Why HR should be as responsible for workplace tech as they are for people

HR teams need to add digital transformation to their to-do lists this year, says Civica chief people officer Julie Chell

Technology is central to the modern workplace. Before the pandemic Gartner research found that 82% of CEOs currently had a digital initiative or transformation programme in place. Employee reliance on technology has been accentuated this year by the challenges brought on by the spread of COVID-19. Microsoft estimates show that two years of digital transformation has happened within a rapid two months as organisations adapt to the new world of remote working.

The pandemic has also been a wake-up call for HR professionals. As we move towards a more flexible working model, the HR function has taken on a broader scope.

The function now has to oversee employee engagement and wellbeing remotely, manage organisations’ work-from-home policies to align with changing government guidance as well as ensuring employees have all the necessary tools at their disposal to do their job efficiently.

Within this context, HR teams now need to add workplace tech and digital transformation to their list of responsibilities to ensure the organisation and its employees are adapting to the changing world of work.


Inspiring creativity

As people specialists, our role is to break down silos and facilitate collaboration across the organisation. Not only is this important when it comes to day-to-day activities, such as virtual Teams calls, but also when looking at the bigger picture, such as what the long-term remote working policy should be.

Without the in-person brainstorming sessions or typical water cooler moments, we need to support the stimulation of creativity among employees working from home by researching and keeping up to date on the latest collaboration tools.

At Civica, we’ve invested in online tools to create a space for collaboration. We also started doing a range of ‘drop-in’ sessions where people can join colleagues for a virtual work-out, mindfulness sessions, virtual coffee and book club discussions.

By dedicating some time out of their day to focus on creativity, employees are more likely to return to work feeling refreshed. This gives them the space they need to ‘switch off ’, which often leads to an increase in ideas and inspiration they can bring back to work.

It’s up to the HR team to ensure employees have the right balance of tools that enable them to work efficiently but also encourage time out and a healthy work-life balance, as the lines between home and work become increasingly blurred.


Constant communication

Never has it been more important to establish and retain a continuous feedback loop with employees. We’ve started rolling out regular ‘Your View’ pulse surveys to understand the issues that our colleagues face. As an international business, we need to reach thousands of people on a regular basis and act on employee feedback quickly and efficiently so our colleagues around the globe feel supported and listened to.

What’s more, some employees may understandably feel uncomfortable sharing their true feelings on issues such as returning to work and their wellbeing during this difficult time, so companies can invest in tools that enable anonymous feedback.

HR tools that also use AI and data analytics allow business leaders to draw broader insights into trends in behaviours or attitudes, analysing responses by function or geography. This then means that HR teams can make data-led decisions around adapting working policies or implementing new employee initiatives.


Retention and recruitment

Advanced technologies are also helping organisations attract and retain top talent as the HR function becomes increasingly data-driven. This includes the full employee lifecycle, from initial recruitment and onboarding through to training and development. Access to third-party data sources – salary benchmarking, virtual recruitment, LinkedIn and other sites – will all be areas for HR to start using and managing on a daily basis, if they are not already.

For employees, being able to access key data, such as a personal online benefits and rewards statements, will also enhance their overall experience of working for an organisation. This will help to increase retention. Accordingly, HR teams will need to work with third-party providers or IT colleagues to ensure these systems are always up and running and employees understand how to log in and use them.


HR is evolving – where to next?

HR’s role is evolving as quickly as the technology itself. We will not only be expected to use data analytics to create efficiencies when it comes to people and processes, in this new working environment, technology will also become the key touchpoint through which we can understand how employees are feeling and drive engagement across the business.

Because HR is a centralised function, it has a duty to ensure that workplace tech – which has become so integral to many of our jobs – is working for everyone. It’s on us to look for ways that tech can boost productivity, engagement and employee wellbeing.


The full article of the above is published in the 2020 Technology Supplement. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.