Image by Gerd Altmann
Companies worldwide are launching rapid digital transformation strategies. Their goal: To keep pace with the increase in customer demand for seamless delivery of products, services, and experiences. So in many circles, the question becomes: How can HR help accelerate digital transformations?
To meet these lofty goals and expectations, departments within these organizations need the right technology and the right people. Otherwise, they might miss the opportunity to discover new ways of doing business and innovating through increased digitization. This means human resource departments have a significant role to play in digital transformation.
HR leaders must work alongside IT leaders to accelerate digital transformations and coalesce around priorities. For leaders to succeed in digital transformation, they must be on the same page while removing the barriers of a top-down, hierarchical approach. Leaders must work together to best reallocate resources and spread work and management of work across teams.
Plenty of well-intentioned companies nail the details of digital transformation. Details such as knowing what makes a good user story, understanding the difference between product and project, and finding opportunities to automate deployments whenever possible. The challenges arise with people, culture, and scale. That’s where HR can play an important role.
As many leaders have already learned, digital transformation affects everyone in an organization. Because they are so focused on the daunting task in front of them, this can be difficult for transformational leaders to think about. Proactively communicating with existing teams about how digital transformations will positively affect them and why it’s best for the organization, though, helps everyone.
Because in the end, digital transformation is as much a cultural transformation as it is a business and technology transformation.
Look No Further
The ongoing pandemic hasn’t slowed digital transformation. Despite layoffs and deep budget cuts at countless companies, a large majority (70 percent) of CIOs say their budgets and staffing numbers underwent reductions of less than 10 percent in the aftermath of COVID-19. The top priority of budgets in 2021? Digital transformation, of course. In fact, 77.3 percent of CIOs ranked this endeavor as the most pressing concern this year (ahead of cybersecurity).
So why should HR departments step in as a source for solutions to these problems? Well, the momentum from IT departments toward digital transformation is significant for HR. The reason is simple: Technology alone cannot make for a successful digital transformation. It’s a total team effort in which HR has a big role to play.
Yes, IT can take care of the technology side of the digital transformation equation. However, HR has a shared responsibility. Attracting, retaining, and reskilling the human actors who understand how to both derive value from technology and innovate new ways of doing business digitally is another piece of the puzzle. Without the right talent, even the biggest transformation budget won’t succeed. Teams need the right human resources in place.
Easier for Everyone
Here are a few tips for HR leaders who aspire to work in tandem with IT to accelerate digital transformation to achieve the ultimate goal of building products that customers want to buy and increase revenue.
1. Talk it out
Communicate with IT openly about the culture change and plan to distribute the emotional load. And start those conversations early. Hold discussions about how the culture might change and how some employees might not love the process of digital transformation. HR, technology, and product teams can also share the responsibilities to make sure digital talent and older business lines work well together.
2. Embrace change
Gain a solid understanding from IT on how roles will change as a result of accelerating digital transformation. As the stewards of human abilities within an organization, HR needs to know what qualities to look for in the next generation of talent. This talent pool will have new skills every year or so, making skills secondary to learning ability and work ethic. As an HR leader, you can help find the next generation of digital talent. Start by changing job descriptions to reflect digital values, such as adaptive learning and grit, rather than hard credentials.
3. Promote retention
In many organizations, HR controls (or has a lot of say in) promotion decisions. Digital transformations are a serious uphill battle for product and technology leaders everywhere. And one of the biggest momentum killers is top digital talent leaving an organization. This is especially disheartening when they leave because they feel transformational work is not rewarded or appreciated by the culture. Work with technology and product teams to rework incentives. Ensure the company rewards digital talent. And keep your focus on retaining the talent required to ensure enough forward progress.
4. Prioritize education
Develop new training programs with IT that promote collaboration, prototyping, and decision-making alongside technical skills. You can also help by preparing digital talent in cross-functional environments. As you do, know that maximizing teamwork will likely achieve better results than maximizing individual performance. Companies can expect to see more success in their digital transformations by training UI/UX designers, product owners, scrum masters, and engineers together. That way, students can practice the handoffs and negotiation skills required in a digital world.
It bears repeating: Accelerating digital transformation requires a cultural shift just as much as it does a technology or business shift. When IT and HR work together, they can create a more stable environment that makes digital transformation easier for everyone.