Digitalization is one of those buzzwords that you’ll hear a lot – along with machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), and automation. But what is digitalization – and how should HR departments be making use of it?
To put it simply, digitalization is the process of becoming a digital-led department (and company). It’s about using technology as a key part of day-to-day work. For an HR department, this can include things like making use of recruitment screening tools, cloud-based paperless payslip systems, or automating medical insurance claims.
But how do you begin adopting it?
Ask the right questions
The first thing to do is to make sure you know what you want out of HR digitalization and whether it’s right for you. Trying to digitalize just because it seems like something everyone else is doing won’t work. You need to understand what it can do for you. This must apply both to the HR department and the broader employee base. Good questions to consider include:
- Will this benefit the end-user, or will it make things more complicated?
- Will it add value to the business – either by increasing profits or decreasing expenditure in the long term?
- Do we have the staff we need to implement this?
- What is the timeframe for implementing it?
- How much budget do we have?
Having answers to these questions will put you in a good place to start the process, and lead you into our next point.
Set clear goals
There’s no use implementing something unless you know what you want out of it. Make sure to set clear goals, with markers for what counts as ‘success’. These should be focused on the outcome. You could set the goal of increasing the tech recruitment pool by a certain amount or successfully automating a repetitive data-entry task. Having a clear idea of what ‘success’ is will allow you to see if the process is working.
Collaborate with IT
When implementing new technology, it’s important to work with the IT department. This is even more important when managing a remote team! Having IT onboard means they’ll be aware of potential issues that could arise and able to resolve them quickly – without relying on someone from HR being available. Something that you can’t be certain of if they’re not in the same building.
Your IT department will also be able to advise you on how to implement things, and what sort of options are available. They’ll also be able to help you customize solutions to suit your workplace, and assist with any training provided.
It’s also worth considering hiring or promoting someone to act as a bridge between departments. A digitalization manager or consultant who can link IT and HR. As well as hiring or training a data analyst or two.
Choose the right technology
There are a lot of technology options available, and choosing the right one is key to success. It can also be quite a challenge! As mentioned, working with IT is important – they’ll almost certainly have advice on what options are suited to your needs. Some types of technology you might want to consider are:
- AI or machine learning algorithms for data processing
- Cloud-based solutions for important documentation
- Automation for data entry tasks
- Analytics on your workforce and their performance
- Interactive training
- Recruitment screening
It’s important to note that these technologies are not designed to replace employees but to enhance their work. Therefore, the technology you choose should be easy to understand and easy to train people on. It should also produce useful, practical results. For instance, data processing software needs to provide the end result in an understandable way, otherwise you are not gaining anything from implementing it.
Start with a pilot program
It can be tempting to try and digitalize everything at once, but it’s far better to take it slowly and trial a pilot program. This is particularly helpful for trying to get support for the endeavor. Being able to show one successful example of digitalization will help prove the value of the process.
Rather than trying to overhaul a whole system as a pilot, it’s better to choose a subset. That way, you can focus on what’s happening and have a point of comparison. For example, instead of trying to use a recruitment screening tool for all new recruitment, apply it to one job role. This way you can compare how it works to your normal hiring practice.
The same thing applies to learn management – you could trial interactive training for one particular course and see how it works, rather than overhaul the whole system.
Invest in training
Many employees will find digitalization difficult or worrying. That’s even if they’re used to using some tech, like video conferencing solutions, already. It’s important to invest in good training methods to increase their confidence. Part of this training should be a reassurance that digitalization is not a replacement for their role, but a tool for them to use.
Even simple things, such as accessing payslips online rather than on paper, may require training for some employees. Consider making dedicated resources available, and be willing to have one-on-one discussions with those struggling to pick it up.
As an HR department, you should have strong communication strategies in place already, and now is the time to make use of them. Gather feedback from anyone affected by new technologies – whether they’re using them, or interacting with others using them.
You might not get things right straight away, and assessing the feedback will let you see where problems are arising. As well as whether there are other areas you could digitalize. It’s much better to adjust things early, rather than trying to brute-force them into working!
Remember than digitalization is an ongoing process and reviews should be too. Both technology and the workforce are constantly evolving, and a truly digitalized HR team will be able to make the best use of both.
Sam O’Brien – RingCentral UK
Sam O’Brien is the Senior Website Optimisation & User Experience Manager for EMEA at RingCentral, a Global VoIP and Call Centre software provider. Sam has a passion for innovation and loves exploring ways to collaborate more with dispersed teams. He has written for websites such as MultiBriefs and Novatech. Here is his LinkedIn.