What does digital really mean to HR (part #2)

Second part of  my latest post on what digital means to HR that don’t want to be downgraded.Non exhaustive list of how digital and HR complement each other.

Culture and DNA

Digital transformation is more a new way to think and do things than a matter of tools. Provide a manager who thinks that information is power and doesn’t believe that employees can be more productive if they can self-organize and be autonomous with the best enterprise social network solution ever and you’ll see that nothing happens. Give a Facebook page with one million fans to a CMO who thinks that customers are objects that can be manipulated, bought and thrown away, you won’t get further either.

Digital is a way to think and deliver business models in a new way. Internet did not  build Uber, the nightmare of taxis all over the planet…taxis had the same technology at their disposal. The difference came from a brand new way to (re)consider a market, design an offer and deliver it.

A side of digital is Big Data, which requires to question many things taken for granted and a work on ethics. Even more when applied to HR data.

Last : there are lots of evidences that customer orientation and caring about others – customers or colleagues – is a key lever to drive digital transformation. But cultural change doesn’t fall out from the sky. It’s a move tha happens globally by helping current employees and hiring new kind of profiles.

We’re told that digital requires weird people to move the corporate culture. It also need to make current employees’ culture move and if you don’t consider it should be HR’s job I really wonder why you keep an HR department in your company. There’s a deep acculturation and talent emergence work to be conducted.


One of the biggest expected benefit of the digital transformation inside the organization is a better formal and informal collaboration. But such a thing, and the relative failure of enterprise 2.0 and social business initiatives over the last years show it, doesn’t come by miracle : you can’t judge a company on the technology it uses and no-one has online behaviors that makes no sense in real life.

My prefered example is a french company named Danone. If the “Dan 2.0” program, which included the implementation of an enterprise social network, has been a success it’s for a large part because the company started a change management program called “networking attitude” in 2003. So be behaviors that were expected on the social network were not something new for people used to network in their day to day lives.


Digital leadership

Contrary to many received ideas, digital transformation does not only happens from the bottom. It’s also a matter of top-down leadership and the least we can say is that managers and leaders are far from leading by the example.

Making leaders and managers personify what they preach as being the future of the organization is a major challenge and many struggle to be comfortable in digital environments. Most leaders are able to mobilize and engage employees when they are on stage, many managers are good at conducting “physical” meetings but most of them are unable to reproduce the same leadership when things move online.

The question of digital leadership est essential and anyone high in the hierarchy should be able to exist and have the same personality, the same charisma, the same effectiveness online and online. Through a couple of words said while shaking hands or through a tweet


New jobs, old jobs.


At a time when most companies communicate about their ethics and sense of social responsibility, we must acknowledge that the impacts of the digitization of economy have always been underestimated and overlooked. The speed of this transformation makes things even worse : jobs are disappearing, jobs are emerging and HR must anticipate if they don’t want to see the current situation get worse.

What’s the current situation ? Difficulties to attract and hire digital talents, to formalize jobs descriptions. Employees who lost their job or are close to because they didn’t had the opportunity to adapt before it’s too late. What also means lots of job seekers with “yesterday’s skills” and a lack of ones with “today’s and tomorrow’s ones”. And while we’re still trying to dress yesterday’s wounds we’re still blind when it comes to anticipate what’s going to happen tomorrow and will require unprecedented effort to help employees if we don’t want to break people and face a talent shortage at the same time.

The truth is 50% of current jobs are at risk because of cognitive technologies and robots that will take this jobs. Except for people capable of social intelligence and creativity, the future is already dark. Call centers will soon replace most of their employees with machines. Many lawyers are already fearing for their job as well as research assistants. Robots are writing articles for newspapers and one has been appointed at the board of a venture firm. The list is long.

We’re in 2014 and it’s only the beginning. But if we don’t anticipate what’s going to happen in the next 10 years the breakages will be unimaginable and the businesses that are not prepared and have not prepared their employees will pay a high price.

Remote and mobile work

Digital is transforming work and, most of all, the concept of “workplace”. Work is not a place but an activity and the challenges related to mobile and remote work are not trivial. Providing internet connections and shiny devices is not enough to accompany this move. Of course there are legal challenges, but there’s also managerial challenges. Managing remotely will become a core competence if not the norm. Here again, if nothing is done, a whole generation of managers will be downgraded while very people can actually replace them.

New measurement, new valuation

If we start with the assumption that we’re going to work differently, it means that work will be measured differently and even new things will be measured. With jobs descriptions and measurement systems from “before” don’t expect any new behaviors to happen. Then comes the measurement of intangible capital which is a major stake with the scheduled evolution of accounting and financial norms. Recently, one of my readers was wondering how to measure the value of employee engagement and value it in the balance sheet. Like trademarks, patents, customer engagement…all these elements can’t stay out of the balance sheet for long in the digital era. A stake important enough for HR to decide to handle it ?

Well. End of this quick overview. Then we can keep on avoiding te matter but, please, don’t tell me that HR have nothing to do in digital transformation

Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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