Time for HR to bite the bullet on digital transformation

How and why HR leaders can help CEOs with digital transformation

Businesses are facing up to the huge task of digital transformation, and HR leaders need to support their CEOs in carving a path into the future, writes Aaron Green

The field of HR is constantly changing. Evolution, revolution and transformation are code words for change. Yet one topic seems to keep HR practitioners up late at night: the “seat at the table.” The more that we focus on this topic, the less we focus on the real question: “What does my CEO really want?

But, here’s another question. And it’s one you should be asking. Do you really need a seat at the table?

I believe that HR has always had a seat at the table. We should stop demanding a chair and instead recognise that we’re already there. We are more than just soft skills and labour relations; we are a foundational part of business strategy. So why do we think that we’re not taken as seriously as our other executive colleagues?

The world has and will continue to fundamentally change, HR is the key player in how a business should prepare and adapt. Arguing about whether we are held in high enough esteem damages the profession, making your people feel inferior instead of championing the valuable work they do.

Today, businesses are facing up to the huge task of digital transformation. It’s a modern-day industrial revolution. Companies are fundamentally redefining themselves, the key products or services they provide, the competitive landscape and the skills they need to be successful.

There’s no roadmap for this change. CEOs will rely on a number of leaders across the business to help carve a path into the future – and chief among these is the CHRO.

“Here’s another question. And it’s one you should be asking. Do you really need a seat at the table?”

Tomorrow has already happened
Why? Because HR has always been about growth and stewardship – looking at current ways of working to understand how people and culture can help shape the next iteration of the business. So planning for tomorrow is too short-sighted; knowing what will happen next year is a competitive advantage. This means assessing industry trends such as digital transformation and leading the business in creating the framework to reach its goals.

As HR leaders we need to lead change. We’re experienced in managing employee relations and regulations, but forecasting the future is new and its implications are obviously extensive.

An increased focus on agility is part of developing the workplace of the future. This will change the way organisations think about talent – the types of skills needed, flexibility in those roles and whether they’re long-term or “gig” positions.

To be a strategic driver of a business requires stepping up to lead the change.

Look at the plan your organisation has in place already – whether it’s only looking ahead to next year or stretches out to 2030. HR must be the enabler of this vision. HR must look at these goals and continually deliver against this plan.

Major change is happening and you can have maximum impact on digital transformation. We don’t need to wait for an invitation to dinner; we’ve been at the table since breakfast.

For more information on SAP SuccessFactors, the workforce of the future, the role of technology and what these mean for HR, visit SAP HR InsightsImage source: iStock