Unfortunately, “Digitalization” has by now become such an overused phrase that sometimes the mere mention of it is enough to make people roll their eyes. Or perhaps the reaction is just a tired shrug of the shoulders: “Doing things this way still works for us!”
If you ask HR professionals at conferences or events, there are usually two extremes in terms of HR departments: Either Excel is still seen as the “magic bullet” that solves all the department’s problems, or there are umpteen different systems for different aspects of the department’s work. From talent management to attendance tracking, each system gathers its own data in its own format, which then needs to be collated again (in Excel).
In many countries, companies are still putting off the introduction of digital systems and processes. Perhaps this is to be expected; many countries have not yet fully woken up to the potential of technology. We can still get by with very little technology, and digital tools are somewhat distrusted – even though there are enough studies showing that people are clearly inferior to technology in many areas. It only takes one accidental click in the wrong place for a formula to be overwritten – and then even election results can no longer be relied upon.
Investing Money in Good HR Infrastructure Will Pay Off Over the Long Term
Merging Excel spreadsheets is certainly not the best way for HR professionals to spend their working hours. Excel spreadsheets also have a significant disadvantage when it comes to recruiting: It takes a great deal of time and effort to make sure they are GDPR-compliant.
Good recruiting software not only reminds you when to delete applicant data but also facilitates interview invitations and applicant management by using automated emails. Copying and pasting emails with the subject line “rejection template” and then accidentally sending them out to applicants, or (even worse) sending out emails with the wrong salutation, is a thing of the past once you have good systems in place.
Even top HR professionals cannot protect themselves from this kind of faux pas. Human beings are prone to error. A solid technical infrastructure can also have a positive effect on employer branding and the reputation of the HR department – both in-house and externally.
Sustainable Organizational Development Has to Be Based on Valid Data and Figures
It is certainly the case that gut instinct plays a role in how organizations are run – in change processes in particular, emotions are very much involved. So, it is all the more important in such times (and, in Germany, they are imminent across the whole country) that HR can back up its arguments with data and facts.
Healthy organizational development should always be based on current and forecast data.
With a comprehensive and well-networked system landscape, forecasts can be carried out and scenarios examined very easily – with no programming knowledge required. Of course, the following still applies in these cases: garbage in, garbage out. It is therefore essential that HR gets in shape for the requirements of 2020 and beyond.
This also includes creating a high-quality, valid data structure. This is not a one-time action that you can rush through in a couple of weeks; it is an ongoing process that needs to be carried out conscientiously. The importance of data consistency and quality must be made clear to all HR employees. A system cannot provide itself with data and is dependent, for example, on the initial data entered into it and on sustained data management. Incidentally, this is not a job for a student trainee or an intern. In the future, the role of HR data expert will undoubtedly become an important branch of the profession.
Only a Well-Prepared HR Department Can Make the Right Decisions
Digitalization has a cost – and I do not just mean the cost of the systems that HR will need to purchase. Before getting to that stage, HR departments urgently need to establish a “digital mindset.” It is at this point, at the latest, that I encounter what is in my opinion the most common HR mistake:
When it comes to choosing a technical solution, HR staff think (often due to time and other pressures) in terms of their current processes.
This means that you often intuitively choose the software that is closest to your current analog processes. No matter how good or bad the current processes are. The solution that is the “easiest to use,” “quickest to implement” or “does not change any processes” comes out on top. Regardless of whether it is actually suitable for the upcoming challenges facing the organization.
The more technically unenlightened the HR department is, the more likely it is that they will choose an unsuitable system. These bad decisions then lead to serious “digitalization frustration” later on. It is therefore very important that HR departments give themselves enough time to come to grips with the tools and technology available. They should watch demos, get an idea of the range of tools available on the market and then consider which one could be right for them. And this should all take place BEFORE they are under any acute pressure to purchase software.
The best way to go about this is to ask for references and speak to the HR staff at companies that have already introduced the tool in question. By doing so, you can find out first hand what works well with a particular system, where you have to be careful and how to avoid certain mistakes during the implementation.
Ten years ago, it would have been unthinkable to bring in HR software for a company with, say, 30 employees. That was something “for the big boys” who could purchase what they required from the appropriate top service providers. These days, HR is spoiled with choices, and many companies hire HR professionals right away when they first go into business. HR now has the perfect opportunity to position itself as a pioneer of and expert in healthy organizational development. It is time to digitalize, optimize your networks and head into the future of HR!