Why we need to embrace digital HR

Andy Boulton discusses why Digital HR is not an option, but a necessity – and what a digital HR solution has to offer users

By Andy Boulton | 13 November 2018

You may feel you’ve heard the term ‘digital transformation’ discussed a lot. Maybe too much, and you couldn’t be blamed for feeling a little IT industry hype fatigue.

But while you may feel slightly jaundiced about the term, the trend it describes – and the dynamic change and benefits around efficiency the term summarises – are real, and in many company’s cases acutely needed.

Unfortunately, business is not making as much progress in turning the idea of digital transformation – the embracing of new ways of working predicated on paperless and digital processes – from slogan into business reality. A recent CapGemini survey, for example, confirms making an organisation work at friction-free speed has turned out to be more complicated than people originally thought: for example, 39% of business leaders today think their digital capabilities are still only at the same level as they were in 2012.

A key process that seems to have specific issues in digitally powering up is that of the Human Resources (HR) function. While Finance, Production and other key company departments have converted to digital working methods, HR is still something of a Cinderella when it comes to leveraging digital power. It may even be not far from the truth to say HR departments often bring up the rear in companies when it comes to the level of digitisation.

Why has this happened? Instead of developing personnel and Human Capital Management strategy at the top level for the organisation, too many HR practitioners end up being bogged down with administrative and manual tasks, like searching for and providing documents as well as the management of sensitive employee data.

That’s a problem, because investment hasn't been made available to support what is a complex function, even while the rules around HR compliance are getting increasingly complicated. Then there are the expectations of your employees: if your new hires are digital natives and you ask them to work with 10-year old technology, poor online access and no social media, then you face a problem. Millennials expect to be up and running as soon as they turn up for their induction session, and they’re going to struggle with paper and not having their questions answered immediately.

That makes sense when you think about it, as that’s really how we all live now; as consumers, we demand the instant answer. So HR is under real pressure to meet a lot of expectations. The route of travel has to be that the HR function needs to go from administrative focus to digital strategist, and sooner rather than later. What would that look like in practice? You’re going to have to have a single, unified, electronic and properly-structured HR Management System, HR leaders on the other side of the switch to digital tell us.

Signposts to success

To achieve this look for a solution that offers a highly responsive user interface and intuitive operation in order to make working with and searching for information as easy as possible. You’re also going to want to need a system that manages standard tasks – such as providing information from the HR management system for managers, or access for employees to their own management system – quickly and securely at the click of a mouse (or a thumbprint on a smartphone).

The software also needs to provide a centralised way to securely view all relevant HR information. That’s because – GDPR being just one factor here – data security is a vital concern, as all of the information and documents which do not belong to individual personnel systems or individual employees will need to be stored securely.

Web-based access is also a must, while the option for revision-proof archiving of information and documents, as well as for intelligent mechanisms to control the archiving of documents flexibly and on the document type and time, are highly desirable. For example, pay and salary statements should be stored in an archive as a print data import and later be addressable in your new digital HR management system.

Equally as important is the fact that slick on and off-boarding management controls for the hiring and departure of employees are an important feature of any convincing paperless, 21st century, HR system. And these need to be seamlessly integrated. A system that can  manage the business processes subdivided into sub-processes and tasks in accordance with the company’s individual requirements, as well as provisioning responsibilities and deadlines, is going to save you a lot of time.

Why you need to do this: it’s the brands nimble enough to digitally establish and present themselves as a modern employer that will have the edge, as the Class of 2018, and beyond, enters into the job market.

You can also clearly offer great support for employees and cover off all your compliance needs around HR with less hassle for all parties. And if you've got information held digitally, moving your key people around to where they can have a bigger impact is so much easier, as you can identify what their skill levels are and where their skills can be put to best use.

For these and so many other reasons, digitisation of HR must become a top priority for CEOs, FDs, Sales Managers and HR teams. So get serious about digital transformation and digitise your HR now, as it’s the best way to get your HR function up to where it needs to be.

The author is CEO at Enterprise Content Management specialist EASY SOFTWARE UK

 The issues discussed here are also looked at in more depth in a special new EASY white paper, ‘Realising HR’s Digital Transformation Ambitions’, available here

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