The Digital workplace: HR on the frontline

The digital revolution has affected most areas, such as the economy, industries, communication and education. It has had a profound impact on our lives, our companies and our work methods. It now plays a strategic role for companies that have no choice, but to rethink how they operate. This transformation has not spared HR. Quite the contrary.

Digital technology has allowed HR to become more efficient. AI, big data and blockchains are all solutions that open new perspectives and facilitate the transition to ‘augmented’ HR. But what will be HR’s role? How do we assist the transition and help with the use of new technologies within companies?

Initial findings: technology has greatly improved HR productivity

All the major technological developments have led to an increase in productivity and this can be seen as the main benefit of the digital transformation of HR. Paperless processes were the first step towards augmented HR, increasing agility and efficiency.

Machine-to-machine methods have proved to be efficient and are being used for certain processes outside the company. The “Déclaration Sociale Nominative (DSN)”, mandatory since January 2017, is an example in France. The DSN system provides monthly electronic transfer of data, thus simplifying the declaration process required for companies. This helps with time-consuming tasks so that HR teams can concentrate on more important tasks and especially the real focus of their jobs: managing people.

Bringing HR closer to employees; an issue that needs to be managed

According to a survey conducted by Cegos in April 2019 in France, 34% of employees surveyed complain that HR does not take the human factor into account and 25% feel that HR is not in close contact. Many HR services are now available on-line, such as well-being platforms and tools for measuring how employees feel, to provide new ways to meet employees’ needs.

These innovative systems can, however, be very intrusive to employees. In 2017, eight employees from Newfusion voluntarily agreed to have chips implanted under their skin, which caused great concern with human rights leagues.

With no regulatory framework, how can we handle these new HR practices? By facilitating or restricting the implanting of certain devices, ‘HR 3.0′ must integrate values and ethical principles into augmented HR departments.

Companies need to deal with paperless processing

The arrival of the Digital Workplace has created a certain distance between employees and their place of work. Flexible and remote working conditions are gradually becoming the norm. The extended company is now a reality. One question remains: how can corporate culture survive in a virtual workspace? 

The use of collaborative tools, document and data sharing solutions as well as HR processes are tangible solutions. HR needs to determine how corporate culture and company values can be defined and how employees working remotely can be motivated. This is an opportunity for HR to expand its scope to not only include the company’s employees, but also freelancers and temps who contribute to the company’s success. HR today must initiate new systems to meet the needs of all types of employees in an extended company.

Anticipating through technology

AI technologies combined with Big Data can today be used to identify certain behavioral patterns and predict psychosocial risks. Over the past few years, the police force in Chicago has been using big data analysis in their predictive police programs to manage risks. Developing data analysis in HR could allow HR departments to anticipate psychosocial risks in a company as well as the risks of accidents at work and reasons for turnover.

Ethics, however, needs to be included in these new practices. The GDPR has made sure that data processing is handled correctly, especially in HR. However, while companies today are responsible for their digital charters, HR should be able to understand and control Artificial Intelligence algorithms to ensure transparency and ethics.

HR departments in the future will need to be at the heart of digital transformation, while ensuring the ethical aspects of that transformation within companies. They will need to take a step back and see how new and disruptive technologies will affect them. This will require greater proficiency in digital tools. To help with this transformation, all those involved, the local authorities and social partners must be committed to a regulatory framework for the digital company.