by Stephen Moreton, Head of Performance at Trigger
In these quickly changing times, how can HR undergo a digital transformation for its own benefits?
Part of our own journey so far, and one of our biggest challenges (yet will become one of our greatest strengths) has been the determination to establish the ‘people’ theme of Trigger Movement as a central pillar alongside the ‘digital’ theme. It is our belief that any modern, relevant organisation should be, or learn to become a ‘digital native.’ We are fortunate not to have thousands of employees, or long-standing traditions, which enable us to adopt from the get-go. But just because it is more difficult for big, traditional organisations, doesn’t mean it is impossible.
The rapid growth in technology and use of social media has had a huge impact on every industry. Over the next decade, we can expect this impact to increase further with exponential growth in the capability of artificial intelligence; virtual reality; machine learning; blockchain; big data; the internet of things, and other technologies. Amongst this landscape, it is a major challenge for the provision of human resources to remain relevant and continue to add value to the organisation.
So, before the end of 2017, what can HR departments and leaders do to adopt and understand digital? To be a proactive leader, and prepare itself and the organisation to be ahead of the curve?
Mindset and Culture
Taking on a digital transformation in HR can be daunting, but simply holding the belief that you can change, you can learn and you have the power and ability to adapt is critical. If this belief is shared, with honest and open communication, then it becomes wider culture. Once culturally established, you and your team can learn how to utilise digital effectively and leverage it to positively impact the business. It will be the first step towards HR becoming a modern, relevant function of today’s organisation.
Social Media and Brand
Let’s use sports as an example. Fans now expect to be able to follow, observe and engage with their favourite athletes several times a day. This means that the role and responsibility of the athlete has changed significantly, and for better or worse can now no longer go and have a few pints in their local at a weekend. The reverse of this, however, is they are a lot more open, have a much bigger and more influential platform, and if shrewd or surrounded by the right people can leverage this profile for their own brand or earning potential. HR leaders are no different. Using social media effectively will have a positive impact upon your own personal brand, but also the wider perception of your organisation. We now have relationships with people face to face, but also have strengthening relationships with people we have never met, or met just once — and this is due to the power of social media. Your employees, current customers and future customers expect the same level of warmth, understanding, compassion, insight and leadership from you on social media as they do when you have a meeting with them in the office. It is no longer something that you can ignore, for this is where people are speaking, listening, engaging and learning — so if you are not part of the conversation, what are you missing? Who else is influencing your employees, and impacting your culture?
Setup informal opportunities to listen to and engage with your employees. Ask them what programmes or products they like to use, that save time and make their lives easier. Conduct regular meetings where you discuss how you go about your business, and what processes you have, or products you use that could be updated or improved. Listen and be honest. You can’t adopt fifteen new technologies, or productivity applications every month, you need to fully invest in the right ones — this takes time and careful selection. So why not engage your employees in the process? Start a competition with each other to work out which new technology is best for the performance and the culture of the business. Show that you are open to innovate, to learn, to create and soon you will find your employees taking ownership and providing insights that will help the business become more effective and efficient. In addition, you will be situated in a great place to adopt the latest technologies that can increase your productivity, improve your project management or increase the level and quality of your communication.
Communicating with your stakeholders is critical for a business to succeed. This has always been the case, but technology and the gig-economy are forcing us to adapt how we do this. Internal communication can be enhanced by using online chatrooms, live streaming, and various productivity tools should reduce the number of meetings required and the relative costs associated with them. I am not a subscriber to removing face to face experiences and personal relationships, as I believe they are both incredibly important to the organisational culture; employee experience and well-being and enable long-lasting, meaningful relationships to be built. However, rather than communicating through email, why not use a short video message? Or combine the two, and send out company updates or news of a staff members remarkable efforts the previous month through personal videos on a Monday morning email? By operating with, and showing flexibility with employees — you can communicate more effectively, much quicker and more personably. In addition, the added value is that you are creating opportunities to rely less on the ‘office’ and instead enable the employees to determine how and where they are most effective; increase their quality of life and experience with the organisation and ultimately improve engagement and retention. Why not apply the same approach when communicating externally and keep people up to speed whilst becoming transparent immediately?
Data and Analytics
Again, using sport is a powerful way to illustrate the point. Team analysts will watch a team or an individual performance and collect information. Their role is to analyse, interpret and then feedback this information. By then working with the coach and the player, it should become clear what, how and why things need to be improved. If this is misunderstood and not delivered effectively, then the players and coaches simply receive ‘data’ and information, and then need to derive their own meaning from it. Most likely, it will then be left on the shelf. Applying this to a business context, HR will increasingly collect more and more data on employee engagement, performance, culture, and any other data field available — but being able to interpret this data and asking, ‘what does this actually mean’ is the important part. Data for data’s sake is overbearing and inconsequential, often leading to a feeling of distrust and control; whereas relevant, insightful and appropriate data becomes useful information in helping an employee improve their performance or their experience in the organisation. It should be said that this information and feedback should be delivered quickly and effectively, which is now possible through adopting the right technologies. A brilliant Forbes article that digs deeper into this is here.
In addition, the proper and effective use of analytics should enable to organisation to identify areas to address that might improve the culture and performance, or spot opportunities for growth.
One of the most powerful ways to lead an organisation effectively, is to model the behaviour you would like to see in others. As our lives are now on and offline, this now extends to social media too. Transparency begins with the most powerful, the most prominent members of the organisation. The longer that you hold back from using social media, the less relevant as a leader you become, and the more question marks appear — from inside and out. Who doesn’t go to a meeting these days, and research the person you are meeting online? The more information out there that shows the leader you are, the values you have and is congruent with your business will create trust the other side of the table. Leaders should communicate thoughts, opinions, engage with customers, employees and endorse movements you believe in. Behave online, exactly how you behave inside your business and you will reinforce the leader that you are, and that you want your people to follow. Employees want to work for a leader that inspires them. If you share different views, that’s ok too — just be available and transparent enough to engage, listen and explain your standpoint. A captain always needs to decide, it may not always the right choice, and not always a popular one — but decisions need to be made. Communicating this with honesty, integrity and clarity can enhance you and your business.
Transforming the organisation or the HR operation requires commitment. There won’t be any significant impact or change without hard work and possibly some pain. But I guess that is each organisations’ choice — is it worth the hard work and pain to position yourselves most effectively for the next decade? Or are you happy that things are moving along smoothly enough now, and you can worry about this in a few years. Your choice.
About the author
Stephen’s passion is to develop performance. He led the Cricket Ireland Coach Education & Development for 6 years and was appointed Head Coach of the National Women’s Team. Since leaving in 2015, he completed an MBA in International Sports Management and started up his own consultancy, Trigger Movement. He has completed leadership and digital projects with clients such as Telefonica, CMRF, professional services firms and UK Learning and Development companies.