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Rethinking HR Using Digital Technology

Crowd sourcing through Social media platforms have become a valuable part of recruitment strategy, not just for reaching out and relationship building, but also to identify talent, who are right fit to the organisational values and culture

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In the new millennium, we have entered a new 'Digital World of Work', the world which has brought and shall bring disruptive changes in the way we have functioned till now. This transformation, as called 'Fourth Industrial Revolution' has brought about a paradigm shift in communication, technology, processes and systems.  These changes along with the advent of Millennial and Generation 'Z' workforce, which has been born and bred up during this age of transformation, have impacted all the organisations across the globe as also in India. This has led to unprecedented radical changes in the way, we manage, lead and organise our HR initiatives.

Studies suggest that the future of the workforce in year 2020-22 would be a workplace, which would have four Generations working at the same time, which would not only be diverse in terms of age, geography, race, culture etc, but also have sets of expectations and aspirations entirely different from one another.  
 
In this era, the talent trends are putting up a never before challenges to HR to modernize the way, it has been functioning till now. Today, right from seeking employment to expressing opinions on the employment experience is digital and democratic.  A highly tech savvy and smartphone addicted workforce has entered the workplace, which is curious, outspoken and exploratory; is always looking for purpose, fulfilment and continuous momentum in their everyday work.  It does not want to be stuck in a box and is not looking for life-long position and long-term fulfilment and hence, has a super high expectation from the employer.
 
Secondly, there is an increasing demand for digital based learning through non -traditional methods such as mobile applications and social media, which has posed a strong need to create customised learning and development programs for the workforce.

Thirdly, with increasing use and significance of Data Science across the industry, it has become imperative for HR to use 'Workforce Analytics' to understand talent dynamics and productivity metrics, which would enable shared understanding and informed, fact based smarter decision making related to talent induction and management.
 
All this has led to a tremendous pressure on HR to rethink and reinvent the traditional way of talent acquisition, development and management. In order to embark upon this change journey, organisations need to follow an action path of reassessment and recalibration of current practices, evaluation and customisation of employee experience programs, simplification and digitalisation of processes, and thus optimisation of service delivery and efficiency.
 
They increasingly need to focus upon reskilling HR professionals, integrating the organization, and implementing analytics through redesigning and digitalising the entire lifecycle of an employee - spanning right from Recruitment, selection and induction, Talent Management, Learning & Development, Performance Management and Outplacement. Here, going digital in HR does not just mean heavy investment in technologies. While digitalising the processes, it is imperative that HR focuses upon the purpose rather than the process, and in turn create processes and systems, which are simplified, streamlined and intuitive. This would also enable the HR professionals to focus upon the most value adding processes, which have biggest impact on employee experience and productivity metrics, rather than dwelling upon the systems, which are duplicate and time-consuming.  
 
Additionally, technology driven processes generate a lot of useful information, which can be brought together for shared  and unified understanding  through  workforce analytics, explanatory and predictive modeling. The data driven analysis may help in discerning between opinions and facts. Organisation may reply upon inferences derived from workforce analytics coupled with intelligent intuition and experience of the functional experts and thereby take informed decision towards changing work processes and customise the employee experience programs to cater to different demographics. Further, it can also help HR to align itself to the organisational vision, focus areas and imperatives.
 
Another area of focus for HR in a Digital World is enabling E -based learning solutions for the employees. At a time of dynamic environment of technologies and systems, E -learning solutions can deliver their objectives in quicker cycle time than traditional class room based trainings. While it helps the organization to cut costs with respect to travelling and infrastructure, it also provides flexibility to the learners in terms of time schedule, pace and priorities. Another buzz world in the field - Gamification can be a highly engaging tool of learning for the workforce for it provides simulation of the environment, leading to real time experiential learning and thus, high retention of desired behaviour.

 According to a Nielsen report, people spend more than 2.5 hours on mobile devices daily. They are monitored closely by digital devices and are influenced by suggestions, nudges and recommendations driven by analytics and digital and social media. According to a latest global study, by 2021, 20 percent of all activities an individual takes part in will include at least one of the main seven digital mammoths - Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent. In such a scenario , Digital driven HR will  enable the organisations in reaching towards their current and prospective employees to deliver the connectivity at global scale. Social media Platform - Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube have transformed the entire workplace landscape and through the power of instant connect, organisation are leveraging the game changing opportunity to establish positive brand image of the employer amongst current and prospective workforce.

Crowd sourcing through Social media platforms have become a valuable part of recruitment strategy, not just for reaching out and relationship building, but also to identify talent, who are right fit to the organisational values and culture. It also helps them cross check prospective candidates' credentials through connected networks.

Many Organisations have developed their own social networking platform for connecting with employee base spread across the globe and constantly use them for Internal Communication, Recognition, Learning & Development, Idea Sharing etc. This helps in creating a Social HR, which can ensure democratization of workplace through constructive communication and collaboration by integrating employees' wisdom and expertise to leverage the organization's core competencies.
 
I also believe, the remarkable shift away from conventional licensed HR software toward modern, cloud-based systems will pick up the pace in a few years' time. According to Forbes  Report , at present there are over 150 million employees using cloud-based HR systems around the world and this figure will rapidly grow in the coming future. As HR apps move to mobile devices, I expect the shift to move to mobile platforms next. On account of the investment capital entering the space, organizations can now buy easy to use, cloud-based systems for payroll and core HRMS, performance and talent management, online learning, employee engagement and their well-being. External recruitment and job posting providers like LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, Careerbuilder, and others can spread and expand recruitment like never before.
 
According to People Matters, a leading HR publication, Virtual Reality (VR) could be a powerful tool in the hands of the HR. They can create VR-based simulations that can give potential employees a feel of what the culture of the company feels like, could create a compelling method of inviting candidates to learn about the job or could be a great assessment tool. Non-stop virtual experiences will be used to engage and educate employees in manners that have not been possible so far.
 
At Tata Power-DDL , we have integrated the use of digital technology at every stage of the HR value chain from referral checks to interviews to hiring and once the employee joins us - the induction, learning and development, reward and recognition to appraisals are all technology driven. I firmly believe that technology integration has not only streamlined our HR operations but also made us win employees' hearts. The testimony to this is our all India 37th rank in India's best Companies to work for Survey -2017 and 2nd position in the Energy, Oil and Gas Industry Sector, as per the study conducted by the Great Place to Work Institute.
 
It is widely consented that failure to adopt 'digital HR' may put organisations at risk of being left out in the race of attracting, retaining and engaging their employees for sustainable competitive advantage. While the fourth Industrial revolution with digital technology and communication at its heart, can disrupt the existing HR model and traditional workplace boundaries, it also has provided a substantial opportunity to create desired capabilities and competencies to create a sustainable organisation in a digitalised world and also take employee experience to the next exponential.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Praveer Sinha

The author CEO & MD, Tata Power-DDL

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