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HR Organizations: 4 Imperatives to improve your digital fitness

As a human resources leader, your reality has undoubtedly changed and will continue to change as we experience yet another year with economic, business and workforce uncertainty. Acting strategically, with foresight and an eye toward sustainable business improvements, has been and will continue to be one of the biggest differentiators for organizations now and throughout the journey to a future-ready HR function. 

Recent market research paints a clear picture that investing in technologies that advance employee experiences or increase productivity of HR teams is a trend that will continue. In fact, according to the Gartner 2024 HR Technology Imperatives research, technology continues to be the #1 area of investment of HR, whereas 89% of HR leaders plan to increase or maintain HR technology budgets for the third year in a row. This is due to the fact HR depends on technology investments to balance delivery of business benefits and cost optimization for maximum business value.  

The bottom line? The steps that HR leaders take right now, and in the weeks and months ahead, have the power to impact both business outcomes as well as the engagement and productivity of your workforce for many years to come.

Get your organization in “digital shape”

From recruitment to onboarding to payroll administration and beyond, “opportunities to digitize” have quickly turned into “necessities to digitize” — in every area of HR operations. 

Since the pandemic, businesses have shined a spotlight on health and overall wellbeing everywhere and it has become a central HR focus as we continue to navigate turbulent times. In turn, the digital health of organizations has turned out to be a big factor in how well they are able to continuously adapt and adjust to these times — where workplace culture and flexibility have become requirements, no longer a nice to have  -- and “work from anywhere” accommodations is the norm with 40% of employees working either remotely or hybrid, up from less than 8% in 2019. 

This has underscored things like the need for all-virtual onboarding to replace paper-form enrollment and a re-examination of interactive, omnichannel communications with employees. It has brought to the forefront the vital need to turn digital goals into well-functioning digital realities. It’s also been a chance for organizations to realize how quickly digital transformation initiatives can start saving them time, money and other resources. 

In the midst of myriad challenges, the now of work has brought real opportunities to evolve and implement digital strategies that may have previously stalled in the planning stages. 

Here are 4 imperatives to improve your digital fitness:

  1. Do a basic “HR health check” – assess your digital maturity

    Just like with personal fitness goals, you need to know where you are in order to set a plan for improvement or strategy for the future. Take an honest inventory of your digital technology landscape — what you’ve already implemented, whether it’s easily accessible, whether users are satisfied and can accomplish HR-related activities easily with a closed loop, where you can drive further efficiencies and cost savings, and more. 

    Take our 2-minute  Digital HR Maturity Assessment to get a quick email report showing where your organization stands on the digital maturity curve. 

  2. Define achievable goals

    Once you’ve identified your high-level opportunities for change, you need to define your goals and set realistic priorities for how you can drive incremental, hard-dollar improvements. Select some inefficient administrative processes that can use an automation tune-up and use one or two of those as pilot programs for digitization. Consider areas such as:

    1. Onboarding
    2. New hire processing
    3. Benefits enrollment or changes
    4. Payroll auditing and exception reporting
  3. Apply smart automation to drive key improvements

    Once you’ve defined a clear set of achievable goals, it’s time to take intelligent steps to drive improvement. That’s where smart automation comes in. Smart automation uses blended technologies to automate complex business processes — and, according to The Hackett Group, it can help HR organizations execute work with 26% fewer full-time employees at a 17% lower cost. 

    1. Use human-centered design principles

      Effective processes begin with the user in mind. Inform your process designs with real live experiences and “interesting moments” of your end users to better understand flow, interactivity and those aspects that can be fully automated. 

    2. Leverage advanced or robotic process automation (RPA) technology to improve efficiency and quality 

      Pure RPA is a good first step toward efficiency, as it emulates human execution of routine tasks, while requiring significantly less integration and cost than an ERP or workflow tool. The net result: reduced FTEs for administrative tasks, improved quality and accuracy, and accelerated responsiveness and process completion. 

    3. Integrate artificial intelligence (AI) for digitally-enabled conversations and engagement 

      Once you have automated repeatable tasks, look for ways to integrate more robust AI-based tools, chat, machine learning and other workforce experience technologies to digitally enable real-time user support. This will help not only create operational efficiencies for the long term but shape more personalized, relevant employee experiences along the way. 

      • Employee Assistance: Think about integrating assistance engines such as chatbots that can handle frequently asked questions timely and efficiently. Another quick hit can involve tuning your interactive voice response platform to proactively screen calls and direct employees to appropriate tools, self-service options, resources and specialists, ideally leveraging natural language processing to collect the employee’s feedback in a conversational flow. 
      • Engagement Engines: Often times employees need additional guidance to support their progress through HR, Payroll and Benefits decisions.  Engagement engines leverage historical data, predictive analytics and personal profiling information to coach employees through decision-making journeys and drive them toward the next-best actions based on their desired outcomes. 
      • Prepare the groundwork for Generative AI (GenAI): With GenAI at the core of nearly every HR technology conversation today, it is important to prepare your foundation to ensure quality while eliminating risk. Since GenAI can analyze data, aid decision-making, generate new content and facilitate actions, it is critical that you are using reliable data and content at the core.

        Consider the onboarding use case whereby you deliver a personalized onboarding journey with step-by-step instructions that educates employees on programs, policies, compensation and benefits, and their new roles -- and assists with the completion of tasks with high accuracy and reliability – all while helping HR practitioners better manage the process by providing people with analytics and insights into the onboarding process. 

        The foundation requires ensuring all the policy, knowledge base, role-based data, etc. is sound. So, consider starting with a specific department, position, or location as your pilot use case. 

  4. Create a centralized experience center for employee interaction and collaboration 

    Once you’ve defined and tested some digital use cases and improvements, it’s time to fully integrate the employee into your digitization plan and accelerate the journey toward organization-wide change. One of the ways to do this is through a centralized employee hub leveraging an employee experience platform. 

    For organizations that have multiple portals or tools used by employees to access policies, benefits and other employment information, the current environment has compelled many to consider the advantages of centralization. With a centralized, employees can: 

    1. Access an array of information and resources all in one place
    2. Be logically guided across a series of journey steps or actions 
    3. Access helpful tools such as chat, email, live voice or other custom interfaces 
    4. Gather information in a readily available and easy-to-understand format 

The things that are top of mind for HR leaders are being greatly magnified by ever changing human, regulatory, financial, and environmental conditions. 

 The current environment is ripe for service delivery transformation — and getting proactive about pursuing and implementing digital capabilities will improve your organization’s resilience and strengthen your business success going forward.  No matter where you are in your journey, there are bite-sized chunks of opportunities for you to transform your HR experiences in the near-term. 

To learn more about the ways that HR leaders and organizations can confront new ways of working, operating and interacting with employees, visit our website or download our infographic, Optimizing the employee experience in today’s workplace.