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Are you starting on your digital transformation? Are you worried about being left behind? Does it look like other companies have done it before you?

The world we used to work in
Sometimes, it’s fun to remember how things used to be. Remember Marathons and Opal Fruits, Chopper bikes and Cabbage Patch Kids. You know, the good old days. Those were a wonderful part of my history. But I can’t say that I think about them very often now.

When I first started working, we used to get new employee ID numbers from huge books that contained all the numbers pre-written on them.  It was a fascinating, documented history of our company that you won’t get now.

At the same time e-mail was beginning. I was given an email address, my own computer with login and access to a range of new (to me) computer programs.  It seems incredible to think now that there were employees who didn’t have email addresses (not even personal ones) and no way to access information.  This was before mobile phones could do everything, and everyone had one!

And of course, it’s not just work that’s changed but how the rest of life works too. Can you remember a time when you had to go into a bank to do everything and you had no choice but to go to a supermarket to do your food shopping?  Stopping to look back, you can see how far we’ve come in twenty years. Even in the past five.

Where are we today
With all this change in the world, it’s easy to believe that others are not only more advanced but also to think they have completed and moved on to the next thing.  But have they?

Gartner’s 2019 HR priorities study details that 67% of business leaders agreed that ‘If my company does not become more significantly digitalised by 202, it will no longer be competitive.’

This indicates two things:
>We can’t stop wherever we are in the journey.  There is always more to do.
>If we haven’t started, we need to.

In my day-to-day work, I spend a lot of time talking to a variety of organisations. These range in size, industry, and digital transformation stages. They tend to have one of two responses (or sometimes a combination) when faced with a digital challenge:

1.Improving what they already have.
2.Adding new technology.

Improving what you already have is the way of the world now. We are continually reaching and striving. Once you’ve lived with a tech and discovered its benefits or limitations you can usually refine what you need – a bit more of this or a bit less of that.  The point is we continue to learn, change and evolve.

Improving is also influenced by the push-pull of what our customers and colleagues need from us.  Technology is ever evolving so what employees and customers experience in their personal lives can influence their expectations and demands for the workplace. 

Alternatively, it’s easy to get into a rut.  This culminates to a point where radical change may be required to stay both in the game and ahead of the competition. That’s where adding new technology comes in.  Does ‘We’ve never had a learning management system’ or ‘We manage our customer relationships on a spreadsheet and that’s not sustainable’.  Sound familiar to you?

On the face of it, these seem like systems that should already be in place, but quite often we’re muddling through without a piece of tech or old ways of working that don’t fulfil our needs.  There’s a never-ending list of reasons why this might be the case:

> some people like the current non-tech process;
> it does part of the job quite well;
> affordability of a new one; or
> we don’t have the time

to name a few.

But as the technology has evolved so has understanding around what can help embed technology in an organisation and what’s required to support the culture and people who are using it.  Unintended consequences are a part of disruption and change but doing something about them and embracing the learnings are key for everyone to progress.  You never have to look far to find some of these, but all too often it’s finding the time, asking the questions and being honest about the answers that stands in our way. 

It doesn’t have to be this way
You can help yourself, by remembering that not everyone has everything figured out.  Look around and take the time to identify what has and hasn’t worked in recent changes. 

Automation and new technologies are not slowing down, but if anything, speeding up. “83% of early AI adopters have already achieved substantial (30%) or moderate (53%) economic benefits (Deloitte)
What can make this transition easier is breaking it into smaller more manageable pieces.  There will still be some disruption, but there are more opportunities with small system implementations. 

Employees are effective users of a wide range of personal technology. There is almost an unwritten expectation that they will use technology to perform their day to day jobs. That’s their starting point. They use many programmes and applications almost without thinking and it has enabled flexibility and connectivity – allowing people to work together even if they are miles apart.

And here is the key point – HR has a critical role to play in ensuring that these changes filter through the organisation. Embrace the disruption as it leads to evolution – which will set you free.

Louise Rogers, CEO – Human Resources Intelligence

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