How is digital transformation affecting your people strategy?

On 5 December, we were delighted to host a strategic roundtable event in London, bringing together a group of senior HR professionals and industry leaders to discuss how digital transformation and change is affecting people strategy. The roundtable took place at the RAF Club in Mayfair, London.

Digitisation is impacting all our lives, both personally and professionally. Organisations are grasping the opportunities it provides, but also grappling with the many complex challenges on their digital journey. One of the most critical paths to navigate is the impact on people – more specifically how organisations build and develop a workforce for the digital age.

This was the focus of our discussion, during which attendees spoke openly and at depth, adhering to Chatham House Rules, about what their respective organisations were doing to meet these challenges. Here we share the four main themes explored during the session:

1. The future of work is human

Much is being written in the media about ‘the rise of the robots’ who will, in the coming years, replace people and make many jobs redundant. There’s no doubt that technology is changing the way tasks and jobs are performed, and it’s predicted that up to one third of jobs could be automated by 2030. However, the problem with this fear-based narrative is that it presents just one side of the story, ignoring the fact that many new jobs are being created, or that the transactional components of a job can be augmented by technology to increase efficiency and productivity.

Take Amazon as an example, who has over the last three years increased the number of robots working in its warehouses from 1,400 to 45,000. But, over that period the rate at which it hires workers has remained the same.

So, for organisations this increases the focus on designing jobs which provide meaningful work, upskilling and retraining the workforce to work effectively and productively alongside technology. This means restoring investment in learning and development, to support the workforce to develop and acquire the right skills at the same pace as the organisation evolves. It also means building talent pipelines through robust apprenticeship programmes, which at the same time enhances social mobility. Strong and meaningful diversity and inclusion programmes within the workplace will continue to be paramount giving critical importance to both social exclusion and understanding the need for team cognitive diversity.

2. Capabilities for the future

A key question for organisations to ask themselves is what are the skills needed to work in an environment which is evolving, where there is a lack of clarity about career paths and uncertainty about the future.

For our attendees, the answer lay in an increased emphasis on ‘agility’ – identifying employees who can learn, adapt and apply themselves in a constantly changing environment. This requires a shift away from traditional recruitment practices where emphasis is placed on experience and cognitive reasoning, towards a more expansive definition of talent, focusing on areas such as complex problem-solving and creativity, emotional intelligence and resilience, and cognitive and behavioural flexibility.

Therefore, the way we assess people during recruitment also needs to evolve, so rather than screening applicants on a single measure such as cognitive ability, we should be looking to understand the whole person (personality, ability and motivation) using a blended approach.

3. Digital inclusion

With 3.8 billion users, the internet has grown rapidly since its invention 27 years ago. It has transformed all our lives, both personally and professionally, and it’s hard to recall a time when we didn’t have instant access to information, products and services.

However, according to the Good Things Foundation, 12.6 million adults in the UK lack basic digital skills, and 5.9 million people have never used the internet before, so it’s clear that there’s work to be done to ensure that the internet is an inclusive medium that everyone can benefit from.

Digital inclusion means having the skills to use computers and access the internet; it means having fast, reliable connectivity and it means being accessible for all users.

Addressing this challenge requires commitment and action from government, education and organisations. Equipping people with the skills and confidence to use the internet, means no-one is disadvantaged and left behind as the world continues its digital journey.

4. Leadership

During this time of change, leadership is more important than ever. However, our attendees recognised that a shift in emphasis is required towards a more open, collaborative dialogue with employees, away from the more traditional hierarchical approach. In practice, this means a more emotionally intelligent management style where we listen to employees and ask, ‘how can we help you?’ – helping shape targeted interventions and support.

Historically, one of the biggest challenges has been getting the verticals in an organisation to function well, be that finance, operations or HR.  As automation increases the efficiency of these functions, the more significant point of difference where leaders can add most value, is acting as the proactive ‘glue’ that links activities together horizontally.

Leaders must also take a fresh look at the way performance is managed, going beyond the individual to a team-based approach. Developing and building well-balanced teams who thrive and are productive, requires managers to understand the potential of their employees. Fostering a more meaningful and mutually beneficial employment relationship, enabling organisations to move forward during times of change and uncertainty.

Conclusion

We would like to thank attendees for their openness and energy during the discussion. Indeed, there was commitment to continue the conversation, re-visiting these important topics and sharing experiences with like-minded professionals. The schedule of our strategic roundtables will be confirmed in the new year, and if you would like to be kept informed please contact us at info@sovaassessment.com.

Finally, during the roundtable, several resources were suggested as useful references around the topic of digitisation and its impact on people strategy:

If you would like to discuss how digitisation is impacting your organisation’s talent acquisition strategy or attend future networking and knowledge sharing events please get in touch info@sovaassessment.com