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HR Director FAQs

What every HR leader should know about digital transformation

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Digitally transforming the future of HR

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Rapid Change

The HR department is undergoing rapid change as it responds to the pressures of the digital world. HR now plays a key role in helping businesses to prepare themselves for the future - developing and attracting digital talent. But to step up to this new challenge, HR leaders need to first tackle digital transformation in their own department. Canon’s Frequently Asked Questions explores how modern HR leaders can drive digital excellence.

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How will the HR department evolve in the next 5 years?

Twenty-five years ago, HR tended to be seen as a separate, behind-the-scenes function referred to as ‘personnel.’ Its remit was largely employee welfare and there was no perceived strategic business value to the function. But today's 'Human Resources' team has become central to the entire business as it aims towards a digitally transformed future. The challenge for HR over the next five years will be twofold: shake off the legacy admin tasks it has inherited down the years and fully step into a new strategic role, demonstrating the value the function is bringing to the future of the business.

How is a new generation of millennial workers affecting HR?

A new generation of digital-native employees are joining the workforce and setting the bar higher – they expect a connected, digital experience at work. With consumer-grade technology moving so quickly, many millennial workers may actually prefer to bring their own laptops and mobiles rather than depend on the tech provided by the company. Meanwhile, flexible working has become common place, with many millennial workers preferring to work outside the four walls of the office. It is HR’s role to ensure that the workplace enables employees to work in whichever way empowers them to be productive.

HR also plays an important role in keeping internal processes up to date with evolving skill sets. With this new generation bringing in more advanced digital skills, internal practices, such as goal-setting, training and the review process must also be modernised and adapted to remain relevant.

Businesses are facing a digital skills gap, what is the HR director’s role in helping overcome this challenge?

The digital skills gap is a tangible threat to every business, as technology continues to move faster than organisations can develop expertise. Only 29% of IT professionals say their business understands and is prepared for digital transformation1 and many feel they currently lack the skills to create the foundation for digital change. The HR department has the most important role in the business in addressing this issue by attracting the best new talent but also investing in training up current employees.

What are the obstacles facing HR directors in achieving this aim?

As the role of HR expands, the department is under increasing time pressures as it tries to embrace the hybrid nature of the function today and straddle the traditional and new aspects of its remit. HR processes such as new-hire onboarding have always been time consuming, but on top of that, HR departments are dealing with external demands such as compliance legislation, and new strategy-level expectations from the business. Despite all these new responsibilities, a surprisingly large proportion of HR departments are still relying on traditional, manual workflows, such as registering new employee information, and sending out onboarding documents by hand. As a result, HR teams are hindered by growing amounts of paperwork. Meanwhile, as it’s an expensive and inefficient way of processing and storing information, HR can often be seen as a bureaucratic cost centre ill-equipped to handle the pressures of modern, digital organisations.

How are leading HR functions using new technology to enhance processes?

Automation offers the most significant benefit for those HR departments willing to embrace it. Many HR professionals already recognise its potential: 68% believe automating routine tasks will create time for meaningful work2.

A digital-first approach can save time and money on all HR processes from recruiting to offboarding. For example, automation tools can help source candidates, schedule interviews, screen applicants and even conduct background checks, all jobs that would traditionally be carried out manually. At the other end of the spectrum, automating the offboarding process makes it much quicker and easier to close the loop, from resetting passwords to automating pension and retirement funding.

How can companies ensure they integrate new technologies into their HR function effectively?

The reality is that businesses are always straddling the new and old: optimising and updating legacy IT whilst introducing the new. Therefore, digital transformation means updating key processes and seizing opportunities for automated efficiency while maintaining and improving non-digital workflows for later optimisation. Digital transformation is more likely to be successful when the business embraces the reality of this hybrid environment where both digital and analogue processes are at play.

As a result, when integrating new technologies, they need to be flexible to the needs of the varying stages of transformation, offering seamless and full integration with current and back-end systems, workflows and processes while futureproofing for later innovation.

How are increasing compliance pressures such as the GDPR, putting pressure on HR teams?

Today’s businesses have many more security and compliance considerations than 20 years ago. This has had a significant impact on the HR department who hold some of the most personal and confidential information in the company, from bank details to formal complaint records. Businesses cannot afford for this information to fall into the wrong hands, particularly following the introduction of the GDPR, which rules that hefty fines can be given out to businesses who do not properly protect PII data.

How can HR departments minimise the risk of a data breach or other compliance failure?

It’s important to acknowledge that the most significant cause of data breaches is not deliberate attacks, but human error. Around 88%3 of 2018 breaches were accidental, with the most common causes being employees sending information to the wrong person, the loss of physical documents or storing information in an insecure environment.

One of the most effective ways of minimising these situations is to digitally transform the workflows that govern the information, safeguarding their storage and sharing while minimising opportunities for both accidental and malicious breaches. While it might have previously been enough to simply lock important folders in a filing cabinet, this isn’t effective for today’s digital world. A digital document record allows a HR department to have control and visibility of who can see it and where it has been edited to support an audit trail. Meanwhile, digital systems help enforce best practice. It’s one thing to ask employees to follow step-by-step guidance, but digital platforms and software ensure that this is compulsory, removing the opportunity for error.

How should HR departments approach their digital transformation journey?

In an ideal world, digital transformation would be completed in a single project, with departments all working to meet the same set of goals. In reality, transformation is not a linear process and businesses are unlikely to see all departments reaching milestones at the same rate, let alone have the budgets required to fund such wholesale change. With HR typically being one of the least digitally-transformed departments in any business, it’s important to be realistic.

Many businesses do feel under pressure to digitally transform rapidly, but taking a ‘big bang’ approach and trying to overhaul the department at once is more likely to end in failure, particularly for HR which is often heavily dependent on manual processes. Ultimately the starting point is to assess current digital maturity. Working with an expert partner can help businesses do this, and then effectively map out and execute their digital transformation journey.

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