If people, process and technology (in that order) are the keys to success in business, it’s more important than ever for organizations to focus on digital HR.
Businesses have been using technology to empower their employees to increase results since the Industrial Revolution. The right tools help employees make things better, faster, and more economically.
The HR department, often thought of as a compliance and paperwork operation (a.k.a. the ‘no fun department’), actually plays a critical role in steering the ship.
After all, the human resources department is responsible for recruiting, onboarding, and managing the people who will eventually use the tools to create the products. If HR is able to do better with the people aspect, it logically follows that the people they manage will be better equipped to deliver the process and technology aspects.
Digital transformation is the way forward for all businesses, and while DX is not contained within any one department, today we’re going to zoom in on human resources. In this post, we’ll define digital HR, consider its necessity, show some examples, and provide some actionable advice for starting your own journey with digital HR.
What Is Digital HR?
One of the primary function of HR is to deliver employee experience. Yes, HR practitioners have hundreds of other responsibilities, but without providing excellent experiences for the staff, those other activities won’t come into play.
A few examples of systems that a typical HR department creates and manages are:
- Performance management
These systems allow employees to hit the ground running and start producing amazing work with their teams. There is, of course, some technology behind each of those systems, and they may be housed within different applications. These apps run things like time and attendance, company-wide goals, recruitment, wellness programs, and a lot more.
To be clear, digital HR is not just about using technology and apps to run these processes.
Digital HR is a platform with the ability to integrate all your apps, optimize certain features based on context, and provide data-driven insights on performance.
This is an incredible leap forward from traditional HR, and it is perhaps difficult to summarize in a single sentence. Here are some great examples from Deloitte that demonstrate the difference between traditional and digital HR with several well-known use cases.
This graphic shows just how different the delivery methods for some common HR activities are for traditional and digital HR. As you can see, it’s not just about digitizing your paper-based documents—it’s a completely different philosophy of managing an organization's #1 asset: its people.
If you’ve been nodding along in agreement but are skeptical about the actual need of digital HR, this next section is for you!
Why Do We Need Digital HR?
Let’s face it—human resources is overlooked at many companies. It’s usually not the hottest topic at the executive board retreat, and there’s a false (yet pervasive) perception that the HR department is best suited for a supporting role without significant leadership capabilities.
In actuality, a technologically advanced and forward thinking HR department can have a huge impact on many areas of the business, but we’ll just give you two good examples.
One of the key differentiators between traditional and digital HR is the focus on experience, not process. So if an employee must complete an HR-related process, but that process is only available via desktop computer running Windows 95, that’s a poor experience considering 40% of all Internet traffic is completed via mobile device.
Services like time and attendance, expense reports, and many other HR (or accounting) systems need to be available via mobile device to create a seamless experience for employees. If there’s friction between the individual and the process that HR needs him to complete, it just won’t get done.
Or, consider the effect of recruiting and onboarding on company culture. When a new hire is continuously impressed with the experience of being recruited and onboarded to the company, what type of message do you think that sends to what’s expected of her performance? She’ll probably feel like she needs to have her stuff together just to keep up with the top performers in the HR department that signed her up to work.
Efficiency and Productivity
HR processes require documentation—we all know this, either because you design those processes or you’ve been through them from the user perspective.
But did you know that Accenture found that 82% of HR professionals take more than 30 minutes to create a document, and that 80% have no standardized solution for document creation? That is an astounding amount of manual labor! Dropbox Sign believes that if a repetitive process can be digitized and automated, it should be—right away. Bonus points for working that into an overarching digital transformation.
If you’re looking to apply digital throughout your HR department and processes but need to convince the executive team, you’ll need to make a case for the bottom line. Read on.
What Digital HR Looks Like
Digital HR is not a concept of the future—there are plenty of examples of companies delivering advanced HR functions with technology right now.
Automate time and attendance - Between smartphones and wearable tech, it’s now possible to skip the punch clock system entirely. When an employee shows up for work, the GPS in her phone can check her in for the day, record her lunch break, and sign her out. In regard to privacy or fraud—it’s really no different than the current (yet soon-to-be-outdated) keycard method.
Provide on-demand video learning - When an employee starts a new assignment, wouldn’t it be great if she had instant access to video training of all the software and processes she needed to get caught up? This is exactly what a learning management system (LMS) is designed to do, and HR departments can even configure access so that the right people get the right information at the right time. This allows you to scale your training without having to repeat yourself.
Monitor stress levels - If employees are willing to opt in to a health and wellness program, biometric scanning from wearable devices can monitor their stress levelsand recommend when it’s time to take a break. Talk about an exceptional employee experience.
Review 401(k) plans - Retirement plans aren’t exactly the most exciting thing for most employees, but what IS exciting is a big fat retirement income from maximizing your 401k. Smart systems can use artificial intelligence and advanced algorithms to look at employees retirement accountsand offer intelligent recommendations.
Status Notifications - One feature of Dropbox Sign that our clients love is the ability to get an alert when major events—such as a document being reviewed or signed—happen. These can be configured into more complex workflows, of course, but sometimes it’s extremely handy for a manager to know when somebody has completed a document or has officially signed a employment contract.
Every organization has unique needs, but these are just a few examples to get your imagination thinking about the different ways you can use digital HR in the workplace. Speaking of getting started...
Building Your Digital HR Strategy
As you can see, if you’re ready to dive into digital HR, you’re biting off a pretty big chunk of food—even if you already have some digitized processes in place.
Here are some tips to map out a strategy as you begin (or complete) your journey.
Think digital first - Challenge your team to eschew paperwork and manual processes completely. This means cloud platforms, mobile apps, and a social-media savviness is required from your entire team. Push them to research and find creative solutions until you have enough options to begin building your platform and connected all the dots. There’s a good chance you’ll need to integrate multiple systems to pull it off.
Analytics as a core function - Don’t engage with any software or systems that don’t allow you to put real-time performance dashboards in place. If you’re having to manually create your data analysis, that’s a lot of effort being wasted on something that could should be automated. Additionally, if the data is constantly available, it’ll get reviewed more often, which will help you make optimizations and course corrections faster.
Use design thinking - Without a frictionless user experience, nobody will adopt the systems you put in place. Think through the use case for every app you put in place—if it will primarily be used on the go, plan for the mobile experience.
Adapt HR around employee experience - Do your employees (and potential new hires) want to work remotely? Find a way to allow them to comply with your HR needs from their home or coworking space. The rise of the gig economy has lead to a proliferation of remote workers who embrace the concept of the future of work, and HR departments need to find ways to optimize that experience.
Stay agile - Leverage the cloud whenever possible. If you need to deal with an influx of employee onboarding requests or massive additions to your LMS library, cloud computing allows you to upgrade those systems with an increase in your monthly bill. While nobody likes a more expensive bill, this is definitely a better option than tearing down a wall in your office to make room for more servers and staff to maintain them.
Scale your digital HR - Are your systems in place and everything is clicking along? Great. But what happens if your company decides to hire 1,000% more staff—can you handle the additional workload? Instacart, the grocery delivery service, did a great job planning for their growth. They needed thousands of personal shoppers to make their service work, and there’s no way their HR department could handle all those 1099’s if it was a paper process. Learn how they used Dropbox Sign to onboard thousands of contractors without a single piece of paper in this case study.
When done right, digital HR provides enhanced employee experiences, great efficiency, and better analytics and tracking. Each of those benefits allow HR to have a greater positive impact on the overall company culture.