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If it’s true that every company is in the technology industry, human resources (HR) is at the forefront of this metamorphosis, well-positioned (or not) to help people and the organizational processes they use evolve. For the most part, technology isn’t necessarily the problem. Companies can feast on an expanding menu of technologies providing them with the ability to adopt HR cloud-based platforms, use analytics for more informed decisions, and infuse daily work with social and mobile capabilities. Even so, most HR practitioners and their companies are in the early stages of digital transformation.

Industry analyst, Lisa Rowan, Research Vice President of HR, Talent and Learning Strategies at IDC, said her firm’s latest research shows more companies are opportunistically pursuing digital transformation.

“Our digital maturity model in HCM shows that most companies are stuck in opportunistic mode when it comes to having a digital mindset around technology adoption, meaning applying mobile, social, big data and cloud,” she said. “Some technologies are being used but it’s not pervasive. So for example, they might have some mobile but don’t allow it for everything.”

Unfortunately, the price of disconnected HR these days is high, often resulting in talent pipelines overwhelmed bv low-quality applicants, not to mention lost productivity. I talked with Rowan about the top three factors holding back HR’s ability to impact digital transformation.

Educate against risk aversion

While company climates may view mobile and social as risky channels, HR has to champion cloud-based technology.

“HR needs to step up and say this might have been seen as riskier three years ago but most data incidents have involved breaches in the company’s own data centers. You are actually safer if you are in a third-party data center because they have that much more security around them,” said Rowan. “HR has to educate the business on the fact that cloud is no longer as risky and this is why.”

HR can also dispel misperceptions about social platforms. “When people hear social they sometimes think that’s employees going out on Facebook which they shouldn’t be using during business hours. They’re misconstruing that social is not necessarily outside the firewall. Social collaboration across intra-company platforms is now the norm,” said Rowan.

Understanding the nuanced benefits of social are just as important. Rowan said HR needs to realize that social is about letting people speak their mind internally. Companies often make better decisions as a direct result of letting employees have their say. This is precisely what happened at a major retailer that implemented an internal social platform for employee ideas and input. “The beauty of social is that it’s the bottom-up sharing of ideas. Who knows better than how something will sell than the people in the store selling it all day,” she said.

Fix broken processes first

Embarking on a digital transformation journey means take a hard look at how work does or doesn’t get done. “You can’t digitally transform something that’s broke to begin with,” said Rowan. “If you’re not getting tasks done efficiently because processes like recruiting are too clunky, it takes too long to do things, or there are disconnects between learning and HR, software alone won’t solve the problems.”

Set digital policies

Championing new technologies is all well and good, but HR isn’t always at the leading edge of the company’s adoption of advances like mobile and social. This is where HR assumes the voice of reason in policy development.

“It’s amazing how many companies are using multiple collaborative networks and where HR hasn’t established any kind of standards or guidelines,” said Rowan. “HR can play a role in developing realistic policies around social and mobile that establish some level of consistency so that employees can collaborate across departments. HR can help implement sensible policies that take into consideration the reality that people will use their own cell phones, and will want to use social technology. With that kind of understanding, HR can be the voice of reason putting in place policies people will follow.”

In the digitally transformed workplace, companies can quickly find and hire quality people through internal development, or access to contingent, contract or freelance talent. Software applications are ubiquitous in this environment, boosting collaboration whether employees are in the office or working remotely. Company culture adapts to support the business strategy and operating philosophy around digital. Many companies have already made this leap, having realized that the employee experience is key to the customer experience.

Follow me @smgaler

Related Content:

Download IDC Report: IDC MarketScape: Worldwide Integrated Talent Management 2016 Vendor Assessment