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Shifting to a digital mindset – what we have learned in 2023

How can a digital approach to HR strategy help companies unlock the possibilities within their current and future workforces?

The whole world underwent a monumental change during COVID, and then post the pandemic another shift occurred as people and businesses started returning to normal ways of living and working; except that what we considered ‘normal’ had also changed, particularly in the workplace. The changing nature of works means that employees are now driving a workplace culture where experience needs to align with expectations, and employees are more demanding when it comes to having their needs and values met. Accelerated digitization has enhanced this change and created an opportunity for organizations to elevate the employee experience and rethink their HR strategies to embrace a digital approach. 

To cultivate the right skills and talent required to remain competitive and relevant for the future of work, we know that organizations need to enhance and evolve the way they manage, care for, and support their people. How can a digital approach to HR strategy help companies unlock the possibilities within their current and future workforces?

A digital approach to HR strategy can be a game-changer for companies, enabling them to unlock the full potential of their current and future workforces in several ways:

  1. Empower organizations to optimize and streamline their HR processes across the entire life cycle - recruitment, onboarding, performance management, learning and development, etc. For example, AI-driven tools can assess resumes, conduct initial interviews, and even predict candidate success based on historical data.
  2. Deliver personalized employee experience through tailored learning programs, career growth opportunities that meet their preferences, and flexibility to choose compensation elements and benefit programs as per individual needs.
  3. Reduce time and resources for HR operations and leverage HR capabilities for strategic initiatives.
  4. Enable quick access to workforce performance, engagement, and trends data and improve decision-making through data driven insights.

By leveraging technology, organizations can better position themselves to adapt to the evolving needs of their workforce, become more agile and employee-centric, and remain competitive in the future of work.

With the advent of new technologies and digital tools, and with younger generations like Gen Z’s entering the workplace, employees expect an increasing level of digital delivery within their workplace experiences and many find a digital future appealing. Are employers prepared and equipped to deliver a digital experience when it comes to HR and has this changed significantly since before the pandemic?

Employees are expecting a consumer grade experience within the organization today, similar to what they are experiencing outside the organization. While every organization is undergoing a digital transformation in some shape and form post the pandemic, it’s a journey and not an easy one. Driving a digital experience is not just implementing a new technology product but adopting an integrated approach of digital strategy, activation, deployment and ongoing sustainment that is more like a continuous cycle. 

  1. Strategy: defining the digital vision, operating model, and the plan to deploy the necessary investments in people, process & technology to make them a reality.
  2. Activation: establishing program governance and project teams to execute the strategy by redesigning experiences around people, defining requirements and selecting the right solutions to deploy, and preparing the organization for change. 
  3. Deployment: design, integrate, and adopt systems to support new ways of operating, augment human capabilities, optimize experiences, and generate quality data to inform decisions. 
  4. Sustainment (Release-Optimize-Innovate): Go-live is just the beginning! Business conditions change, as do the needs of the workforce. Agility is realized through a continuous release of capabilities and experience enhancements fuelled by data.  

In order to create a compelling and comprehensive employee value proposition that will position an organization as an employer of choice, organizations need to understand what their employees value and what experiences are important to them. They also need to ensure that their value proposition aligns with employee values and expectations. Do you think that employers are more aware and aligned with their employees’ needs now post the pandemic than before COVID?

Post pandemic, employers are laying far greater emphasis on their biggest asset – people, and are investing time and resources to understand what their employees want and are consequently strengthening their Employee Value Proposition (EVP). Employee listening is becoming a more frequent process and seeking feedback across the life-cycle touch points is imperative. Today, there are multiple digital tools available, for example digital focus groups, pulse surveys, and chatbots, which can easily enable continuous listening.

Employee expectations have significantly evolved as well. The former engagement contract has been replaced with an experience or lifestyle contract where people want more choice, connection, and to contribute to a company while making work fit with life – not the other way around. There’s also a focus on living life now. This opportunity to recalibrate the deal and strike a new balance has taken a newfound focus on well-being such as short term and long-term financial health, and mental health. 

Generative AI is swiftly moving into workplaces and causing shifts in the way organizations view the future of work and the interactions between employers and employees. Both employees and organizations will need to evolve if they want to keep up with the fast changing digitized environment and remain relevant and competitive in the future. Technologies such as generative AI require a very different skill set therefore organizations need to assess their HR strategy to determine how they will develop, acquire and reward these skills. What are some key aspects for organizations to consider and keep in mind as they evaluate their business, talent, and HR models?

The impact of generative AI on the workplace will be significant, and as organizations navigate this, leaders need to consider the following while integrating the technology into their business, talent, and HR models: 

  1. Re-define existing roles and develop skills for future roles: As organizations adopt AI into workflows across the value chain, they need to analyse the impact on employee roles and determine how best to apply AI. For example, where can automation best substitute highly repetitive and rules-based work, where can AI augment human creativity and critical thinking, and where can it create new work.
  2. Address emerging skills requirements: New skill sets in data management, governance and ethics are rising up the priority list. Define which are most critical for your organisation, where you need this talent, and how you can develop employees with these skills.
  3. Pilot the use of AI and AI tools within HR: Explore how work can be more efficient for the HR function and how to enhance employee experience by incorporating generative AI into the service delivery model. Focus on productivity gains by optimizing tasks, delivering better insights through data for improved decision making, and deliver higher value to the organization.
  4. Drive culture change and strengthen guardrails: Focus on building a digital mindset and a cyber-resilience ethos, and cultivate an approach towards perpetual innovation and learning as things evolve. Create forums for idea-sharing and challenging the status quo and harness collective creativity. Ensure employees have a voice into how AI is introduced into their work so its impact can be optimized while providing upskilling and re-skilling so they can engage in new productive work. Mitigate risks stemming from the use of proprietary company data in external tools, ensure ethical AI guidelines have been updated, and stay ahead of legal and regulatory pitfalls.

Talent attraction, retention and engagement is a top priority for most organizations, especially as digitization becomes more prevalent in the workplace and much-needed skills become scarce. To be an employer of choice and have thriving employees, organizations need to become more personable, transparent, and relatable – they need to cater to the individual rather than adopt a ‘one-size-fits-all approach’. How can employers harness technology and digital tools to create opportunities for personalization and flexibility within their HR strategies?

The Employee Value Proposition has morphed into an individual value proposition. Organizations are managing multi-generational and multi-country workforces that are diverse across gender, race or ethnicity, socio-economic status, personal orientation, etc. The needs and preferences of different employee groups vary, and a one-size approach to total rewards no longer fits all.

Using on-demand surveys and digital focus groups to enable employee listening can help organizations identify the different employee groups and personas within the workforce, understand what employees want, and which programs and interventions hold the most value. Conjoint analysis can help employers gain specific insights into how employees value rewards, benefits, and other elements of the employment relationship. Using HR Technology platforms that enable personalization and offer flexibility for employees with respect to various EVP elements such as careers, compensation, and benefits, can personalize and elevate the employee experience.

As organizations look to 2024, many learnings can be garnered from looking back over the last four years and seeing how extensively workplaces have changed. What is the one change you would highlight from pre-COVID to now that HR can learn from as they plan for the year ahead? 

The pandemic forced us to challenge the status quo, become agile and resilient and brought human capital to the forefront like never before. Our experience of the last four years has shown us that external disruptions are going to become more frequent; the business landscape will keep evolving and the pace of digitalization will only accelerate. HR’s ability to be innovative, nimble, digital, and pro-active rather than reactive to business and employee demands, will enable organizations to unlock opportunities for growth and success.