7 Steps Towards a The Start of A Digital Workforce Transformation

I am constantly thinking about this concept of Digital Transformation that the world is going through on a daily basis.  Whether it be Uber, how we keep track of scoring at our kids games or how we get "serviced" through tweeting to service bots from our service providers like airlines; digital transformation of the world is fully upon us and now is the time (and has been for a bit) for all of HR to think about the future of a digitally transformed workforce.  The problem is, this is a ton of business jargon that many don't know what it means.  Here are a few thoughts based on the 7 key steps to transformation from a great article I read doing research for one of my clients on the topic (article here).

  1. Be unreasonably aspirational - for HR, look at building quick wins and market the heck out of the value that is being created.  A digital transformation is not a long systems deployment (while that might be part of it), value has to be created and communicated frequently and through multiple channels.  Push the boundaries, find quick wins, break glass and show the organization you are serious about the initiative.
  2. Acquire new capabilities - in this area your choices are buy, build, have or outsource.  To truly tackle digital transformation for the HR function, you will need to buy talent and outsource to some strategic consultancies.  It takes a village to think through all of the options and building the strategy and plan requires "groupthink" - get started now!
  3. "Ring Fence" and cultivate talent - you have to have a group within the HR function that is thinking about transformation and transformation mostly.  If you are trying to do this at night or in your space time it simply will fail.  Innovation Labs are a great way to do this.  I am currently working with a client to put in place an innovation lab within their HR function and the success fencing this group off is highly successful.  Not everyone has the chops to think transformational; find your group and grow it, whether they come from HR or not.
  4. Challenge Constantly - Ask yourself, are we really transforming and disrupting or simply placing new technology on top of old stuff.  I call this "lipstick on a pig".  This is not the vendors job, this is your job and your responsibility.  Don't leave it up to a single person, get your team of transformation and disruption experts together to constantly ask "why are we doing this?" and "is it still relevant?" and "will it be relevant in a year?".  You HAVE to do this and NOW, stop wasting time and money on things that are not driving your future.
  5. Be Quick and Data Driven - With every one of my clients, I tie back to data and outcomes first.  What are we trying to measure and based on that, who do those measures matter to?The concept of quick requires quick wins as mentioned earlier but also we must train our organizations to think about not "release cycles" from vendors or "support models" from vendors but 52, 1 week sprints and what we are accomplishing from the eyes of the workforce each week.  These are massive "mind shifts" for most organizations but the thinking has to start NOW!
  6. Follow the Money - We can measure money and we are getting closer to measuring the true value of people.  Your initiatives for transformation have to focus on both efficiency and effectiveness of the organization; but more and more organizations are realizing saving their way to the future is not the way to go.  The true market leaders are spending to create value which means being able to tie investments to customer outcomes, revenues, etc.  A transformation initiative that is not tied to generating effectiveness in terms of business outcomes is not a initiative, it is a task mostly designed to create efficiency for the HR function only.
  7. Be Obsessed with the Customer - In this case, the workforce.  OMG, if I see one more organization design processes and think about transforming work without having the workforce part of the process, I am going to write a new book :).  The entire focus of our business process transformation, marketing management and how we communicate and collaborate with the workforce is the wild, wild west today that one single vendor will NEVER solve for you. They will help but not solve.  You MUST take the time to stop thinking about modules and think about experiences.  Stop thinking about names of departments within HR and start thinking about experiences and you must stop thinking that adding a new piece of functionality alone will change the workforce experience.  It is a massive undertaking that we as an industry have ignored for decades, partly waiting for IT and partly waiting for the tech to catch up.  Guess what, it is here!

Digital Transformation, while a buzzword, is real.  It is not a vendor selection, it is not an upgrade. It is not the cloud.  All of these help, but what it is is a true strategy as to how organizations work today and into the future.  While we spent the last decade trying to decide on a HR technology strategy, the time has come to blow that up and realize the people, processes and technology we need to be seen as successful today require the next level of thinking and disruption.  Enjoy, here we go!

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