By: Richa Srivastava on September 16th, 2020

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How HR Can Best Support the Digital Transformation During COVID-19

HR Tech

In the months following the global pandemic, if there is one term that has been thrown around at a higher frequency than the word ‘unprecedented', it must be ‘Digital Transformation'.

Companies big and small, public and private, have accelerated the adoption of digital technologies to transform their services and products, replacing manual processes with ones that are enabled by technology.

While a strategic enterprise-wide Digital Transformation mandate is typically driven by CTOs or CEOs, HR leaders play a disproportionately big role in ensuring its successful execution. If your organization is on the digitization journey, as the leader of HR, you will need to think deeply about three key questions.

3 Questions for HR to Consider for an Effective Digital Transformation Program

1. What is HR’s Role in Enhancing Employee Productivity?

Individual digital technologies offer the promise of exponentially increasing the productivity of employees which has a direct impact on business outcomes. A case in point is the advent of emails in the workplace; it is hard to imagine how work ever got done in the ‘pre-email era’.

However, introduction of any new technology comes with a hidden cost – that of change management and steep learning curves. Any technology roll-out, if not managed well, can even negatively impact employee productivity, and increase resistance to adoption.

HR leaders need to partner with other business leaders to create effective L&D programs that help employees clearly understand the benefits of digital technologies and learn how to use those technologies to improve their workflow. These trainings should not only focus on the technical aspects of the solution, but also softer skills such as innovation, creativity, and agility.

For instance, in the months following the COVID-19 pandemic, almost all organizations were forced into the remote work mode. While several organizations adapted to the change by implementing remote communication platforms (WebEx, MS Teams, Zoom etc.), progressive HR departments also rolled out training modules on how to use these platforms in the best possible way.

2. How Do We Embed Digital Competencies in Role Design?

For our organizations to compete effectively in the future, it is not sufficient to simply train existing employees, but also think deeply about whether our workforce is future ready. Competencies such as agility, problem solving, adaptability, creativity, and collaboration assume an increased importance in a digitally enabled workforce.

As HR leaders, we need to identify the digital competencies that are most important in the context of our organization and embed them in role design. While some roles are obvious candidates for redesign, others are less so.

It is easy to think how the profile of a Software Developer needs to evolve to keep up with newer technologies. But what about our sales force? One of the biggest digital competencies required for salespeople today is their ability and comfort with using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems to manage sales opportunities throughout their life-cycle. Another competency would be the ability to effectively engage with prospects over a web-based channel (versus in-person visits). These are the types of fundamental shifts that are required to ensure future readiness of our workforce.

3. How Should We Think About Performance Management?

Almost all performance management processes today are geared towards managing behaviors. Employees’ attitude and behaviors in the workforce have a direct impact on their supervisors’ perception of the value they are generating for the team.

But how do you assess behaviors when you are not able to meet your team member face-to-face for months at end? This is an area that is keeping managers and HR leaders up at night.

The remote work juggernaut that was precipitated by the pandemic is here to stay. Performance management processes will need to fundamentally adapt to the new normal.

Progressive organizations are grounding their performance management systems and processes in an outcome-based model rather a behavior-based model. Simply put, employees are given the independence and flexibility to complete their tasks at their own convenience and measured on the quality and quantity of their output as compared to the amount of hours they spend at their desk. In this context, the role of HR would be to provide the framework and metrics to track and measure employee performance.

Which of these questions resonate most with you as you chart your organization’s digital transformation journey? Which other questions are you deeply thinking about? Do you have a successful digital transformation story to share? We would love to hear from you in the comments section below!