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HR Needs Its Own Digital Strategy To Improve Productivity, Says Oracle's John F Hansen

John F Hansen, Vice President of Product Management Applications Development at Oracle, talks to Sonal Khetarpal of BW| BusinessWorld at the sidelines of the SHRM conference on 24 September, 2015 on the latest thinking on the transformation journey in the HR arena. He shares insights on how to think differently about the motivations and behaviours of the workforce and how systems can be used to support the new way of addressing people management challenges.

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What is the most important aspect a company should consider as it starts the process of HR transformation?
Many organisations are embarking on the journey of HR transformation, but the first question to ask must be “Why are we transforming HR, and how will this help our organisation succeed”? It is important to pin down why the organisation needs to transform the HR processes and how the change will positively impact the business. Many organisations commence a HR transformation just because others are undertaking this same activity, but unless these why/how questions are answered, and the business needs clearly identified, it is possible a transformation will make little impact on the organisation.
To answer these questions, it is critical to know what the CEO is thinking, and what business problems they are trying to solve.  The people-related responses to these business problems can then be incorporated into the HR transformation strategy.
HR transformation is therefore only a means to an end, a way to transform the HR business function to better support the organization as it addresses its business challenges and takes advantages of opportunities as they arise.
When HR understands and is aligned to the CEO and the organisation’s business challenges and opportunities, it can express its strategy in a way that is consistent with the rest of the organisation, and in this way become commercially relevant.
What new trends do you see in the field of HR that companies should leverage?
Today most organisations are developing their corporate digital strategy, often starting with a digital strategy developed by the marketing team to engage with and service their customers.  HR needs its own digital strategy to engage with and improve the productivity of the workforce. The HR Digital strategy will incorporate technology that is personalized, connected, insightful, mobile, purposeful, secure, talent-centric, social and agile.
An immediate opportunity presented by a HR Digital strategy is to adopt and utilize more sophisticated HR Analytics.  At the highest level of sophistication, predictive analytics may be utilised to analyse workforce behavior, and to then develop predictions so that HR practitioners can understand and address future talent challenges such as unplanned attrition or performance degradation.
A lot of age-old performance motivators are now seen as defunct. How is NeuroLeadership transforming thinking on workforce interactions?
Dr David Rock coined the term Neuroleadership. He is the Director of the NeuroLeadership Institute, a global initiative bringing neuroscientists and leadership experts together to help organizations leverage neuroscience research in order to develop better leaders and managers, and more effective organisations.
NeuroLeadership is essentially the science of how people behave the way they do in an organisation, what motivates and de-motivates them. Research in this space is extensive, and its implications are illustrated by the following two findings:
1. Social issues are a primary concern for employees. Science has proved that social pain triggers the same part of the brain as physical pain, like breaking an arm. This tells us how far more important social interactions are than we give them credit for.
2. The brain is a ‘prediction machine’ that analyses every stimulus as a threat or a reward. This analysis is occurring multiple times each second, and as a default treats stimuli as a threat unless the opposite is indicated.  Research has shown that, in an organizational context, many of the stimuli presented in the workplace will be perceived as a threat by employees, even though they are well-established practices in the organizational context. 
Performance Management is an example of a business process that presents a threat stimulus, even though it was designed to engage employees, enhance their performance and help them develop inside the organization.  In spite of this intent, Performance Management has become almost universally derided by employees, deemed ineffective by many organisations, and more recently abandoned by many organisations.  In this case, NeuroLeadership is providing a context for re-thinking how we manage performance, develop employees and create a more engaging workplace.