At our ReimagineHR summit in London on Thursday, CEB (now Gartner) Principal Executive Advisor Clare Moncrieff led a session on creating a common vision of digitalization for the business and HR. After examining hundreds of trends, our research councils serving chief HR officers and chief information officers have identified six deep shifts in the business environment that will result from digitalization. These shifts should act as the framework for heads of HR to:
- Ensure talent conversations with the line are grounded in business context
- Identify the current talent implications of these shifts, project future implications, and partner with the line and C-suite peers to prioritize and respond to each
- Improve their teams’ business acumen (to underscore the importance of this, 58 percent of HR business partners indicated in one of our surveys that building business acumen was their top development goal in 2017)
(The case studies we link to below are available exclusively to CEB Corporate Leadership Council members)
1) Demand Grows More Personal
As customers seek personalized products that align with their preferences and values as individuals (rather than as segments), companies will rely on digital channels and digital innovations in logistics and customer service to achieve personalization at scale. Customers will continue to expect lower-effort, nonintrusive service.
This could, for example, affect how HR functions look for new talent. Attraction of critical talent now requires differentiated, customized branding and career coaching. Candidates will demand a more effortless, personalized application experience. AT&T approached this shift by creating a more personalized “Experience Weekend” to show the innovation of its brand to campus candidates and make top talent more likely to accept job offers.
In a recent interview with Mike Pokopeak of CLO, McKinsey’s Deputy CLO and COO of Learning and Development Ashley Williams discussed how the increasing digitization of companies has changed her job, and the impact it has had on L&D and the professional services sector in general:
I used to say three years ago sort of proudly, “Well, I’m not the technology person so I can’t tell you about X or Y in the learning space” and play ignorant but I said, “You know what, I can’t do that anymore.” That’s not actually kosher anymore for me being in the role and all of us in senior learning roles. It’s not kosher for me to say I don’t really understand the technology or the effect the technology is having. …
[I]t’s not acceptable anymore as a learning professional for anyone to be saying somebody else does that … because it’s just becoming so interwoven in what we do. Whether it’s mobile or any other thing, it’s just now a part of what we need to understand and build into our L&D strategies.
Another interesting point Williams makes is that diversity and inclusion are driving the digital transformation of L&D as well, because companies “can’t continue to have one journey in the firm for one type of profile of folks. We have got to diversify and do a better job of understanding all the needs of profiles in the firm.”
What Williams highlights in this interview is an important aspect of the increasingly central roles technology and digital talent are playing in all different industries. Every business function is becoming more dependent on digital technologies, and this is especially true of learning and development, which must adapt its techniques to the demands of the digital learner. As we’ve found in our research at CEB (now Gartner), today’s learners, particularly younger employees who are accustomed to having information readily available at their fingertips, demand learning tools that are easy to find when they need them and deliver relevant, applicable knowledge without wasting their time.
Two of the most important trends in HR today are the growing importance of technology within the HR function and its increasingly strategic role within the organization. In fact, a new survey from Paychex finds that these trends are closely linked, Nick Otto reports at Employee Benefit News:
According to the inaugural Paychex Pulse of HR Survey, more than two-thirds of HR leaders at small and mid-sized companies say they have grown beyond serving a traditional administrative function to taking on a more strategic role within their respective organizations. And technology is helping to drive that shift. A growing number of HR leaders (41%) are meeting with their CEO or CFO — or both — on a weekly basis, according to the survey, while close to one-third have access to top management when they need it.
Three-quarters of respondents said that HR technology has enabled them to become more strategic and efficient on the job. In addition, 60% of respondents considered their HR technology to be very effective for payroll, retirement and benefits administration, and time and attendance tracking, indicating they feel that technology is allowing them to maximize their effectiveness when it comes to the administration of critical business functions.
These findings are great news for HR leaders, and not at all surprising; new technologies are driving innovation and disruption in every facet of the working world, and HR is no exception. Technology is a key factor driving the increasing pace of change, which challenges HR to keep the workforce aligned. Furthermore, with digital talent playing an ever more important role in shaping the organizations of the future, a strategy-focused HR function is a vital parter in preparing any organization for a digital transformation.