Written By: Morgan Jones – Corporate Finance
The digital revolution is something that each and every big companies’ CEO or board member will tell you is the priority not to be missed for the future welfare of his or her company. When it comes to digitalizing traditional services and products, most have started or completed the transformation; the needed call centres and online distribution channels have been added to existing branches and back offices.
But the real challenge is understood as the “Uber or Airbnb Phenomena”, a genuine transformation of business models and working modes. Many companies see the risk of the disappearance of traditional taxis and hotels like the risk of their own disappearance. The heart of “how to work” has to be changed also.
Human Resources are at the forefront of the stage to transform working modes.
Most companies have started to realize that developing the uses of collaborative and social tools in organizations could really help their enterprises long-term. They also have established HR programs to develop the skills of their employees.
According to Les Echos Business, the biggest French insurer, AXA, has stepped up its initiatives to involve its 150,000 employees in digital transformation. Courses ranging from half-day to full-day, and half-hour e-learning programs to enhance digital agility—everything is done to make this crucial subject everyone’s business. A total of 35 percent of the staff have already attended one of the sessions. Among all digital-transformation issues, in France as well as in the United Kingdom, companies fully understand that enterprise social networking is crucial to developing the capacity of the business to nurture its agility and accelerate innovation.
Human Resources knows that changes are generally driven by a limited number of actors.
Human Resources starts to think “local”. The central digital team mobilizes the company’s resources to acquire equipment, align the project with the strategy of transformation and help to push collaborative attitudes.
- But only ground players, operational people will carry out collaborative initiatives and move the lines.
- New communication/social applications are chosen locally.
- Involvement is better understood on a local perimeter.
If large companies have a natural tendency to exhaust and eliminate “local initiatives”, all sensible directors know that their enterprises can benefit from them in adapting their internal transformation strategies.
Managers are probably the ones of whom Human Resources have to take care the most.
According to a Lecko study, managers are today the most difficult to mobilize. Not because they do not want to transform their companies (88 percent of managers understand their companies’ digital strategies), but because, as the Lecko study reveals:
- for 84 percent of managers, coordinating activities becomes more and more complex with the multiplicity of activities and people to be mobilized;
- for 73 percent of managers today, communication tools such as email are saturated;
- 67 percent managers encounter difficulties in questioning the system within which they grew up.
Today, managers and employees seek to regain productivity in a context of over-information and management of the multiplicity of a growing number of players. They certainly need help and new tools to enable collaborative works and facilitating their daily lives.
All in, Human Resources teams face a big challenge:
- Organise large programmes of training, where digital technology gradually infuses the internal universities of companies, so that employees become comfortable with new tools/uses;
- put in place a big project to make sure that local initiatives will be valued and will benefit the enterprise;
- make sure they have top-managers’ sponsorship to encourage those who feel like initiating changes;
- find new types of profiles and competencies to integrate into many departments, or find expert supports to help all departments initiating changes;
- encourage or manage a big transformation in the IT (information technology) Department’s role.
The latter is not the easiest one.
IT Department’s roles and functions have to be deeply transformed also.
First, a new trend is developing for employees to be able to use their own devices (mobile smartphones, tablets, laptops). Going a step further, employees adopt the IT applications that allow them to absorb more information. This objective leads them to convince their colleagues to adopt the same practices and solutions as they do. In this way, the social benefits emerge little by little. In a way, the automation of processes is ensured by local users, and conventional methods of IT development no longer work. With new social or collaborative systems, chosen by the users themselves, the notion of an IT owner of the application tends to disappear. Local practices are developing their own working environment.
IT central teams have a very different role:
- IT central teams’ ability to stimulate cross-sectoral collaboration, to animate a sharing of practices and to bring local approaches into a global approach will be key.
- IT Departments also have to focus on the interoperability of systems. They have to invest more time than before—when a Microsoft package downloaded on a PC was sufficient—in the working IT environment of employees.
- Security knowledge is also changing drastically regarding users downloading apps on their mobiles.
It is difficult to first conceive of new collaborative working practices and then induce companies to adopt them simultaneously and on a large scale. Human Resources’ understanding and support of those changes will be key for many big companies.