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How HR Tech Is Adapting to the Digital Workplace

January 11, 2022 Digital Workplace
David Roe
By David Roe

HR leaders had a lot on their plate in the past two years. But even as the pandemic wanes, hopefully soon, there's much work remaining to be done to adapt to whatever the new reality of work will be.

A recent PwC survey on workforce trends showed that as companies accelerate their automation plans and large numbers of employees continue to work remotely, there is a growing need for workers across every sector to acquire new skills that can enable them to think and work in different ways. Among the survey findings, most employees said they want more digital skills to help them meet the challenges of automation and adapt to remote work.

That's a challenge across the board, but especially for HR which spent most of its time in the early days of the pandemic in crisis mode, helping employees adjust to a new way of working and trying to stay healthy and balanced in the process. As they shift to longer term strategy, organizations will benefit from instilling the right mindset and priorities among the HR team, and equipping them with the tools they need to succeed. HR tech is part of the answer. 

Putting Employee Experience at the Forefront

To help employees succeed in the coming years, HR teams will need to place greater emphasis on the digitization and personalization of the employee experience, said Tecla Palli Sandler, chief human resources officer North America at IT consulting firm Capgemini.

That means assessing every function from a variety of perspectives, streamlining processes, leveraging RPAs, chatbots and AI to support workers, and being more strategic in all phases of the employee experience "from attraction and onboarding to learning and off-boarding," she said.

The employee experience challenge for HR is two-fold. Being more strategic will require investment in technology and the emerging set of tools to collect and analyze data on the employee experience and deliver services more smoothly and efficiently. But most of all, success will require the upskilling of HR teams themselves.

Related Article: Employee Experience Is Key to the Digital Workplace Evolution

HR and the Hybrid Work Model

For hybrid models to work in a tight labor market, leaders will need to adapt to new ways of thinking and operating. They must ensure every aspect of their leadership is focused on empowering employees in a now-distributed work environment or risk losing valuable assets because of their resistance to change.

For example, managers should avoid micromanagement and instead trust employees are working diligently despite not being able to see them. They should also provide the same career development and advancement opportunities to all, regardless of physical proximity. Similarly, they can benefit from measuring performance on outcomes rather than output, that is, the achievement of goals rather than the activities that lead up to it.

Changing old mindsets, focusing on team effectiveness and leveraging technology to create a simplified work-from-anywhere experience are key, according to Traci Palmer, vice president of people and organization capability at cloud-computing company Citrix.

Organizations need to increase their adoption of tools and applications that serve obvious purposes like helping teams communicate and collaborate, as well as less obvious things like fostering an inclusive environment and creating an equal playing field for all. Employees today prefer flexible working arrangements over the traditional office, and rethinking the workplace will continue to be a hot HR topic in the coming years.

"Creating work-from-anywhere experiences that give employees the space and tools they need to be productive will also help retain talent by building an inclusive environment in which every individual can succeed, regardless of location or work preferences," Palmer said.

Related Article: How to Create a Successful Hybrid Work Model

HR Tech and Compliance in the Digital Workplace

With the shift to remote work, many companies and HR leaders discovered that managing the compliance and tax implications of a distributed workforce can be quite complex. Steve Black, chief strategy officer at global talent mobility platform Topia, forecasts that HR technology in the coming years will be used by HR teams to manage their remote and distributed workforce, but also by payroll and finance teams to ensure regulatory and legal compliance.

Topia’s February 2021 Adapt survey showed that 94 percent of employees are comfortable with an employer tracking their location at the country, state and city level. Considering that fact, companies should weigh the benefits of implementing HR technology that can track employees’ locations while balancing the right to privacy in order to manage tax compliance and help their organizations stay on top of the fast-evolving situation in real time.

"It has become obvious that remote work is here to stay, and employees want the flexibility that comes with these models," Black said. "However, until tax and immigration policies evolve to embrace and enable remote work, HR can’t ignore the compliance risks," he added.

Related Article: AI Is Changing How We Handle Documents

HR Adapts to Automation and AI

Magdalena Wojdat, HR business partner at Spacelift, a California-based startup that automates the management of cloud infrastructure, said companies across numerous industries have been working diligently at automating and hybridizing their processes at every level, including HR. She expects future digital advancements will further assist HR professionals in their work, with technology completely replacing traditional workforce management in some cases.

For instance, she noted how recruitment and onboarding processes have already adapted to digital HR technology thanks to remote and hybrid work models. Human resource management has traditionally been filled with reams of paperwork and time-consuming tasks, which creates a bureaucratic nightmare for many. Automation tools have already begun eliminating the need to invest resources in manual tasks, thus freeing up valuable time for HR leaders to focus on the business.

Cloud-based HR tools will assist with people management processes. Collaboration platforms such as ClickUp or Trello have already shown the benefits of real-time access to data and decision-making, and will contribute to improved performance management. According to Wojdat, many companies will also also turn to virtual reality tools to advance training and development processes.

"With the help of AI, recruitment bias will become redundant as HR professionals will be able to program their software to disregard demographic information such as race, gender or age," she said. 

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