Deloitte Finds HR Departments Struggle to Keep Pace With Digital Revolution

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The digital revolution that began in the mid-20th century shows no signs of stopping. In fact, it only appears to be gaining speed. The development of new technologies and solutions happens now at a rate that's often unsettling for those in the business world. Human resource professionals need to keep pace with these constant shifts or risk losing the ability to appear competitive to top talent.

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Only 11 percent of global companies report they are prepared to build "the organization of the future," according to Deloitte's 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report, "Rewriting the Rules for the Digital Age." Meanwhile, 90 percent of respondents felt it was important or very important to have this capability. Technology has already changed the way we get work done in countless fields, and it will continue to do so moving forward.

This continued advancement is great for the future of business in general, but HR departments have struggled to keep up.

"The challenge for HR, and all business leaders, is the accelerating pace of digital change," says Jeff Schwartz, principal at Deloitte. "While individuals are generally quick to adopt and adapt to new technologies – think of how quickly we've all embraced our smartphones – HR has not been as proactive. There is a huge opportunity to make sure that all aspects of HR and employee experience are mobile, digital, and real time."

Making the Grade

To stay relevant in the future, companies must start dedicating resources now. HR is the gateway to the company for every candidate, and if the department fails to impress, businesses risk being passed over by top talent.

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Taking the time now to shore up HR will be valuable for both the talent pool and the company brand, and as Deloitte's research shows, many HR departments need a lot of work.

"Over the past several years of our global survey, we have estimated the grade point average for HR from both business and HR professionals responding to our global survey," Schwartz says. "This year, the average was 2.0, about a 'C' grade. Unfortunately, the grade from business leaders was 1.8, a bit lower than HR's self-assessment of 2.1. From what we are seeing, HR is up to the challenge and needs to continue to focus on new capabilities including design thinking, organization network analysis, developing the employee experience, and focusing on mobile."

Humans and Robots Can Work Together

Automation scares a lot of people in the business world. People fear that computers will take their jobs, as happened with manufacturing in the 1990s and 2000s. The good news here is that while jobs may be turned over to automated solutions, the human element of the workforce will be reinvented. Forty-one percent of survey respondents reported having fully implemented or having made significant progress in adopting cognitive and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies within their workforces, yet those companies are not made up of robots and AI. There's still a place for the human element.

Companies need to focus on reskilling their workforces to operate as part of what Deloitte's report refers to as a "new, augmented workforce." However, only 17 percent of executives say they are ready to manage a workforce with people, robots, and AI working in tandem.

"HR, along with the rest of the business, is facing significant opportunities to leverage new technologies," Schwartz says. "Obviously, mobile is one of them. Everything we do for employees, like our customers, must be digital and mobile. The other major area of technology innovation for HR is robotic process automation (RPA) and cognitive technologies and AI. HR has a major role to play in both leveraging these technologies for HR's own programs and leading the design work, adoption, and change efforts to incorporate cognitive and AI into jobs across the enterprise. Work and job redesign around RPA, cognitive, and AI, will be a major trend in the coming years."

The responsibility for acquiring new talent and reskilling existing talent to operate as part of an augmented workforce will fall heavily on HR departments, so getting in front of the trend now will be crucial to future success. It's time to let go of the fax machine, folks. The only way through the digital revolution is forward.