The coronavirus pandemic has forced employers to embrace home working as standard organisational practice, at least until the threat to health has passed. It’s accelerated a change that was already taking place, but running parallel to that is a shift in HR service provision.
‘Future of HR 2020,’ a report by professional services firm, KPMG, shows that 60% of the 1,300 HR executives surveyed believe the HR function could become irrelevant if it doesn’t modernise.
KPMG’s Mark Spears writes, “Organizations of all shapes and sizes across the globe generally agree that the HR function will cease to exist in its traditional form if it continues to operate or deliver in the same way.”
An effective Human Resources department is truly at the heart of organisational success, helping to engage and retain talented employees, but with so much at stake how does HR adapt to a new digital normal?
Transitioning HR from traditional model to digital
A smooth transition from traditional to online HR requires an understanding of individual organisational needs. It’s important to create a digital platform that addresses the broad issues businesses face – staff absence, engagement and retention, for example – but also one that’s flexible enough to grow with the business.
This might involve ‘picking and mixing’ HR programmes to achieve the right balance, particularly for smaller organisations. Essentially, it’s an experimental era in HR where innovation plays a key role.
It’s easy to view traditional and long-established systems as intrinsic in corporate structures, but taking the HR function online does reflect the wider world of work – a shift in mindset and practical application that offers greater speed, agility, and flexibility to businesses across the board.
So what might stand in the way of a smooth transition from traditional HR to online HR?
Lack of digitally skilled workers in the HR department
Businesses need to make an investment not only in new technology and software, but also in training current HR staff in digital systems, or commit to taking on new members of staff with the required skills.
Resistance to change
Technology that carries out low-skill repetitive tasks releases HR staff to take on higher level, potentially more valuable work. This could come at a price for some in the HR department, however, who might feel resistant to change for fear of losing their jobs. This fear isn’t unfounded – a 2019 report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on job automation states, “Around 1.5 million jobs in England are at high risk of some of their duties and tasks being automated in the future.”
Lack of funds to invest
With so many businesses suffering the economic fallout of coronavirus, a shortage of capital to invest in new technology, HR infrastructure, and staff training, can stand in the way of change.
What are some of the benefits of moving from traditional to online HR?
Reduced recruitment costs
Technology provides evidence based information on levels of employee engagement and satisfaction, allowing businesses to take action where necessary to bolster relations with their workforce and reduce the costs of recruitment. Recruiting firm, Glassdoor, calculates the average cost of hiring an employee in the UK is £3,000 so an investment in this technology may be an investment in a stable business future.
Boosted business reputation
An organisation with a happy and fulfilled workforce may enjoy a better reputation in the community. Recognising and rewarding talent and hard work is a major factor in retaining staff – online HR can provide a holistic view of the workforce and map employees’ journeys through the company.
Natural progression to full digitisation
Moving the HR function online is potentially just the start for organisations wishing to modernise their entire business model and prepare for a new operational platform. HR can lead the way by digitising, and then providing vital guidance and support in transforming other areas of the business.
The future of HR
A strong HR function offers resilience in the face of pandemics, reduced profits, low morale, and job loss. In fact, employee engagement and inclusivity are pivotal to maintaining a highly functioning and successful business that puts staff skills to best use.
Furthermore, when the immediate danger of coronavirus has passed, a digital HR department will continue to provide huge value – helping organisations to streamline and protect strategic plans for growth whilst seamlessly recognising, rewarding, and retaining their biggest asset – their staff.
Paul Williamson is managing director at Selling My Business, a leading firm of business transfer agents founded over 60 years’ ago. Paul specialises in the sale and acquisition of commercial property and has a thorough understanding of UK’s property market having joined the business over 35 years ago.
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