Powering the future of work webinar reveals trends in digital HR transformation

CHRO Webinar shares how pioneering HR teams are entering a new digital reality.

In a webinar hosted by CHRO SA in partnership with KPMG on powering the future of HR, Collins Makhado, people and change partner and powered HR lead at KPMG, Candice Watson, group executive: human capital, AECI, and Ronnie Toerien, HCM sales development and strategy leader, Africa at Oracle, discussed the strategies that organisations can embrace for successful digital transformation drives.

“We are in a double disrupted world, one accelerated by digital transformation and by the Covid-19 pandemic, which many have used to reimagine business and design a way of working which is fit for the future,” said Collins.

He added that while many leaders view HR as an administrative function, there are HR teams which are focusing on integrated and mutually enforcing capabilities such as employee experience, data and analytics, workforce shaping and digital HR and learning.

To offer some context and details on current trends, Collins shared the outcomes of the KPMG Future of HR study which had polled 1,300 global CEOs on perspectives of the future and how they view the evolution of the economy in context of challenges.

The leaders highlighted digital agility as the top capability that needs to be developed in the next three years. Seventy-eight percent said that there needs to be a quicker shift of investment to digital opportunities and 70 percent anticipate that sound partnerships will be critical to continue the pace of digital transformation.

How leading organisations are doing it
Collins said that currently, there are organisations that are trailblazing and focused on future-fit HR, and he defined these as ‘Pathfinders.’

These organisations set themselves apart from 80 percent of others, and the traits they possess include being more positive about the future, having higher levels of employee trust and morale, being likely to adopt new leading technologies and being quicker to respond to the pandemic.

Candice shared on projects implemented by AECI. She explained that the first component deployed was the employee centre in a shared services environment. Previously AECI had multiple payroll systems across the group, which has a footprint in 22 countries. They have been able to successfully deploy central payroll services to 17 countries.

The next phase was to look at additional modules including SAP Cloud Analytics around human capital strategy, with the aim of being able to derive analytics on turnover, equity, and diversity.

Another success story is how the group successfully deployed SAP LMS to digitise learning and provide learning on demand. “We also launched a performance management system,” she said.

“Financially, these have been huge investments which have proven to be wise ones, as we are now able to give managers data to inform their strategy going forward.”

Key factors when embarking in transformation
Ronnie said organisations need to start with the basics and the first thing to look at is readiness to change. From a systems perspective, it is knowing if what you already have in place allows you to move forward or is hindering the process.

“As organisations have evolved, you need to evaluate what you have in place and as the pandemic has shown, you need to consider how quick your organisation is in responding to change. Constant change has become the new norm and agility is key,” he said.

He said the ability to have the necessary data available to help you make decisions is imperative, adding that, “We live in a data-driven world, and need to be able to understand trends, who your top performers are, the risk that they might leave, retention strategy and workforce strategy, and the skills you need – and all of these change all the time.”

Ronnie pointed out that organisations may be surprised at how much data they already have.

He said that even basic information can deliver good insights around how long employees have been in the organisation, when they last received an increase, how long they have reported to a certain manager or how much sick leave they have taken, which can then be considered in plans and strategies.

Collins said that the steps in beginning your Pathfinder journey include redefining your value, delivering more, automating where possible, building end-to-end capabilities and becoming the architect of the new operating model which is digitally enabled and delivers more value in the longer term.

Focus on analytics
Collins said analytics is a critical value-add in terms of providing insight and foresight to the organisation and it’s important to have a clear connection between what the business wants to achieve and the HR capabilities to deliver on that.

“Clarity is very necessary to avoid an expensive exercise that doesn’t deliver results,” he emphasised.

Ronnie said, “We are past the information age, and are now in the knowledge age. Implementing analytics earlier rather than later is something every organisation wanting to transform should consider.”

Making transformation real
Candice said we need to reframe what we mean by digital transformation in the workplace, saying that, “We all now live in a digital world, so we need to integrate HR tools into everyday life, whether it's in production facilities or at home.

As HR, we need to make the mindset shift to assimilate the organisation’s human capital tools into everyday life, such as mobile-enabled solutions that allow people to access HR tools and services on the same devices they use for everyday communications, calls, banking and so on,”

Collins said a new theme that had emerged in the 2021 study was that leading organisations are adopting a ‘total workforce approach’, which is looking beyond traditional talent management and personalising the employee experience versus a conventional approach to talent. He said, “They are experimenting and adopting new ways of working. They are also open to delivering new value to employees, customers, shareholders and society. Integrating technology in everything they do.”

Elements for success
Collins said that the pillars for success in pathfinding organisations include being able to play a role in establishing the right structure in the organisation, owning the entire employee experience, and using data and analytics to target and recruit the future workforce.

He added that these organisations understand how to shape the workforce with new skills, functions, compositions and processes to become more resilient for the future, and they invest in various forms of digital technology to deliver HR and learning services.

The webinar attendee poll revealed that 15 percent thought the primary obstacle in their digital transformation journey is that internally, the companies they work for do not do well with change management. Thirteen percent were still putting out fires from Covid-19 and 20 percent said HR is still extremely administrative in their organisation.

Many attendees said that leadership doesn’t see transformation as urgent, and Ronnie emphasised that leadership needs to see the necessity to do things differently, that leadership in many cases is scared of losing control by using digitisation in decision-making. “Covid-19 has taught us that the cost of not moving and accelerating on digital transformation is high,” he concluded.