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7. September 2020

The Path to Successful HR Transformation – 4 Key Elements for Success

Erfolgreiche HR Transformation setzt das Commitment der Mitarbeiter voraus.

Digital transformation is a fundamental prerequisite for financial success. But this transformation is set to fail if it isn’t supported by competent, committed employees. The key element is people skills. We’ll tell you how HR managers can use this “superpower” successfully and why there are as many as four decisive factors for the success or failure of this mission.

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The corona pandemic has acted as a powerful catalyst for companies’ digitalization. All of a sudden, digitalization has mutated from a “nice-to-have” to a “must-have.” Digital transformation has evolved from a means to simply maximize profits to a crucial factor that will determine companies’ future viability. This process revolves around the question of how companies can secure their long-term viability.

Above all else, the digital transformation is about people.

Harvard Business Review, 2020

Seen from this perspective, the digital transformation is primarily an HR issue. It is about people, about the ability to adapt, about leaders who are able to guide employees through times of change. “Setting up a team comprised of experts in technology, data and processes and guided by a strong leader is the most important step companies can take on their path towards digital transformation,” according to the Harvard Business Review.

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HR departments are therefore confronted with challenges on various levels. They need to:

  1. Ensure that employees are able to adapt quickly to new circumstances

  2. Enable rapid changes of course by setting up agile teams and processes

  3. Make strategic, forward-thinking HR decisions based on valid data

  4. Provide seamless operational HR processes to free up time and capacity for implementing these initiatives

In a way, HR departments play a dual role in this process, as they need to drive their own HR transformation to support the digital transformation throughout the rest of their companies (click here to read our guide to organizational development). But how to approach digital transformation? The following four steps are your keys to success in this mission.

Key #1: Get Your Employees Ready for the Future

Are smart technologies the first thing to comes to mind when you think about innovation? That’s only appropriate, but it’s still only half the story. After all, even the most brilliant piece of technology is of absolutely no use if nobody on the team knows how to use it to add value. As technology competence profiles change continually, focusing on soft skills is key! Employ curious, flexible people who are able to acquire “hard skills” quickly, and develop them within your teams. Almost more important in the process is leadership. You’ll need the right managers to implement your digital transformation successfully – people who guide their teams confidently and competently through the rapids of change. And it’s the job of HR managers to identify, develop and recruit precisely these kinds of people.

Key #2: Use Employee Data for Strategic Decisions

The ability to make sound strategic decisions is a fundamental prerequisite for successful transformation. But these types of decisions demand reliable data that not only allow you to identify sticking points in the company’s well-oiled machine, but also help you uncover new potential. While most companies know how important a set of sound data is, many still work with a range of different tools, among them Google Docs and Excel spreadsheets. The result is an error-prone set of incomplete data that forms an inadequate basis for strategic decisions. If HR managers don’t want to be relegated to the role of pencil pushers, they need data from a single source – and a solution that supports clean reporting.

Key #3: Leverage Efficient Processes and Agile Structures

Agility and efficiency are admittedly words that can seem quite vague, but not so in the context of the digital transformation, where agility and efficiency are crucial. Companies need teams and processes that are able to adapt to changing circumstances in the blink of an eye. Just imagine you might be expanding internationally and need processes for your new offices. Or your company grows, merges or needs to respond to an external crisis. Agility helps you to change course quickly. Without it, managing your company will be more like steering a sluggish freighter than a nimble speedboat. And what about efficiency? Efficiency is the basis for digital transformation in HR. Your company needs processes that mesh seamlessly and replace superfluous manual input. After all, you’ll only have the time to focus on strategic projects and drive transformation if manual and standardized processes can be taken care of automatically. That’s only logical, isn’t it?

Key #4: Work With Technology as Your “Partner in Crime”

While the digital transformation is a people issue above all, having the right technology is essential. In a study conducted by Bitkom and Personio, HR teams in the UK who worked with digital solutions to support their administration and reporting, etc. stated that they were not only better able to master crises, they also tended to be strategically better prepared for their subsequent recovery. Companies that procrastinated in their decisions on new HR technology or worked with legacy software or fragmented solutions now find that a company’s resilience rests on efficient HR functions. In view of the above, HR managers need to deal with two core tasks:

  1. They need to select the right HR technology for their company.

  2. They need to use recruiting and development to get the right people on board in their teams – that means people who work with the technology to add value to the company.

Make your software your trusted support, your “partner in crime” who has your back throughout periods of change and who’s there for you when things get hectic, complex or confusing in your everyday work. If you do this successfully, you’ll handle your HR transformation mission confidently.

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