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Author's profile photo Ralph Schneider

Embracing Change to Get Ahead – Human-Centered Digital HR

Technology has already transformed our personal lives – giving us faster, simpler ways to shop, search, consume, and connect. It’s time we reaped these same benefits in the workplace, and embraced HR’s inevitable transformation. This transformation isn’t just about supplying employees with the latest devices and technologies to complete their work faster. It’s about unprecedented connectivity and software-driven innovation that propels us forward in the midst of a workplace and technology revolution. For HR, it’s about replacing time-consuming manual tasks with efficient, automated processes that let us focus on strategic initiatives, not administrative undertakings.

To embrace change and transform HR, innovative HR leaders are adopting technology (think machine learning) to drive simpler, smarter experiences while reducing costs and reliance on manual burdens.


Let’s take a step back. Employees are tired of facing an outdated user experience for HR services, and most IT organizations are not able to provide HR innovations on their current infrastructure in a timely and cost-efficient manner. These are key drivers for the market trend of companies moving to the cloud, leveraging, for example, the SAP SuccessFactors HCM Suite, and digitalizing HR. Such a cloud transformation is a great opportunity to standardize and simplify HR processes and services to drive a lower total cost of ownership. The real deal is, once you have the cloud implementation done, you profit from short release cycles (e.g. every three months) – and thus update your digital HR capabilities more frequently than ever. Say goodbye to the bi-yearly upgrade project that consumed a significant amount of your IT budget.

Next, smartphones and tablets enable us to be always online, wherever we are. Most of us access our social media accounts like Facebook and LinkedIn via mobile apps daily. Other apps like WhatsApp and SnapChat have changed the way we communicate and enable us to share moments and both provide and receive feedback from our friends in real-time. Such an “always on” feedback culture is coming to the enterprise, disrupting processes like the annual performance review into a mobile-app-enabled “continuous feedback culture”-based dialogue between manager, employee, her/his colleagues, and ecosystem.

The simplicity of mobile apps and the social engagement capabilities will take us from the age of policy-driven HR processes into a future of human-centered digital HR experiences.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is coming up big time and provides a great opportunity to HR: the ability to personalize the digital HR experience for an individual. For example, machine learning algorithms will analyze your learning behaviors, career goals, and skills and competency profile, and provide you with recommendations for learning offerings. From videos and blogs, to potential mentors and coaches you should connect with, or even the chance to apply for a job-rotation opportunity. The AI algorithms will further help companies to review job descriptions, performance feedbacks/reviews, and similar people processes for potential bias and suggest changes to encourage gender equality. We will move from user-initiated, “search-based” activities to system-initiated, personalized, “notification-based” suggestions. Examples for such personalized suggestions will be applying for jobs, assigning trainings, mentoring a colleague, providing a team member with a recognition, and many more. The SAP HANA Cloud Platform provides machine-learning and text-mining algorithms to enable intelligent applications.

Everything becomes digital and our data footprint, shaped by our web activities recorded by wearables like the Under Armour Band and Apple Watch, will be Big – “Big Data”. Technology today enables us to access data everywhere from potential new employees to former employees. HR relevant insights are driven by such data, like understanding how people on the internet think about your company, why they would apply to your job offers – or not – why they are leaving and whether they would be interested in coming back. State-of-the-art data analytics provides you with real insights and predictions across all data sources independent from whether they are part of your own enterprise infrastructure or the World Wide Web. In-memory database-technology, like SAP HANA, in combination with cognitive algorithms, enable data-driven HR to understand things like which key behaviors do leaders have with the highest leadership trust index and team performance in your company. Such insights enable HR to define the right leadership curricula to improve employee engagement and company performance.

We are just at the beginning of the digital revolution in HR to transform people’s work lives. The successful, new digital HR experience will be mobile, engaging, social, smart, and personalized.

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