Does HR Deserve its Stake in the Digital Board Room?

The global workforce is in crisis. The shortage of talent, demands of four unique generations, virtual teams and continuous changes in legislation – all of these forces have created a perfect storm as organizations look to build a productive and engaged workforce. All this is occurring at a time when companies themselves are facing massive upheaval due to digital disruption permeating every corner of the business world.

Job seekers are also facing disruption, with fears of redundancy and displacement due to AI, ever-changing skill set requirements and increasing numbers turning to gig work, all of which are influencing workforces to become disparate, disconnected and increasingly unproductive. Further, the power dynamic is shifting in the job market, with digitally skilled (and often young) workers in the driving seat. In what is now a seller’s market for talent, organizations need to not only source, recruit and onboard talent quickly, but also display an attractive and enticing culture for would-be associates.

At the center of this storm is HR. HR now has a seat at the table, but with the eyes of the C-suite firmly upon it, is HR up to the challenge in its current guise? Many would say not. The data indicates that HR is still bogged down in administrative and transactional activities that suck the lifeblood out of the function, and for the workers having to deal with HR, the frustration is apparent, with the majority rating HR performance poorly.

A New Age for HR

So what is going to pull HR out of the dark ages and enable it to provide an engaged, inspired and fluid workforce that organizations so desperately require? Is the stereotypical image of the HR “green screen” still a reality?

Well, as we enter the second machine age, the answer seems obvious. HR needs to be augmented by digital tools that empower HR professionals to focus on the strategic aspects of talent acquisition and management. Organizations today need to focus just as much on digitally enabling their workforce as they do their customers. HR departments need to be able to deliver a standardized user experience that is personalized, transparent and available anytime anywhere.

The toolsets to do this are available in abundance (think of the usual suspects of SAP SuccessFactors and Workday), but HR technology is going further and is now moving beyond social, mobile, analytics and cloud technologies (the SMAC stack). Artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, predictive/prescriptive analytics and augmented reality are all beginning to make their presence felt in the HR value chain.

Fundamentally, the solution cannot be purely technology focused. HR now needs to rethink and adapt its processes and culture to fit with not only this new breed of HR tech but also by changing company cultures and workers.

The Complete Picture

As companies get to grips with a limited talent supply and more complex business environments (due to the impact of digital), it is paramount to attract, retain and increase the productivity and longevity of talent. The failure to do so will leave businesses vulnerable to competitive forces in the market and ultimately stifle the revenue and margin gains made possible by digital. The question is, to what extent do organizations see the value in cutting-edge HR technologies and new processes? To what degree are they adopting these new tools and approaches? Are they seen as gimmicks, or are they viewed as a critical component to delivering on business objectives through effective talent management?

Organizations need to think about how these objectives can be met through the application of digital HR. By combining connected employees through technology with HR processes that facilitate the modern workforce, organizations will become optimized for collaboration, innovation, productivity and employee well-being. These outcomes will ultimately define HR and cement its place in the C-suite.