Avoiding Digital for HR dummies

There is so much talk about whether the HR function is strategic or not, and whether HR leaders should have a ‘seat at the table’.  This talk has persisted for years, leading me to wonder if HR professionals are doing enough to really ensure they are strategic business partners. 

The League Inc 2018 “Blindspot Report” surveyed almost 600 HR professionals and nearly 300 employees; and found that 43% of HR respondents said they see their role as strategic but only 18% of employees said they view HR that way.  Regrettably there are many other studies and general opinions out there that mirror these views from a range of stakeholders through to executive levels. 

So, what’s current in the business world that HR could take a leadership position on and once and for all demonstrate their strategic and commercial worth?  Anyone heard of DIGITAL recently?!  Technical transformation, digital gurus, tech agility, AI, future focus – you name it - buzz words for this area are cropping up every day!  Could this be a fantastic opportunity for us to improve the perceptions of our strategic value?

Mercer’s 2018 Global Talent Trends Study cites HR as being pivotal to ensuring that people are at the heart of “Future of Work” preparations, so what better time to create a forward thinking and change resistant approach to learning on digital change. This is an opportunity for HR leaders to help themselves, and others in their organisations. To manage abilities to change, at pace; and to help our workforces in mastering digital competencies to keep their organisations current, profitable, and competitive. 

Now, I’m not suggesting that HR leaders need to become deep technical specialists in digital skills, but rather to have enough knowledge of the basic concepts, to be able to enable others to be masters.

And I’d advise caution.  Arguably we’ve already raised enough business leader astonishment and derision at our need for “Finance for HR” courses.  You rarely see other functions getting called out for a ‘dummies’ approach to understanding business fundamentals, so stampeding to courses on “Digital for HR” may not be our best tactic.

We could instead teach themselves to be great self-directed learners, and in doing so, we’ll be able to better support others to achieve self-directed learning techniques as well. 

Taking a self-directed approach really can be as easy understanding what it is you need to learn.  If you’re unclear don’t just ask someone in the next office but find the person who is known as a subject matter expert.  With clear learning objectives and some advance research, you can then design your own learning with these steps:

Before – Do you know your personal learning style?  What do you need to learn?  Does it break down into multiple objectives and multiple approaches?  Can you identify an expert to help you?  Should you go on a course? What timeframes will you set?  How will you measure the effectiveness of your learning?  How will you calibrate and recalibrate if needed?

During – If it’s a course, what will you do to prepare?  Will you make a point of talking to the facilitators and network with other participants?  If it’s talking to an expert what questions do you want to ask?

After – Thank anyone who has been involved in the learning, follow up any networking opportunities, measure the effectiveness and share with others

Becoming digitally savvy won’t be the holy grail to getting a ‘seat at the table’.  But with so many in our organisations showing confusion, hesitancy and resistance to the newness of all things digital, this could be a great opportunity for HR to be leaders of transformation! 

Just imagine if HR practitioners everywhere, really took to heart this quote from Mercer’s 2018 Global Talent Trends Study - “Embedding the ability to change at speed into today’s work and tomorrow’s plans is the key to business success”. Sounds like it would be well worth serving that up at the next Executive Meeting!

HR musingsVanessa Blackburn