How a smart digital transformation can help CHROs to retain talent – and their own jobs

HR’s growing complexity and business-critical nature means digital transformation is essential. How can CHROs develop successful digital transformation strategies?

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HR directors have more responsibilities than ever before. Already burdened with balancing employee wellbeing and corporate strategy, these leaders are now expected to tackle higher employee expectations, the continuing processes around post-Covid returns to office, overseeing operational challenges and uncovering ways to turn the advent of AI and advanced HR tech into an advantage.

With this expanded remit, the stakes are higher than ever. And with the spectre of employee attrition looming large, any additional complexity or challenges related to digital transformation will result in lost time, money and talent.

“A fragmented digital ecosystem can sow seeds of disengagement among employees, leading to attrition and talent drain”, says Louise Bhatia, director of operations at HR digital transformation company Silver Cloud. “Employee retention is intricately linked to the quality of the workplace experience - a complex digital workplace not only impedes productivity but also erodes employee morale, paving the way for leavers.”

Combating HR’s complexity crisis

According to Silver Cloud’s research, 82% of HR leaders cite multiple disparate systems and lack of integration as their most common technological challenge. Static spreadsheets, disjointed software or apps, and clunky technology systems that don’t communicate can hamstring an HR director’s ability to think strategically and plan for the long term.

In today’s challenging economic climate, “lots of organisations are having to make decisions about people to maximise their workforces and remain agile,” Bhatia says. “The role of the HR director is to use the power of the data that they have around their people to understand how it impacts the bottom line.”

With the right tools in place, not only will employees be more engaged by a clearer, more streamlined workplace, but HR directors will be able to make more informed, impactful decisions and have a greater effect on their company’s long-term objectives.

The latest way HR directors are harnessing the power of data is through artificial intelligence tools integrated into their HR technology. One-third (37%) of HR leaders say AI will deliver data-driven insights and a better understanding of the performance of their workforce, according to research by SurveyMonkey’s research.

Bhatia urges HR directors to embrace the benefits of AI, rather than to fear it. AI is already being built into most workplace technologies. And its addition can lead to new features, greater insights and real-time data. “It’s a total game changer, and it’s coming whether we like it or not,” she says.

She points to the recent experience of the Covid-19 pandemic. Companies had to become agile “overnight”, making accurate data a big asset. “They needed it quickly because they had to make decisions about people’s health and safety,” Bhatia says. But that data wasn’t always accessible or clear. As a result, the HR technology industry has had to adapt and enhance its focus on data. Now using elements of AI, many platforms can provide richer, more detailed workplace insights that empower HR leaders to make faster, better-informed decisions.

A fast track to transformation

Further innovation from HRIS vendors and an increasing need for “quick fixes” has given rise to a surge in popularity for rapid deployment solutions, with providers dangling the carrot of accelerated time to value in front of time-poor HR leaders looking to kickstart a digital transformation.

This ‘rapid’ approach, generally made possible through the deployment of pre-configured capabilities, tools and best practice templates, enables organisations to pave the way for their transformation journey as well as make significant cost savings.

“It’s an attractive proposition for CHROs. An opportunity to make a real difference in a relatively short period of time” says Bhatia. “The success criteria for this type of implementation is pretty much the same as it would be for a standard implementation. However, if companies don’t do the usual groundwork, the system won’t be a miracle cure to any issues they are facing, and could actually cause more problems if done badly.”

She adds: “The system will still need configuring so HR teams will need to have thought about how things work, what rules will be needed and ensure all the config fits their policies. So mapping processes and cleaning data are essential activities, as is managing change, designing comms and training. Your people still need to be taken on the journey or it will result in further negative experiences.”

Making technology work

A smart digital transformation goes beyond simply adopting new technologies; it involves a holistic approach that encompasses strategy, culture, and innovation to create lasting value.

According to Silver Cloud, businesses often try to fill their HR gaps with technology and forget to consider the larger strategic remit. These organisations frequently find themselves in the tricky position of having invested in tech without being able to benefit from the advantages a well-structured implementation can provide.

“My advice to HR directors is to have your people aligned. You need to have both the technology strategy and the people strategy in place to enable that. The two have to work hand-in-hand,” Bhatia says. “Is the technology delivering and enabling you to deliver your people strategy effectively? If it’s not, you need to stop and ask questions about its effectiveness.”

Getting digital transformation right the first time

In light of today’s challenges, the imperative for HR directors is clear: getting digital transformation right the first time matters. The repercussions of missteps in digital initiatives extend far beyond mere operational inefficiencies. They can undermine employee satisfaction, erode trust in leadership and ultimately compromise organisational success.

“Effective digital transformation isn’t just about staying ahead of the curve, it’s about safeguarding the future of your workforce,” Bhatia emphasises. “By investing in the right technology and partnerships, HR leaders can create an environment where employees feel valued, engaged, and empowered.”

Working alongside a specialist, whole-of-market HR technology partner such as Silver Cloud ensures that CHROs are not going it alone. “Spearheading a digital transformation initiative always demands much more time than organisations anticipate” says Bhatia. “And with the pace the technology is accelerating, having a trusted, independent advisor who can be there every step of the way to keep momentum and provide strategic assurance can be invaluable.”

From assessing needs, building a business case and system selection to organisational readiness, change management and solution deployment, Silver Cloud’s comprehensive suite of services ensures that HR leaders can realise their vision of a digitally-enabled, resilient workplace that understands, engages and maximises its employees now and in the future.

Case study

How one company approached the digital transformation of its HR function

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