Digital HR: A revolutionary leap forward

Digital HR: A revolutionary leap forward
Posted by Michael Stephan and Michael Gretczko on November 04, 2016.

We are often asked to help large global clients craft HR strategies in response to the prominent digital age and workforce disruptions. And, as noted in this portion of the 2016 Global Human Capital Trends Report, Digital HR: revolution, not evolution, we are familiar with the view of digital HR as a catalyst for “revolutionary” change.

Let’s face it, a revolution can feel scary, overwhelming, hard, and sometimes unrealistic depending on your organizational culture. But from what we’re seeing and hearing from our clients, many are realizing that while it is scary and difficult, their employees and businesses are demanding it, so they’re taking the leap onto their own digital HR trajectory.

In our experience, there are two types of “gaps,” or organizational pain points, that must be owned by the HR leadership team in order for this type of breakthrough to occur: performance gaps, or how well HR is currently delivering against employee and business expectations, and, opportunity gaps, or what might be possible with a radical new digital approach.

HR performance gaps
Owning the performance gaps is key to developing a stronger understanding of the potential barriers preventing your ability to leap forward. Let’s simplify it further—how you are organized as an HR function, how you deliver services to your customers, and what technologies you have in place can all enable or limit the leap. Here are some questions we often ask HR leadership teams in order to assess their awareness of, and commitment to dealing with, current-state performance gaps:

  • Operating model—Is your global HR operating model in sync with your organization’s global business model? Are HR’s governance, resource allocation, and talent management approaches adaptive enough to flex in the face of rapid acquisitions, new business designs, or disruptive technologies?
  • Service delivery model—Does your global HR service delivery model leverage consistent roles and channels to deliver services? Does it accommodate generational, geographic, and individual differences in how HR customers want to engage with HR services?
  • Enabling technology—Does your HR technology enable the continuous evolution of your HR operating model and service delivery model? Do you have a strategy for leveraging digital HR to better equip global HR customers to control their own experience?

Many organizations decide to address one or some of these challenges in the near term as the case for change. Yet, in a world where digital disruption continues at a relentless pace, possibly it’s time to look more broadly to more fundamentally transform HR for the digital age and cross over into the realm of “revolutionary.”

HR opportunity gaps
Regardless of the company industry or geographic footprint, an adaptive response to disruption often seems to come down to the ability to create capacity, grow capability, empower your community, and boost HR credibility. Our colleague, Erica Volini, introduced the importance of the 4Cs in her post on Sustainable HR. To understand how opportunity gaps enable or limit the digital leap, here are questions we often ask HR leaders through the lens of the 4Cs:

  • Capacity—If you were able to increase HR capacity through process automation or work simplification, do you know where you would invest the available resources to get the largest return for the organization?
  • Capability—Is HR equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to guide the organization through the coming digital disruptions? Is HR at the forefront of curating user and expert-generated video content to support the digital age learner?
  • Community—Is HR adept at mining social networks to better understand how work is really getting done? Does HR model and celebrate a culture of sharing information and learnings across organizational boundaries?
  • Credibility—Will HR be in the boardroom when new digital-age business designs are being developed? Will HR lead the way in the development and deployment or experiential learning programs designed to accelerate the growth of global leaders? Indeed, will HR be trusted to lead the digital HR revolution?

Through the right line of inquiry, organizations are quickly realizing that digital HR doesn’t just create capacity and improve the customer experience. They have discovered it also requires a different set of capabilities inside HR. Yet, done right, it can strengthen the collaborative, customer community. And with more wisdom to link your digital HR strategy to business issues, your credibility can be boosted.

To leap or not to leap…
Some global organizations may find that the business value associated with closing these gaps justifies the leap to a global cloud-based HCM system of record, with a subsequent commitment to digital HR. Others, however, may take a more tactical approach, leveraging a digital workplace strategy that focuses on improving work and life event workflows for prioritized HR customer segments as a way to build momentum for the broader digital HR transformation.

In a recent thought leadership perspective, Sustainable HR in an age of disruption, Michael Gretczko, our Deloitte Consulting LLP leader of digital HR and innovation, describes how this approach can provide improvements in the HR customer experience while preserving and leveraging current investments in systems, processes, and people.

Whatever deployment strategy is right for your organization, the new priorities within HR fall under the digital HR umbrella: cloud, connectivity, real-time operations, design thinking, simplicity, embedded analytics, and mobile-first.

Harnessing these new capabilities to close the HR organization’s prioritized performance and opportunity gaps can ultimately help to prepare you for a revolutionary leap forward. Are you ready to take the leap?


Michael Stephan is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and the Global HR Transformation Leader. He develops and integrates HR service delivery models across the operations and technology spectrum, with a targeted focus on optimizing the delivery of HR services around the world.
Michael Gretczko is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and the Digital HR and Innovation Leader. Michael has experience consulting on business strategy, cost reduction, service delivery and operating model transformation, shared services, and outsourcing.

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