By Justin Biel, trends editor at Grow Wire
Last year, HR expert Jason Averbook started a company that helps HR organizations resolve the digital disconnect between employees and employers.
Averbook argues that HR departments and leaders must “go digital” in order to survive. He makes a case for doing so that can apply to industries beyond his own.
A growth-oriented mindset is the No. 1 asset needed to compete in a business landscape full of technology, Averbook says. He also offers three tips for companies that are going digital.
Since 1993, Jason Averbook has worked at the intersection of technology and human resources. He spent the bulk of his career at Ceridian and PeopleSoft developing HR management software. Then he co-founded Leapgen, a company that helps HR leaders build long-term digital strategies.
Averbook has watched the HR industry evolve, and he built his company on the premise that the most transformative change yet is imminent.
He recently laid out his ideas in an episode of “The Grow Wire Podcast,” and as it turns out, they apply to industries far beyond HR. Listen to the episode in full, or skip to the time stamps noted below to hear Averbook’s sound bites in context.
The digital disconnect
Averbook co-founded Leapgen last year after determining that HR leaders were, and still are, facing a phenomenon they never had before: a digital disconnect. Tech-savvy millennials and members of Generations Y and Z are entering workplaces with a full knowledge of smartphones, social media and online apps, while many employers use outdated laptops that run slower than their employees’ iPhones.
“I saw that all these digital natives had better technology in the palm of their hand … than what companies were giving employees to work with,” Averbook says (29:45). “... It’s 2018, but when you go into a business, they act like it’s 1998.”
The digital disconnect manifests in many ways among company leadership. Common symptoms are an aversion to mobile technologies and unnecessary uses of paper or outdated communication methods like fax and snail mail for main business functions. Leaders in the HR industry see the disconnect as a sign that a massive transformation is coming. Averbook’s mission at Leapgen is to guide companies through this looming digital transition by sharing access to technologies and promoting a mindset of growth.
What does it mean to “go digital”?
Going digital is a priority for the majority of HR organizations, according to a 2017 Deloitte study. But the actions required for an HR firm to go digital remain vague: 51 percent of the organizations surveyed said they didn’t have a vision for or definition of “digital HR.”
So, what is it?
“Digital HR is a process optimization in which social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC) technologies are leveraged to make HR more efficient,” according to Digital HR Tech, a publication that covers the trend.
In other words, “digital HR” means an HR department or firm is using technology to do what it already does, but better.
As Averbook sees it, these organizations must go digital. If they pretend they’re still living in a paper-and-pencil era, they’ll fail.
"Thinking of HR technology as a separate function is an archaic mindset,” reads Leapgen's 2018 HR Predictions Playbook. “Digital capabilities must be core to any HR-led initiative."
Millennials and Generations Y and Z live digitally, Averbook says, so HR departments must meet them there.
To go digital, you and your company need a growth-oriented mindset.
According to Averbook, a digital HR approach will result in an overall better employment experience. It’ll mean that employers treat employees much like business customers, offering them a frictionless workforce experience (FWE) that’s personalized and designed to make their time at the company more productive and happy while growing the business's bottom line.
The push to include technology in HR is leading to new applications of knowledge management, voice-command technology and AI and increasing access to personalized talent management. The implementation of these tools isn’t a one-time process, because both the HR and technology landscapes are always changing. Company leaders who accept the idea of constant change will be rewarded with sustainable success, according to Averbook.
"If you have a growth mindset where you're thinking about growth every day and reinventing yourself, that's where you're going to be successful,” he says (39:20).
3 tips for companies that are going digital
Averbook offers three tips to manage the transition to digital HR (53:00). They can apply more broadly to any company looking to make a similar change.
1. Always think digital first.
If you’re considering the implementation of any process that involves outdated technology, stop yourself and determine if there is a digital solution.
Ask yourself, “Why would you do it on paper? Why?” Averbook advises (51:10).
2. Remember that your audience is no longer the leader--it’s the workforce.
In the digital era, HR professionals must empower and support the needs of the workforce in order to survive.
“Put the onus on the workforce, and give them direct access to do their jobs better,” Averbook advises (51:30).
3. Build a strong foundation.
With the right foundation, organizations will be able to grow alongside new technology, which will in turn give employees time to tackle other problems.
By adopting technology, “You’re going to be able to get rid of all the people that answer questions and turn those people into problem solvers,” Averbook says (52:00).
Going digital is all about making your business more efficient while providing for your employees’ needs. Organizations that recognize this trend, build the right foundation and maintain a growth-oriented mindset will be best positioned to succeed.
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