4 September 2018

Is HR ready for digital transformation?

Digital capabilities are critical for success in modern-day HR, but many professionals are lacking the skills needed to succeed, say HR tech experts


Cathryn Newbery

Cathryn Newbery

Cathryn Newbery is head of content and community at Ciphr. She was previously deputy editor at People Management magazine. You can find her on Twitter @c_newbery. Her writing focuses on HR systems and solutions, as well as the employee experience at work.


Career development HR transformation Technology


Digital capabilities are critical for success in modern-day HR, but many professionals are lacking the skills needed to succeed, say HR tech experts

With technology playing an increasingly central role in HR strategy and operations, there’s an emerging need for a new breed of HR professional – one with a hybrid of HR and IT capabilities – that arguably few HR departments are ready for.

Making sure HR has the right capability to take advantage of digital developments is “a ball that’s being dropped or kicked down the road to deal with later on by many HR departments,” says Jordan Mori, managing partner at Hensen Associates. “You’ve got to do that thinking upfront – so if you are bringing in systems that you’ll need to maintain, make sure your HR skills mix is right so you can support these systems, and take full advantage of all this lovely data that’s being integrated, and be really slick and effective.”

“I do think that the way forward for HR directors and managers is to be structuring HR teams so there is a degree of specialism when it comes to HR technology,” agrees Kate Wadia, managing director at Phase3 Consulting. “Obviously, your scale is going to depend on how far you go with that – but you don’t need to be so very big or very mature with your technology to find it very important to have an professional now.”

The difficulty is finding the right person with the right skills and attributes for the task. Traditional HR qualification routes have, so far, overlooked technical digital skills, so do you opt for someone with an HR pedigree and an interest in technology, or someone from a digital background who wants to specialise in HR technology? “It’s a mix of the two – and therein lies the rub,” says Wadia. “I think it’s increasingly important that we talk about translating an understanding of the technology into a focus on people.”

“You are finding that you are having to recruit different types of skills in HR, and you need those skills in house to be able to deal with the results of every upgrade and ongoing maintenance – which, in the age of cloud HR, becomes HR’s responsibility, not IT’s,” says Mori. “HR needs to think about being responsible for the system to an extent that’s actually viable. It’s new territory.”

HR technology job titles are still “quite classic” says Wadia. “They tend to be things like systems administrator, HRIS manager, HRIS analyst, HR business analyst, BI analyst. I think we will increasingly see a much more well-rounded HR tech professional become part of what we expect to find in a high-performing HR team.”

This is an extra from Ciphr’s free white paper, Better together: the future for HR systems integration. Download it here