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HR professionals must help shape digital future

15th Jun 2017
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With practitioners increasingly harnessing human capital management as a fair and accurate way to appraise, deploy and reward staff, the HR industry is finally entering the digital age. But like all systems, human capital management implementations are only as good as the data that goes into the system: therefore, HR professionals must embrace the chance to shape their organisation's digital strategy.

From data records and documents, to communications and emails, HR departments are already reaping the rewards of digital strategies. However, across key areas such as recruitment, training, disciplinary, appraisals, career planning and health & safety, there remains a considerable challenge in dealing with multiple information sources and systems, while keeping such insight accessible, secure and up-to-date. Therein lies the key to an HR strategy that can cope with all the emerging issues of the modern workplace, while nurturing the best talent that new generations offer.

Building this enlightened digital strategy, which gives executives across all departments a 360 degree organisational overview and allow significant improvements in workflow, should not be dismissed as an issue for IT or the chief technology officer. If HR directors want to build a system that reflects the needs of their profession, they must rise to the challenge and take the lead in designing it. Technologically, this is not as difficult as many fear.

Human capital management, and the measurement of achievements and needs that goes alongside it, will be at the core of this HR-designed system. Alongside it will sit strategies of workflow optimisation, which take into account individual people on the frontline of business in almost real time, with the goal of ensuring a smooth deployment of human resource wherever needed.

While the individual workflow elements of a digital strategy can go far beyond the traditional HR realm of recruitment, training, disciplinary, appraisals, career planning and health & safety, it will be necessary to bring all of these individual areas onto a single central digital platform, in order to provide the information management resource from which to carry out more advanced workflow and employee lifecycle management functions.

The sheer number of documents generated within an organisation has expanded dramatically as the requirements of the likes of health & safety, employment law and employers' desire for advanced compliance and control have increased. But far from being mere red tape, this data is also at the heart of the intelligence required to give executives an overview of the workings of the human side of their company. In order to do that, information must be available on a single system that allows all data to be accessed, viewed and mined. This can be achieved using an enterprise information platform, capable of dealing with a multitude of document formats, across a single solution.

Using such a hub, which can be tailored within an organisation by key users and without recourse to IT specialists, HR teams can take control of their data and start to build a digital strategy without the need for a major IT overhaul. Instead, managers will be encouraged to seek their own efficiencies, which are not only often the best outcomes but also have the best uptake because key staff have a strong buy-in and involvement with the system.

This system, created organically by those who will ultimately use it at a strategic or managerial level, will enable the automation of the simpler administrative tasks within the HR department, such as filling out forms and co-ordinating incidental procedures. It frees practitioners to take an overall view of the workforce in the full confidence that no-one will be left out of training, or regular assessments, opportunities and feedback.

With these important functions scheduled and flagged automatically, employees can also be empowered to manage some of their own data: self-service portals are becoming increasingly popular both among organisations – who save on admin – and among workers who now often prefer to manage their own personal details in their own time, from their preferred digital device.

These portals are particularly useful at the onboarding stage, allowing new employees to provide information and documentation before they even start, leaving their first day free for meaningful human introductions. This efficient system, which the employee will then be comfortable using throughout their employment, helps ease those crucial early days and therefore encourages staff retention and loyalty.

Such solutions are particularly appealing to Millennials who have grown up in a digital world where the use of smart devices and social media is the norm. As well as a flexible approach to work, they value professional development and regular feedback and encouragement, while perceived inefficiencies in the onboarding process or access to information have been shown to be a major turn-off for this group.

Enterprise information platforms also make it possible to deal with the unconventional work schedules, contracts and careers now sought by a growing number of workers, where every possible need of staff – from help relocating to suitable networking and development opportunities – can be anticipated and catered for online.

As far as most HR professionals are concerned, this represents an enlightened step forward, which allows their own skills to come to the fore. Ambitious and IT-knowledgeable HR managers are already taking this process to its logical next step – one which gives them a role at the very core of an organisation as they offer advanced workflow management, while nurturing and deploying top talent to create a way of working far more efficient and controlled than has previously been imaginable.

With the previously time-consuming management of legal risks and compliance issues largely carried out by a single enterprise information platform that not only logs and stores all records but schedules checks and flags any matter that has not been attended to, the HR team can become a catalyst for driving productivity, seeking out and developing talent, and building a workforce that is ambitious, skilled and motivated.


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