What actually is ‘digital transformation’?

There is a lot of talk about business digital transformation and many SMEs fear being left behind and don’t know how to tackle it or where to start. In fact, if they are honest, some don’t know what it means, which is understandable if they haven’t got time to stop and think because they are too busy dealing with the day to day stuff. This is true for any business function from finance to operations, and especially HR whose budgets are being cut and workload increased. The whole business benefits by finding an easy route to HR digital transformation.

Well the good news is that digital transformation doesn’t have to be difficult. All it means is changing the way you do things so that you are not reliant on silos of data and spreadsheets tucked away in a file on your computer. So how do you go about it?

The easy route to HR digital transformation

First, you need to be prepared to transform from the old way of handling data to a new, streamlined digital experience where data is centrally available to those with permission to access it and of course, it’s a two way street where data can be pulled and pushed in real time. It’s a brave new world where dusty, dangerous silos of old, incomplete data no longer exist.

Second, please avoid locking yourself in a darkened room for weeks on end trying to map some cunning plan to roll out HR digital transformation across the HR function in one go. This should be a gentle roll out situation which relies on small steps and wins the hearts and minds of colleagues and staff along the way.

Third, you will probably need to develop your coaching skills. Don’t fear that you will have to redouble your efforts and keep this data fresh all on your own. This is the marvellous thing about HR digital transformation it relies on lots of people pitching in to lighten the load and HR managers coaching and mentoring line managers to help out. The pay off is liberating and pretty much instant.

What’s in it for HR?

Let’s imagine how you as an HR manager can benefit from HR digital transformation. It’s really logical when you analyse it. Start with the basics. Ask what routine work is the biggest pain in the neck. It’s likely that the answer is something along the lines of ‘leave requests keep piling up’; or personnel contact information updates are a nuisance to deal with because they come in one at a time; or inputting training renewals into spreadsheets make you lose the will to live! Well, here’s the magic… digitally transformed businesses enable line managers to use shared systems to get this stuff off the desk in real time.

“How does that work”? I hear you thinking, How can there possibly be an easy route to HR digital transformation? You know as well as I do that just because a new software system is rolled out, the responsibility for managing HR doesn’t go away. Correct! But the people pushing the buttons can be your line managers in many cases. You still have to choose the right system, show managers how to use it and monitor their activity to make sure they have done the work. But once that investment of time is in the bank, then for those of you who are ultimately responsible for HR in your organisation you will quickly discover the joys of sharing the workload. You just need to take a small leap of faith and start sharing HR admin work with colleagues in a way you haven’t done before.

Coach Line Managers to get involved in HR admin

Good systems will give you admin controls to support colleagues safely through this process. In fact, you will soon realise that sharing HR admin work is bliss because it frees up your precious time to do more interesting, skilled and value-added work, the type of work you like doing and you will wonder why you ever worried about sharing some of your workload with colleagues not trained specifically in HR.

“Line managers have a very important role to play, not only in the day-to-day management of people and operations but also in the implementation of HR policies.” CIPD article.

Line managers are often keen to assist with the easy route to HR digital transformation, they want to get involved because it gives them kudos and has other benefits such as providing them with the tools to move quickly if they need information.  With coaching from HR they develop new managerial skills and become the go-to-person for their team when it comes to managing leave requests or keeping track of training and qualifications renewals. The entire process is managed online or via mobile apps which means it takes a fraction of the time that the clunky old methods took and is often dealt with on the move between other jobs so that it becomes almost invisible. Everyone celebrates the fact that the data is bang up to date and HR is a hero for transforming the business in incremental steps rather than planning a big bang that scares everyone rigid!

Plan ahead but take action now

Of course, there is no way you can share the responsibility for all HR admin and setting up personnel records and drafting key documents like contracts and policies will probably always need your full attention; nor will you relinquish the task of selecting the right HR software to underpin the transformation but there are lots of regular HR tasks that can and should be managed by line managers, especially if they show an aptitude for dealing with their team’s HR admin.

Going forward, it becomes increasingly important that HR recruits the right staff with the potential and appetite for taking the easy route to HR digital transformation, with an interest in getting involved and even coaching others, because line managers will play an ever more varied and vital part in the smooth running of the business. But for the moment, take small steps. Try using software as a service which is low risk and doesn’t tie you in to long contracts so you can dip your toe in the water. Share it with a couple of trusted colleagues and see how blissful sharing HR can be and before long you will have the confidence to do most of your HR admin on a shared basis. It’s addictive and you can try it for free at www.eledecks.com