How Digital Technology Demand is Transforming HR

And what HR should do about it

By Jill Goldstein Jun 17, 2015
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Resources managers face a fresh set of opportunities and challenges as a result of fast-evolving digital technology. Employees are bringing their consumer-based expectations into the workplace and, as a result, organizations are under pressure to adapt how they interact with customers and manage their operations and workforces.

However, embracing the rise of digital is still a big step for many HR business process outsourcing (HR BPO) buyers and service providers. As a result, many outsourcing engagements have remained stuck in the analog world—rather like employing a rotary telephone, when everyone else is using a smartphone.

Recent Accenture-sponsored research from HfS Research shows that two-thirds of today’s BPO engagements remain in the analog “lift and shift” stage, where existing processes are simply transferred to an external provider with little added value. Buyers are not satisfied. According to the study, most expect to undertake a wide-scale transformation of their business processes through the greater use of technology within the next two years.

So, how can both outsourcers and buyers step up to take advantage of the opportunities that innovative digital technologies offer? Those that have made this leap are using technology to achieve significantly higher value results. They’re automating standardized processes and workflows, enabling processing in the cloud, optimizing analytics, and embracing mobility for rapid implementation and payback.

Four key components are needed for high-performance digital operations and HR services:

1. A resilient digital platform that is secure, available on demand, and easy to set up and use. The digital platform is at the heart of HR operations. It’s where intelligence is leveraged and insights moved around the organization. Dynamic, accessible and continuous, it must have the ability to respond rapidly to changing developments in the career marketplace and within the business. With more processes interconnected and automated—resulting in shortened development cycles, increasing the frequency of updates and the likelihood of cyber-attacks—service providers must focus even more on building secure, scalable and agile systems.

The need for an always-on HR platform stems from many businesses no longer operating 9 to 5, because of their large, geographically distributed and virtual workforce, and the platform must be reliably accessible to all the users for which it is designed.

It needs to be logical and configurable to the needs of different categories of users. It must also be remembered that these platforms are still complex and can take months to get right. It is important that the platforms can be accessed by employees from a variety of devices, with intuitive options and contextual search.

2. Anywhere, anytime digital insights that improve business performance. Advanced HR analytics technologies enable buyers and service providers to overcome traditional reporting capabilities that merely reveal what happened to their talent management or recruitment, for example. Predictive analytics can move a business from a reactive to a proactive state, allowing buyers to look around the bend and see what’s coming next. Digital operations enable the use of both internal and external talent and development data, providing a richer context for interpretation and action.

This means taking data from being siloed and unmanaged to becoming more integrated across the enterprise, and turning it into useful and actionable results.

In HR, embracing analytics is critical.

There is a war for talent, particularly in areas such as digital marketing, IT security and programming. Businesses rely on digital insights to show them how their brand is perceived by the public and by specific audiences of potential employees, as well as to inform recruiters where the talent is located. Systems also help recruiters identify the profile of an ideal candidate for strong retention and performance, as well as to predict the likelihood of candidates accepting a job and arriving on their first day. The technology helps give key managers much better insights for their decisions.

3. A platform connecting digital information workers, using advanced monitoring, search and analytic tools. This gives connected workers everything they need to complete tasks, including training and reference materials, access to peers and supervisors, instant availability of tools and required information. With the platform and its applications sensing, even anticipating, the needs of workers and putting together the right mix of resources required—including social media and collaborative tools—the experience becomes seamless from start to finish. It transforms how work is conducted and changes the nature of the work in a way that heavily influences employee engagement and retention. As a result of these connected digital capabilities (which may include relevant content from blogs, websites and forums), those working on HR BPO engagements become “information detectives” and “continuous improvement specialists,” rather than transaction processors.

Historically, outsourcing and shared services provided case management tools and contact centers for logging and managing incoming calls. Now, their integrated, connected digital platforms offer advanced workflow management, and strong and consistent processes.

4. A digital innovation ecosystem with multiple partners, consultants, developers and vendors. Neither HR BPO buyer nor service provider can sustain high performance without relying on others across the business and technology ecosystem. These relationships enable both parties to know what new tools and technologies are in the marketplace or in development that may improve productivity and time-to-results. In addition to being open to established partners and vendors, and the “usual suspects” from the IT and business worlds, such an ecosystem offers connections with research institutions, universities and government agencies.

Working with multiple partners also ensures stability and breadth of coverage.

While it’s impossible to predict the future, having a broad range of options on systems enables much more reliable success and progress. All HR roads lead to digital operations.

­­To transform from analog to digital, HR organizations must integrate new technology that will allow them to reinvent themselves and get out in front of the dramatic changes in the highly competitive market for recruiting, retaining and developing employees. Businesses must figure out how they will define their place in this new, fast-changing environment.

Jill Goldstein leads Accenture’s Talent & HR Operations practice. She can be reached at

©2015. International Association for Human Resource Information Management. Used with permission.

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