4 Steps to Creating a Successful Digital-HR Strategy

By: | April 19, 2019 • 3 min read
Jason Averbook is HRE’s People Side of Digital columnist. Averbook is a leading analyst, thought leader and consultant in the area of HR, the future of work and the impact technology have on that future. He is the co-founder and CEO of Leapgen, a global consultancy helping organizations shape their future workplace by broadening executive mindset to rethink how to better design and deliver employee services that meet the expectations of the workforce and the needs of the business. Averbook will be speaking at the HR Technology Conference & Exposition China in Shanghai, May 14 through 15, and HR Festival Asia in Singapore, May 8 through 9, as well as the HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas, Oct. 1 through 4. He can be emailed at [email protected]

The world of digital transformation is upon us, and it touches every facet of our organizations, from technology to finance to human resources. As an HR executive contemplating the digital transformation of your workforce, your approaches are being challenged in the best ways possible. Every process comes under scrutiny, and every technology decision is placed under the microscope as the world outside of work continues to change at a faster pace than that inside of work. At the same time, the expectations of your workforce have never been higher. “Digital natives” are asking questions like, “Why do we do it that way?” and “Is there an easier way to get work done?”

Digital transformation is the culmination of the perfect storm; its ingredients are a new era of work, a new breed of workers, continually changing technology and evolving expectations for our tools. This requires a different approach to how we, as HR technologists, think about our domain. HR leaders and colleagues need to understand the difference between digital and technology and take a fresh look at the role HR needs to play to be successful in today’s world.

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Leapgen surveyed a number of global enterprises last year, finding that three out of four respondents had no unified digital-HR strategy. That is, the digital strategy wasn’t being thought of distinctly—separate from an HR strategy, a technology strategy or even a combined HR-technology strategy. And if there was one, it wasn’t embraced across the enterprise and aligned with the needs of the business. Without a digital-HR strategy, you risk making reactive technology investments. You create or continue a disjointed worker experience and suffer process inefficiencies. You increase your exposure and compliance risk. You’re simply not competitive. When that happens, we tend to throw more technology at the problem, wondering why the tech doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do or produce meaningful analytics we can tie to business outcomes.

Creating and implementing an effective digital-HR strategy begins with an important and critical difference: A digital-HR strategy ends with technology. It begins with mindset; with consideration for the people affected by transformation, using the tools and completing the work to be done; and with a fresh approach to the processes designed to produce the desired outcome.

Mindset is nothing more than a unified vision. Organizations need a clear and concise vision statement that everyone knows, everyone could repeat if asked and to which every function’s individual goals are aligned. Without it, you might as well envision every function building a single room of a house without seeing the master blueprint for the entire house.

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After alignment around mindset, you can start designing workforce strategy with people in mind. This is the lo-fi, inspired, creative, design-thinking phase, and you create this strategy with the personas of your workforce at its heart. What is the best experience you can possibly deliver? Do this before process redesign, before change management and certainly before technology transformation occurs, or you will let preconceived notions of what those things can deliver limit your imagination around what’s truly possible. Technology doesn’t determine strategy; your tools should be configured or selected to meet your strategic business objectives—or they’re not the right tools.

In the third phase, you begin the work of reimagining your processes. There’s a critical, often-missed step here. We remix processes to support a frictionless experience that will meet the needs of your workforce and produce the desired outcomes. But analytics and data need to be desired outcomes; otherwise, you will have done throwaway work and created an experience and transformation that can’t be measured. That which can’t be measured can’t be optimized.

This leads us finally to technology. When you’ve done the previous steps thoughtfully, you will find yourself in a position of selecting, implementing or optimizing an anti-fragile technology foundation that allows for agility; that produces meaningful analytics tied to outcomes the business cares about; and that supports your strategy, not the other way around.

These are the tenets of turning your HR-technology strategy into a digital-HR strategy, and it’s critical that these steps are performed in this order. This is how you build a workforce experience that will stand the test of time and that will bring your organization through and beyond the digital age. I’ll be talking more about these concepts at this year’s HR Technology Conference in October, where I hope you’ll join me.