have an impact at Board Level, HR needs to ‘talk the talk’. Digital technologies that provide real time data, analytics and scenario planning provide HR with a solid foundation on which to base people based recommendations and decisions. Examples include those provided by Successfactors and Taleo that provide an integrated solution for people data to enable proactive management of people to deliver business results. The other element is ensuring that the people agenda is being embedded and can encourage employee empowerment, collaboration and engagement levels by utilizing technologies for a more ‘connected workforce’ regardless of any geographical, hierarchical or change challenges.
I believe that the human element of HR should not be missed, but that the function should invest in transforming in the right way by selecting and using the right tools which will add value to the business. This can be achieved by understanding both what the business desires in terms of value added through face to face interventions, and the opportunities for selecting the right digital tools which are easy to use and add insight to the business in order to achieve business results.