Wednesday, 16 March 2016

More on Digital HR

Digital HR has been coming up at HR Tech World again, largely as a result of Josh Bersin's presentation there and the focus on this in Deloitte's Human Capital Trends report.

(I'm not at HR Tech World or HR Tech Conference in Las Vegas again this year but I will be at Tech HR in Gurgaon in August.)

So what is digital HR?  Well I've been posting on this since 2008 and speaking about it since 2011) and have been trying to develop my own understanding of this since then.

I've previously suggested that it is primarily about technologies which help people be more productive, eg social, mobile, wearable and augmented (augmented / virtual reality plus augmented performance / augmented humans).  Social recognition is a great example.

It also includes a big focus on analytics, often through the use of embedded tools which can take the exhaust data produced once face-to-face processes are automated and digitised and produce insight from it.  And because digital systems make it easier to collaborate it includes tools like social network analysis to measure and analyse the extent and quality of collaboration.  Of course increasingly SNAs are being undertaken within or on the back of email systems and enterprise social networks too.

Digital HR doesn't include information technologies like HR or talent management systems as these are about managing people rather than enabling them to manage themselves.  And it doesn't include other exciting developments in technology like robots (especially humanoid robots / androids) and AI.


However the other thing it definitely does include which I didn't refer to previous is apps, increasingly available for download from internal app stores, discussed best in Bersin@Deloitte's Predictions for 2016, rather than Deloitte's HC Trends report.
"As one large company in India recently put it, this new world is focused on building HR “platforms”—infrastructure and technology standards that allow us to rapidly build new solutions, collect data about people and business processes easily, and quickly iterate and improve our employee digital experiences to make them perfect. Think about what happens in the App Store—apps are updated almost weekly. We need to follow this model. 
The best example I can give is the development of an exciting mobile application, Sidekick, by Commonwealth Bank of Australia. I learned about this app roughly 18 months ago and we recently wrote a case study on this platform. This app brings all employees’ HR, collaboration, administration, and support apps to their phones. Within two weeks of rolling out the app, 20,000 employees had actively adopted it. I do not know of a cloud or web-based app which has ever been that successful." 

The future of HR technology is about apps rather than big e-HR systems.  This shift is already well under way with the Big Three vendors SAP, Oracle and Workday and others appisising their existing HR systems.  There's also an increasing number of start-ups producing independent point apps which support small specific bits of functionality more powerfully or creatively than big systems.  I think some of these apps are amazing, however I agreed with the suggestion during HR tech World that employees will get weary of using many unco-ordinated applications.

Better would be a single platform which provides apps and even more importantly the design of bespoke apps.  That's exactly what Salesforce HR provides - core HR functionality (eg for social performance management), an HR app store and the ability to have an organisation's own 'citizen developers' (teams of HR, IT, managers and employees) using Salesforce's CRM platform capabilities to develop their own bespoke apps.

I think this is a really useful change, particularly as it challenges the existing move, resulting from the move of systems into the cloud, away from the ability to customise systems to simply being able to configure them.  That provides certain benefits but it limits the ability to design best fit approaches which I think needs to be part of the digital age.

So I'm surprised that Salesforce aren't pitching at conferences like HR Tech World as part of a new Big Four (or perhaps along with IBM Kenexa and Watson Talent Insights as a Big Five).


Bersin mentioned platforms in terms of technology based environments for development and delivery of apps etc.  The even more important type of platforms is those systems enabling employees and employees, plus others providing knowledge and skills, to connect and focus their work more easily.   A good example is PwC's Talent Exchange which has been in the news over the last few weeks.

However there's also the opportunity to use these platforms internally to enable employees offering skill and others to connect with managers or others offering work. 

McKinsey have been writing about this.  Their suggestion is that digital platforms can put the right person in the right job, identify gaps in skills, help employees as they gain new capabilities, chart career paths, and nurture the development of the next generation of leaders.

"The impact of digital labor platforms and tools is significant and measurable: on average, according to our research, companies can realize an increase of 275 basis points in profit margins. Of course, not every organization will reap the same advantages. The extent of a company’s benefit will depend on the mix of people and skills it needs in its workforce and on its specific operating model. The biggest winners will have a large share of highly skilled workers and a frequently shifting mix of project teams. But even companies with mostly low-skilled workers will benefit, since digital platforms improve the assessment, deployment, and performance of candidates and reduce attrition and the need for costly recruiting. 
Some of the largest gains online labor platforms generate will accrue to professional-services firms. Because they have so many client-facing workers and so few back-office ones, the productivity gains will be reflected mostly in increased output, which we estimate can rise by up to 9 percent, while employee-related costs can fall by up to 7 percent... In global firms, where expertise is dispersed across offices and client work spans industries and functions, digital platforms can help catalog individual expertise at a detailed level. Team-formation tools also take knowledge, interpersonal traits, timing, and geography into account."

These are both exciting, important changes for HR, however the biggest, highest impact and most difficult to implement changes come from within the HR arena itself.  As Josh Bersin suggested at HR Tech World, "digital is a new way of working and behaving - not just tech."

More on this tomorrow...

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