The Truth about Digital HR, Technology and Transformation

The ‘war for talent’, digital HR, Cloud HCM, Artificial Intelligence, GDPR, employee engagement, predictive analytics – the list of critical issues impacting HR and the future of work goes on and on. But what is the truth about digital HR, technology and transformation? Based on research with 600+ HR leaders, David Wilson, CEO of Fosway Group, Europe’s #1 HR Analyst, highlights the real trends ahead of West Midlands Employers LoveYourHR Conference in June 2018.

With all the technological and organisational transformation that is either happening or being planned at the moment, it’s easy to think that a perfect storm is approaching for HR and C-level leaders alike. But our most recent research shows that HR’s strategies could hold the key to success in these turbulent times. Despite cutbacks, investment in HR remains strong, with over 70% expecting to increase spend on HR technology and innovation, and over 60% expecting to increase spend on developing HR expertise in the year ahead. So where exactly should this investment be directed?

The soundbite regarding the ‘war for talent’ was originally coined by McKinsey back in 1997. But in fact, there has never been a more challenging time to compete for talent than right now. Almost 90% of organisations see skills gaps remaining as significant, if not more so in the future. Not just for digital skills but for everything; from soft skills to leadership. In a world of intense competition and increasing speed of change, attracting the agile workers who can change jobs, cope with the ambiguity of roles disappearing and have the drive to learn and flex to new opportunities, becomes more and more important, especially under the wave of business automation promised by bots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) – more of which later.

Employers now need to cater to a different set of demands from its people, both current and prospective. Virtual working, sabbaticals, access to social media and informal dress codes are just a few of the requirements of today’s workforce. And organisations that are unable to compete risk getting left behind as the best of the talent either won’t work for you in the first place or will eventually leave to go and work somewhere else.

Learning is the top talent magnet

There is good news. Five of the top six rated elements of the Employer Value Proposition – why people want to work for your organisation – are owned by HR. This presents a business-critical position to ensure your organisation becomes an employer of choice. And the opportunity to always learn new skills is ranked highest. In fact, there is something growth orientated in all of the top six themes – learning, variety, coaching and personal responsibility, mentoring, regular role change and experiencing a wide range of cultures. Some might even say it is a manifesto for the future of work – how organisations can effectively unleash the potential of their people.

But despite an improved focus on areas such as employer reputation and employer brand for well over 70%, there is too little focus from organisations on the differentiators that will retain top talent, such as career and talent management – especially when the availability of skills is so scarce.

Invest in innovation

One way to unlock talent management processes, including career planning and succession, is investing in the right HR technology. There are solutions available that not only support this activity but – powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) – can actually drive it. There are already chatbots acting as personal career coaches and internal vacancy assistants. This is not tomorrow’s technology, this is available now, although less than 12% are currently using it. But there is too much emphasis being placed on transforming the solutions that manage core HR processes. Not that these are unimportant. But they are not about to differentiate your organisation in people’s minds. And one of the biggest challenges – and opportunities – that exists for HR right now might be resetting its primary role from transactional processes to truly maximising and realising the skills and performance of its people.

But beware the hype

Technology choices are not without their own challenges however. Less than 1 in 4 HR customers say their solution providers innovate their systems always or frequently. And the satisfaction levels are generally underwhelming across the board, from payroll through to recruitment and talent management less than 20% are very satisfied with their HR systems.

Overall, employee engagement remains the number one measure for success in HR right now. Its biggest drivers reflect many of the top factors of the Employer Value Proposition including the organisation’s brand, leadership behaviours and the importance of personal development. But many of the barriers to success sit outside of HR’s control – 88% cite the skills and attitudes of managers as a major barrier to employee engagement for example.

This again highlights the need for HR transformation to go beyond the digital and to extend beyond its traditional functional scope. The opportunity to act as a key partner in shaping the organisations of the future is there for the taking.

The data referenced here is based on Fosway’s 2017-18 HR Realities research with over 600 senior HR professionals from across Europe. More details can be found at and you can follow David via @dwil23. David will also be speaking at the forthcoming Conference; #loveyourHR on 21st June and will be blogging on the topic of L&D being the true Engine Room behind talent management.

Article by David Wilson,  Founder and CEO of Fosway Group

(find out more about David here)

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