Monday 8 June 2015

Digital HR

There's an interesting article in HR Magazine today suggesting that organisations are at risk from a digital delusion which is about seeing "digital as a synonym for technology and therefore about HR systems."

I think the point is a good an important one - 'digital' is hard to understand.  I agree it's not just about technology, but then if it's not, what is it about?

Well I'm going to be blogging on this later on today, but it's worth emphasising that one thing it's not is HR systems!

A few years ago I blogged here about different levels of HR technology based upon the value triangle I use as the basis for a lot of my consulting and training.

Whereas value for money technology focuses on data for HR (HR systems!) and added value systems looks at information and automation for managers, creating value engages and enables employees:
"In creating value, value comes from the organisation’s employees, rather than how these people can be managed to meet existing business needs.  Technology can create value by pointing to particular potentially valuable capabilities, but it is more likely to have this impact by helping employees to increase the value they can provide. 
This is why I’m so interested in social and mobile technologies – they get beyond HR’s system of record and the line manager focused talent management system to actually increase employee contribution.  So for example, a social performance management system can help employees get feedback from the people they work with, to share the reviews with these people and to participate in a review of a whole team.  It helps them take ownership of their own review and hence is likely to have more impact on their performance.  Of course, social technologies aren’t the only way of doing this – for example, I was involved in a self rostering system for train operating company staff a good ten year ago which had much of the same effect.  
You can identify opportunities for creating value from technology by focusing on the people in the organisation – their engagement, capabilities and other aspects of their human and social capital – and thinking about how these capabilities can be extended. 
This is why I’ve been commenting on the need to focus on people and behaviours, not on technologies or tools."

This is the basic insight we need to hold in mind in understanding digital business and digital HR.  Digital business / HR is about technology for people and teams, not to improve management or HR data.  And because it's for people and teams, it immediately becomes more complex than any other areas of technology we'll be more used to, eg HR systems.

The tendency then, as the article suggests, is to assume that digital is about everything we're seeing in today's business world eg fast pace, omi channel, flat / flexible structures etc (from the article) - which of course it can be.  But broadening the definition out this far renders the term to be largely meaningless and reduces the chance that organisations will do anything about it.

So we still need a way of thinking about digital which isn't just about the technology but also doesn't incorporate the whole world of business.

More later...

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