With many business processes undergoing digital transformation through analytics, social, mobile, and so on, with the popularity of HR automation, can the human resources department and talent management strategies be far behind?

In fact, CEOs are counting on their HR staff to do just that, reports Workforce. “As CEOs try to figure out how to adapt their talent strategies, they will rely on HR leaders to guide their path—but only if HR can demonstrate how their talent management programs can deliver measurable business benefits,” the publication writes.

According to PricewaterhouseCooper’s 17th annual global CEO survey, 93 percent of CEOs said they recognize the need to change their talent strategies. At the same time, almost two-thirds of them have failed to make those changes.  Why? Because, according to the survey, “only 34 percent of CEOs feel that HR is well prepared to capitalize on transformational trends, and 9 percent say it is not prepared at all,” Workforce writes.

“HR needs to become digital to attract, retain and engage talent in a digital world,” writes Jan Brouwer, Capgemini’s senior vice president for HR Transformation, in his presentation, Creating Value With Digital HR. This falls into four main areas:

  • Talent acquisition
  • Talent management
  • Engagement
  • Compensation and benefits

To become digital, HR functions need to take advantage of the same technologies as the rest of the company. Take mobility. While some people still apply for jobs via a desktop computer, many use a tablet or a smartphone. “Some 28 percent of Americans–including 53 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds—have used a smartphone in one way or another as part of a job search,” reports the Pew Research Center in its study, Searching for Work in the Digital Era. Job websites, as well as the job application itself, need to support mobile users, writes Luke Siuty for Workforce.

“Job seekers are increasingly using digital channels and devices to search for jobs,” Brouwer writes. “An organization’s presence across digital channels has a strong impact on job seeker preferences.” At the same time, companies can use digital channels to help define and enhance the corporate brand, which makes it easier to attract talent in a competitive world, he adds.

Taking advantage of technology

And just like corporate and customer apps need to be as easy and intuitive as people’s personal apps, HR apps do as well, according to Bersin by Deloitte lead author Josh Bersin in the Predictions for 2016 research report. “It is our job to design HR apps (e.g., recruiting, onboarding, learning, performance, feedback, communication, time and attendance, expenses, payroll, etc.) that are as easy to use as Facebook or Instagram,” he declares. “You should be thinking ‘all of my HR programs are apps.’”

Thinking of HR functionality in the context of applications makes it easier to think of them in terms of process and workflow. Perhaps more than any other department, HR depends on document-driven processes to get things done. Core HR functions that can be improved with HR automation include:

  • Timesheets. Send regular reminder emails for employees to review their timesheets
  • Benefits. Track when employees become eligible for benefits enrollment
  • Health and safety. Send update emails to floor monitors when an employee leaves the organization or moves to a new floor
  • Employee recruitment. Automatically store applications submitted online and assign them to a recruiter for review
  • Employee onboarding. Send confidentiality agreements, waivers and other forms to new hires and store them once completed
  • Tax forms. Facilitate the distribution of W2s and other tax documents with employee email reminders
  • Employee records management. Retain employee records according to government regulations

HR is also starting to take advantage of human resources management software built on technologies such as analytics, big data, and the Internet of Things for functions ranging from understanding why employees are stressed to predicting which potential future employees might be ready to leave their current employers, Bersin writes. “Today we measure retention, turnover, compensation, and quality of hire,” he writes. “Soon we will measure people’s social networks, their behaviors, their locations, and maybe even their heartbeats.”

Building a culture of continuous improvement

And in the same way that developers are moving from waterfall to agile, organizations are also moving away from traditional once- or twice-yearly performance evaluations to programs of continuous improvement. In a public survey Deloitte conducted recently, more than half the executives surveyed (58 percent) believe that their current performance management approach drives neither employee engagement nor high performance.

Companies that have eliminated annual performance reviews include Accenture, Adobe, Deloitte, the Gap, KPMG, Medivo, and Microsoft—altogether, about six percent of Fortune 500 companies.

In fact, 45 percent of HR leaders said they believe annual performance reviews are not an accurate appraisal of an employee’s work, Brouwer writes. Instead, organizations are moving to digital tools such as crowdsourcing to develop more accurate perceptions of employees, according to the Capgemini study, Using Digital Tools to Unlock HR’s True Potential.

Improving engagement

The other side of the employee performance evaluation coin is employee engagement. Engaged employees are motivated employees, and employees that stick around even in a competitive market. Consequently, HR departments are looking for ways to measure and improve employee engagement, Bersin writes, with 86 percent of companies rating culture and engagement a top priority in 2015, he adds. Similarly, “workplace culture and behaviors” came in second only to “focusing on pipeline of future leaders” as something CEOs were changing to attract and retain talent, according to PricewaterhouseCooper’s 19th global CEO survey.

So in the same way that the annual performance review is going away in favor of continuous improvement, the annual employee survey is too. “Pulse survey tools, anonymous social networking tools, sentiment analysis tools, and a variety of culture assessment models are now available to help,” Bersin writes. “The trend is toward letting employees ‘Like’ and ‘Yelp’ things at work—and this process gives us valuable data about work practices, safety situations, customer service issues, and, of course, management.”

In fact, in the same way that the CIO can shift from being the “chief infrastructure officer” to “chief innovation officer,” using technology to upgrade HR can move the HR officer from essentially administrative tasks to being a real partner in unleashing a company’s human capital, write Ram Charan,   Dominic Barton, and Dennis Carey in Harvard Business Review.

Ultimately, these developments mean that a digital HR will be working with employees the same way that organizations as a whole endeavor to work with their customers: gaining information about them to better gauge their needs and respond to their wishes. The goal, then, is that the company will be rewarded, whether it’s with good sales or productive employees.

If you’re interested in learning how HR processes can be digitized, check out this free eBook on HR automation.

Ultimate Guide to HR Automation

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