Digital Transformation v/s Digital Disruption: What does the future of HR look like?
As HR leaders globally build upon their new agenda for HR transformation which closely intertwines with the larger business transformation, the digital landscape is a space for unprecedented opportunities and challenges. In its latest article on how the CEO will steer the ship for digital transformation, Mckinsey reports on the importance of prioritising the relationship between digital tools and data in terms of speed, agility and scale by embedding it within the culture of the organisation. The end goal being to drive value for the business which will take precedence in all the strategies implemented through a close partnership between the CEO and HR leaders.
What’s an interesting piece of evidence of this collaboration is the listicle by Gartner on the tech trends that will transform the digital space in the year 2022. Of the top 12, the ones that garner most attention are hyper automation, distributed enterprises and emphasising the need for a business strategy focused on total experience. In other words, digital transformation will have a significant impact on the total experience of organisations which is inclusive of C-suite executives, employees, customers and all stakeholders. And the push is towards a fully remote or a hybrid working model.
According to NTUC LearningHub’s Industry Insights 2021 survey on Human Resources, 89% HR leaders agree that their company recognises the need to digitalise HR processes to achieve stronger business outcomes. Their companies intend to invest in “robotic process automation” (42%), “cloud-based platforms” (38%), and “artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities” (38%). This inevitably has an impact on the kind of talent that organisations and talent leaders are looking to hire and upskill as it falls in line with their business transformation agenda.
Digital Disruption as the game changer
With everyone in agreement for the need of digital transformation for greater business outcomes, the flipside of this agenda that one needs to be keenly aware of is digital disruption. Fundamental changes are bound to be felt across industries and in all workplaces as there is an increasing shift in the way business strategies, work processes and work culture is carried out. Andy Hurt, MD, Poly ANZ is a firm believer in the dual processes of digital transformation and digital disruption and cautions against opening the scope for being disadvantaged or disenfranchised in the face of rapid digital acceleration. ‘What we need are foresighted government and corporate policies to ensure that human beings are retrained where possible,’ he adds.
Sean Lim, Director of Human Capital, NTUC LearningHub has a similar line of thought. He affirms that not all companies will be equipped to cope with this disruption and it may even be a case of survival. However, Lim also emphasises that employers must prioritise employee development through upskilling and reskilling to future proof against these disruptions and build a sustainable business model. The first rule against disruption of any kind is to proceed with caution and invest in as many strategies as possible to ward off against the challenges. The years since the onset of the pandemic have increased the urgency for organisations to be prepared for both the precedent and unprecedented challenges, if they want to keep their business processes intact.
But amidst this disruption is also the possibility of change and innovation if one is open to it. Flexibility, adaptability and agility then becomes some of the core values for thriving in this year and in driving the business forward as well as the growth and development of its people. ‘Digital disruption is forcing organizations to accelerate the pace of digital transformation. In order to attract and engage talent, organizations will need to enable digital experience in making information, choices and data available to employees on their finger-tips,’ says Manasi Kelkar, VP-Human Resources, CropIn when looking at this larger picture.
‘From an employer brand perspective, it’s important that your company is using the best tools and processes in the market, for the new ways of working. We need to embrace digital disruption, as new tools and systems make business processes easier and foster a culture of inclusiveness and community, despite not being physically together,’ advises Caitlin Zotti, Operations Manager, Pin Payments.
Learning and skilling as the way forward
Against any disruptive change, investing in learning strategies continues to be a move in the right direction. Earlier when Lim emphasised on the need for building sustainable business models, his go to strategy was for developing human capital to become future ready. As the catchphrase ‘future of work’ comes to dominate all conversations having to do with business and people strategies, more so than ever leaders have to level up their learning programmes to overcome the potential digital divide within the organisation and the effects of digital disruption at large.
‘If there’s one thing to take away from Skillsoft’s Global Knowledge 2021 IT Skills & Salary Report, it’s that the IT skills gap is real, and it’s growing. Our report found that 76% of IT decision-makers experience critical skills gaps on their teams—a 145% increase from last year. As a result, employees must carve out time on their own to learn new skills and keep up with the pace of their organisation. It is up to the business to provide and encourage opportunities that retain talent and scale skills across your organisation wherever there’s a void,’ says Rosie Cairnes, Vice President, APAC, Skillsoft.
This IT gap is in itself a fatal indicator of the disruptive side of digital transformation which demands greater investment in learning opportunities. This also impacts the overall employee experience. If continuous growth and development opportunities are not provided especially when it comes to digital upskilling and re-skilling, the digitalisation of any organisation will not happen at scale.
Kelkar points out, ‘In the HR space, digital disruption will continue to influence how present and future employees experience the organization - in making employee experience more digital and personalized, easing candidate experience by AI-based solutions for skill-matching, ML-based applications that can smartly "nudge" you to change habits and behaviours, and enabling both synchronous and asynchronous ways of learning and collaborating in a hybrid environment.’
This is the potential offered by the dual processes of digital transformation and digital disruption but making it a reality will be the crucial task. This demands a recognition of the opportunities that these processes hold and how learning can help leverage those very opportunities for greater business outcomes. Resilience can indeed be built but it requires a great amount of foresight which must be a core component of the strategies that are made in collaboration between C-suite executives and those heading the HR domain. Coming back to the NTUC LearningHub’s Industry Insights 2021 survey on Human Resources, most of the HR leaders (98%) do agree that there is a greater need for HR practitioners with a mix of traditional and digitalisation skills. Further, to enable the growth of digitalisation of HR processes, companies are likely to “mix both training and hiring” (39%), “hire HR professionals with relevant digitalisation skills” (36%), and “provide skills training for existing HR employees” (16%). The learning endeavour will be carried forward both within and outside the organisation, with a clear growth in demand for ICT courses as the urgency for digital skills is clearly felt among talent leaders looking to hire and get hired.
There is clear cut agreement on the inevitability of digital disruption and the potential it holds but an important piece of advice shared by Lim must be taken into serious consideration. He emphasises, ‘As the HR function will be at the forefront of digital transformation, HR professionals must also possess complementary adaptive competencies in the sociological and behavioural aspects to the function, in order to support a digital-enabled work-environment.’
What is evident then is that the complementary and conflicting processes of digital transformation and digital disruption will play out in interesting ways as HR gets increasingly digital. However, while employers must future proof their organizations against disruption by building sustainable business models through continuous upskilling and reskilling, being open to its innovative potential by investing in digital learning strategies might bring in pleasant surprises.