4 steps for digital success in the COVID-19 era

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the “future of work” is no longer a concept, says HR industry analyst Jason Averbook.

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“The future of work has smashed into this world of now,” Averbook, co-founder and CEO of Leapgen, said on an HR Technology Conference webinar this week. “We have to start thinking about ‘now’ in completely different ways than we have in the past.”

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Overnight shifts to virtual workplaces have reinforced the need for digital transformation of the HR function, which was already sorely missing from many organizations prior to the global health crisis, he noted. But now the case couldn’t be more clear–though, according to a live poll of audience members, few organizations are up to the challenge: Only 28% of respondents replied that their company had revised their digital people strategy for 2020 in light of the pandemic, while 48% said they hadn’t yet but know they need to; 15% acknowledged not having any digital people strategy.

Jason Averbook, Mercer
Jason Averbook

“If you haven’t revised your people strategy around digitization in 2020, that’s a problem,” Averbook said.

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Going forward, HR needs to take the lead–not IT–and focus first on writing, and rewriting, the strategies, which Averbook noted should now be done in “henna” and not permanent ink, given the rapid changes in the world of work. Then, it’s time to deploy, followed by efforts to sustain the strategy–which involves running, optimizing and innovating it, all in a circular pattern.

“If you haven’t revised your people strategy around digitization in 2020, that’s a problem”

Ultimately, the equation for digital success comes down to four elements, Averbook suggested:

  • Mindset/vision: Led by HR, the organization needs to fully embrace a digital experience and develop a clear vision for getting there. “So often, we’ve started with the technology and we don’t start with mindset,” Averbook said. “If you don’t, you won’t be successful in what you want to do from a tech standpoint.”
  • Process/journey: Business processes should be fully aligned around digitization, and all talent has to be on board with the shifts and how technology can best be leveraged to find digital success.
  • People/audience: The workforce needs to be engaged and excited about the digital journey–which goes back to mindset. “You have to adapt before your employees are going to adopt,” Averbook said.
  • Technology/solution: The last piece of the puzzle should be technology, Averbook said, and it needs to be designed to support both people and processes.

As HR leaders undertake all of these processes, they should bear in mind that the pandemic has changed the world of business forever–and those changes need to underpin digital transformation. For instance, Averbook said, everyone–both organizations and individuals–are becoming more accustomed to being agile and embracing rapid change, all while the need for empathy becomes clearer by the day.

“Humanity is more important than ever [for people and processes],” Averbook said. “So we have to double- and triple-down on [illustrating] humanity, while at the same time realize the days of static strategy are over.”

You can replay the webinar here.


Averbook plans to delve deeper into this topic later this year when he speaks at the annual HR Technology Conference and Exposition®.
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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected].