Here’s what HR needs to focus on to find digital success

HR Tech keynoter Jason Averbook describes how HR can become 'the single most powerful function in the enterprise.'
By: | July 9, 2021

The events of the last year have at times been like something out of a movie—and, in the world of work, the next scenes and the ultimate ending will be entirely written by HR professionals, says Jason Averbook, founder and CEO of Leapgen.

The industry analyst, who will share his perspective on reinventing organizational purpose during this fall’s HR Tech Conference, says the “movie called 2021” is exploring the new “now” of work, a shift fueled by the digital transformation many organizations underwent in the last year. It’s up to HR, he says, to ensure their companies sustain and maximize the value of that transformation.

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“It’s time to take action,” he says, “and make digital transformation the business accelerant it really is.”

Averbook recently shared how companies—led by HR—need to shift their mindsets around digital strategy in order to thrive.

HRE: How have the events of the last year impacted how you personally think about tech’s role in the future of HR?

Jason Averbook

Averbook: The dual pandemics of 2020—the public health pandemic along with the social justice pandemic—have been the greatest digital accelerants of our lifetime. Digital transformation has never been about technology, not really. Transforming the way we work—true, sustained transformation—means work won’t look the same. It also means transformation is never done since you learn to live in a continuous improvement cycle of measuring, optimizing, adjusting and evolving.

Technology will always be the enabler of experience. It’s the only way to drive personalization and experience at scale. When we talk about “humanizing” technology, we’re really talking about making the experience personalized and relevant—and carefully considering the intersection of people and machines, or what I like to call “humanate.” Allowing technology to play its right and proper role when it comes to automation, intelligent workflows, artificial intelligence, listening and prescribing actions and improved service through bots means human beings will do the kind of work they ought to do. This is the role of technology in the future of HR: changing work for good by humanizing work forever.

HRE: At last year’s virtual HR Tech Conference, what would have been your one prediction for the pandemic’s impact on HR tech? How does that compare to today?

Averbook: My one prediction from last year on HR tech that would hold true today is that organizations around the world would have to reprioritize, reset and reimagine the world of employee experience on a broad level. Last year’s virtual show was still a bit of a reality check for most; we had begun to recognize and appreciate the silver linings of remote work, digital events, online communities and workforce solutions to drive engagement and productivity in the digital realm. I think most of us appreciated the flexibility of it all—work on our terms, travel on our terms, connect on our terms. But we didn’t really have a choice yet, did we? Now that all of that is still true and we’ve introduced choice back into the equation, work, life and business can truly be designed on our terms.

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This is the huge opportunity of HR technology: to support the new realities of the Now of Work. It’s an even greater opportunity than I could have imagined, and there are new entrants to the market. The category is bigger than ever with lots of innovative solutions now suddenly seeing the opportunity in delivering workforce services and experience.

HRE: You’ve said that transformation should be constant—how do you think most HR leaders today realistically think about transformation?

Averbook: HR leaders are still learning how to unlearn. Most HR leaders think of transformation as buying a new piece of technology versus truly changing how work is done to drive pre-determined measures of success. We’re a business function steeped in tradition, old practices and methodologies, and (we have) a worn reputation within the enterprise. If I told you HR is the single most powerful function in the enterprise, you’d be hesitant to agree, if not surprised. When HR professionals begin to think of themselves as stewards of workforce experience for the benefit of driving business outcomes, they become the most impactful function in the organization.

This is a huge mindset shift. It will take all of us to embrace this new mindset and opportunity, but HR has now been handed its biggest opportunity to drive transformation of the function, the workforce, even across the enterprise. We’re already seeing it happen.

See also: Why better tech tools are vital for deskless workers

HRE: What role does technology play in making more human workplaces?

Averbook: Only a thriving workforce can sustain a thriving business. The experience they expect is well beyond what most organizations are delivering, and the chasm will only widen as digital acceleration continues to advance the Now of Work.

The Now of Work demands a whole-person approach to redesigning work. Technology has the opportunity to fuel experience at scale, to bridge connection chasms, to help employers listen to workforce sentiment and to help collect and reveal the insights we need to better know our workforce. Technology is just a part of the digital equation for success, but we can’t sustain a movement to humanize workforce experience for good without it.


Register here for the HR Tech Conference, being held Sept. 28-Oct. 1 in Las Vegas.

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 hreletters@lrp.com.