Are You Digitally Mature?

By: | March 13, 2018 • 3 min read
David Shadovitz is editor of HRE. He is also co-chair of the HR Tech Conference and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. He can be reached at [email protected]

Every corner of the organization is being disrupted by technology—and, as a recent study titled Global Leadership Forecast 2018: 25 Research Insights to Fuel Your People Strategy reminds us, HR is no exception.

The research, jointly produced by DDI, The Conference Board and EY, includes a number of troubling findings, but few are as disturbing as the report’s contention that HR lags behind other parts of the organization when it comes to digital competence.

According to the study of 25,812 business leaders and 2,547 HR professionals at 2,488 organizations worldwide, the above finding shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to HR leaders. About 70 percent of the HR respondents recognized there was an increased need to “up their game” as far as HR technology and analytics are concerned. Further, 56 percent of them report they are under increased pressure to demonstrate the financial impact of what they do, which undeniably requires a better grasp of analytics.

As the researchers appropriately point out, there’s a big difference between acknowledging a problem exists and taking steps to address it. Asked how prepared they were to tackle different aspects of today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) work environment, the HR respondents sadly lagged behind their peers in all seven categories. But it was particularly disturbing to see how pronounced the gap was when it came to HR’s ability to function in a highly digital environment—16 percent for HR leaders, compared to 37 percent for all leaders. (The HR leaders also trailed their peers by a 40-percent margin when it came to using data to drive their decision making.)

That’s not to say HR leaders aren’t deepening their knowledge in these areas. As the sessions at last October’s HR Tech Conference confirmed, they most certainly are. But the point the researchers are making—and maybe appropriately so—is that HR simply isn’t keeping up with the pace of change that’s occurring today.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that Eva Sage-Gavin’s inaugural HR Leadership column also tackles the subject of digital disruption. (Sage-Gavin is a former chief HR officer with more than three decades of experience at Fortune 500 companies. A senior managing director at Accenture, she recently took over the column from Susan Meisinger, who did an amazing job during the past seven years.)

Reflecting on what lies ahead for employers and the HR profession, Sage-Gavin suggests it’s nothing short of a “tidal wave of disruption as the marketplace deals with unparalleled velocity and the effect of nimbler, more digitally savvy companies that are unencumbered by legacy processes and technology quickly dominating established players.”

She points out that the top skills companies are in pursuit of today will change drastically by as soon as 2020, thanks to automation.

“As leaders, we’ll need to tap into innovations emerging from HR tech start-ups,” Sage-Gavin writes. “This could mean leveraging AI-based algorithms to predict the skills we’ll need and screen for them (even skills like learning agility), or smart digital ‘coaches’ to give our employees real-time, data-based feedback to help them learn and grow. We’ll also need to leverage talent sources ‘on demand,’ assembling teams fluidly based on fluctuating needs.”

If you haven’t already, I suggest you check out Sage-Gavin’s full column online. She does a superb job capturing the many and varied ways technology can help transform today’s HR department. But even more importantly, I believe HR leaders would be well-served were they to ask themselves the question, “Where do I and my HR department stand on the digital-maturity spectrum?”

I’m sure some HR leaders will be pleased with how far they and their departments have come. But for those who continue to lag—which I’m guessing might be most—there’s no better time to do something about it than the present, since the pace of change isn’t likely to let up anytime soon.

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