How to implement a successful HR digital transformation strategy: The 10-step guide - Sage Advice United Kingdom

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Digital transformation isn’t new.

What’s new is the phenomenal acceleration of tech adoption caused by the pandemic. We’re talking days instead of years.

Pre-pandemic, a standard tech implementation project to increase remote working and allow collaboration took on average 434 days – now it takes just 10.5 days.

HR has taken advantage of this by calling for and leading digital HR strategies across organisations.

In fact, 59% of C-suite and 58% of HR leaders tell us HR is driving digital transformation more now than before the pandemic, according to recent Sage research.

However, it’s easy to blur the boundaries between digital adoption and digital transformation.

The latter isn’t ‘making everything digital’, it’s about moving towards newer, more innovative and iterative ways of working to solve complex business problems, with the help of technology.

Here’s what we cover in this article:

Why does digital transformation matter to HR and People leaders?

Ultimately, true digital transformation is about more than just buying and implementing HR technology.

It’s about driving business transformation and ensuring business resilience through flexible and more agile ways of working.

Sure, technology plays an important role, but it’s also about having the right mindset, the right culture, and the right skills to create lasting change across the organisation.

A successful digital transformation strategy will help resolve business issues, provide value-add and growth opportunities for the organisation, create amazing hybrid experiences for your employees, and allow your organisation to become more employee-centric.

All of which are high up on the agenda of both HR and business leaders.

We’ve come up with a 10-step guide to digital transformation for HR and People leaders that outlines all of the key considerations at every stage of the journey, so you can create a master digital transformation plan that benefits the whole organisation.

The full toolkit can be downloaded here, but we’ve pulled out the highlights so you can start to get a picture of where you are in your digital transformation journey, what steps to take next, and what resources you need.

Read on for our 10-steps for how HR can drive digital transformation across the organisation.

Step 1: Identify business objectives and set clear goals

Any transformation, whether it’s a digital one or not, has to take place with a clear objective in mind. It also has to make business sense.

Don’t jump straight into the tech. Start with the ‘why’.

Why are you doing this and what’s the vision? Think about the business priorities.

How does the company need to transform to achieve them? What role should HR be playing? How can technology help?

Step 2: Know where you are and where you want to get to

Essentially, you need to know how ready your organisation is for digital change.

Assessing your current status quo will determine how advanced or embryonic you are in your digital transformation journey.

This step isn’t just about the technology you use, it’s about your people, skills, and culture.

Do your managers and teams feel comfortable with digital processes? How digital are your processes?

Is your company culture digitally focused?

Step 3: Engage business leaders and stakeholders early

Communicating the purpose and benefits of HR digital transformation to business leaders is key.

Leadership will know the business objectives, for example, so ensure HR processes and technologies are enabling and driving these.

If they’re not, that’s where change needs to happen.

Really, leadership across the whole organisation should be acting together to determine goals, priorities, and benefits, and collectively making the case for change.

Step 4: Build a compelling business case

Even with all the groundwork you’ve put in to engage with business leaders early and explain the objectives, your key decision makers may need more persuading.

Your job is to show that you’re spearheading not just digital transformation for HR, but true business transformation that will set the company up for the future and allow it to effortlessly manage rapid change and uncertainty.

Step 5: Be clear about what’s required when it comes to budget, timelines, and resources

Digital transformation is an ongoing process rather than a one-off project, so put some clear markers down to help you plan better and make sure the transformation strategy is taken seriously by the C-suite.

Break the transformation down into specific projects. Pick one or two to focus on first and work out expected timeframes and resources.

Agile transformation is what you’re aiming for; achieve small wins and build on those.

Step 6: Ensure you have the right mix of skills in your HR team

Any digital transformation project is likely to incur a high volume of data, so data analytics and database administration skills are a must.

You also need to be confident in leading a digital HR strategy.

You don’t need to know the ins and outs of specific software but make sure you have people on board who are digitally savvy and have previous experience in transformation projects.

Step 7: Audit, map and review existing tech and processes

Assess the collection of tools, platforms, apps, and pieces of software you currently use, and look at them tactically.

What tools do you have? Do you use them all? What’s working and what’s not working?

You also need to review your HR processes.

Are they linked to your current tech? Which tasks are still paper-based or manual? Which tasks take the longest? Where are your biggest pain points?

Step 8: Research tech and speak to vendors and analysts

Time to get tech savvy.

Know what’s out there, understand the different types of technologies and systems available, and start speaking with vendors, consultants, colleagues, and your peers.

Find out what solutions other HR and People leaders are using to solve the key challenges they are facing today.

Go to the vendors with your business problems and ask them how their tech can solve them.

Step 9: Experiment, test and innovate

Companies are embracing pilots, betas, and experiments as a way to find technology and processes that support their needs.

The beauty of experimenting and testing is that you can try things out quickly and on a small scale, before rolling them out company wide. You also have the freedom to make errors.

Failing forwards is the perfect way to learn, grow and evolve your digital transformation.

Step 10: Think ahead for your future needs – there is no end point for transformation

Your digital transformation strategy should deliver long-term value and always be evolving.

That means you need to be thinking about not just your current priorities, but what the future challenges are for the business that are coming your way over the next three, five or even 10 years.

Does the organisation have a long-term business plan? Can you align digital priorities with the business’s forward-looking goals?

No time to wait

Digital transformation is vital to remain competitive, attract and retain the best talent, and thrive in the new evolving climate of work.

Now’s the time for HR and People leaders to build upon the digital gains made during the pandemic and really drive through business transformation that will benefit employees and set the business up for long-term success.

As HR leaders, you are without doubt the best people in the organisation to drive digital transformation – because it’s not just about the tech, it’s about the people, skills, mindset, and culture.

Following our 10 steps will certainly go a long way to helping you carve out a well-thought-out plan.

Use the suggestions to shape your digital transformation strategy and adapt it to suit your own unique set-up within your company.

Remember, it needn’t be daunting, and you don’t have to do it alone.

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