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HR and Digital Transformation: Coming Out Stronger

Digital transformation is disruptive and, like any form of disruption, human resources plays a key role in how organizations succeed at it. At the same, digital technologies themselves are changing the fabric of human resources.

“The number one opportunity from digital technologies to HR is around change management,” says Jason Mackay, General Manager, COMPAREX Canada. “But also in your ability to adapt and transform your people as a whole. The ability to find the right people to fuel growth, and to train people for it. Now is a transformative time in people’s careers and HR is part of a smooth transformation.”

We sat down with Martijn van Dort, Executive Director Global Human Resources for COMPAREX to discuss how digital technologies have changed HR landscape, as well as his role in the company’s shift to a global managed services provider.

Q: HR plays a critical role in helping businesses anticipate and manage organizational change. How is technology aiding this?

In the more than 20 years I’ve been in HR, I’ve seen the transition. And I’ve seen how global organizations need for digitalization to work on a global scale.

I think digitalization will never take over from the human interaction in a company. Human resources is always about people and the human connection. It’s always different if you look someone in the eyes or see them on Skype.

From a digital aspect, it’s moving so fast. It’s very exciting to see what’s possible based on the IT development within HR. In the past, you could see the basics, core HR data in the system. More and more the core processes from higher-to-retire are being digitalized, connecting 36 COMAREX countries. We’re really a global company and we also have to look at how we’re going to organize ourselves digitally from an HR perspective. We have a lot of great local initiatives that take advantage of digital technology, for example, the use of social media for hiring in Brazil. But those initiatives are scattered.

My role is to look at HR globally, and digitalization is going to play a big part of that. Everything is connected—systems, processes are connected—including the core HR data. But access to that data needs to be faster.

Availability of information needs to be on-demand and communication fast, the way our customers want information, but also employees. Managers get a bit annoyed if they don’t have access to employee data globally.
Looking forward, you want to have access to HR data, on a global scale, at all times, anywhere in the world. So that you could do your core processes from a mobile device—such as performance, management, compensation or benefits—using an app.

We’re not there yet. But we need to think about how we’re going to get there.

Q: What’s driving digitalization in HR? What are its benefits?

If you look at what’s happening in the world. The new generation is online. They make their purchases online, but also have immediate feedback. It is the same for employees. They want immediate feedback, they don’t want to have to wait for an annual review.

There are feedback mechanisms with which you are in constant dialogue with your employee. Are things alright, or no? Thumbs up, thumbs down, or emoticons.

Online surveys are a great way to keep up with employees across regions and get a lot of data to work with.
In recruitment, it’s no longer the era of recruitment ads. Social networking is changing the way we find good people within their networks. If you look at training, you can train globally much faster with technology. There’s less need for travel. There becomes more training options than locally available.

There are new benefits models that give employees customizable solutions where they choose what benefits they need online. You can offer employees more, tailored to their situation, and you can link providers in.
Some processes are too bureaucratic, like creating letters for promotion or salary increase, and they should be digitalized as much as possible, so that managers and people can spend their time on the right things. For an employee that could be time with the customer, or for the manager time talking to the employee.

More and more of the core HR processes should be digitalized.

Q: How will cloud technologies and big data affect your world?

If you don’t connect all the data you have within HR it becomes difficult to steer the organization. Big data provides key insights. The more you put in a system in terms of core data, the more you can take out of it. If you want to analyze costs of labour, compare different salaries, development costs, career progress, turnover or even behavior of our employees—the more data you have, the more impact you can have as an HR organization. Impact in helping managers drive their business and off course in attracting, developing and retaining our COMPAREX employees.

HR should prove its value to the business. HR technology investments can help facilitate business decisions by looking at data and analysis of the market. HR organizations really should be bringing data to the table to justify business decisions.

Q: As COMPAREX changes its global business, how do you see the role of HR evolving?

The move towards working global for example in managed services is a culture shift. It’s a change of operating model, and a lot of change management needs to happen to facilitate people in working globally. That must be supported by how we work and by IT.

Systems, processes and procedures for HR, and employee mobility are all considerations in a global HR operation. Digital technologies enable that. I see how it’s building to a key position as a global managed services company. There’s work to do, but that’s the way it should go.

HR is integral to this, because people must be managed through any change. It’s a phase of disruption, right? So how do we as a company facilitate managed change across different regions, cultures and processes?

Q: How are IT and digital transformation aiding in change management?

Digital transformation aids in change management, but everyone is at their own stage of understanding it. Some people are way ahead, some just cannot get rid of their notebook and pen.

In a global company, in one department you may have old fireproof cabinets of personnel files, and another might be fully digital. There’s also local regulation that can have an impact on how you deal with personal data. This is one of the biggest challenges to cloud from a data perspective; security and privacy.

Digitalization can help with communicating change more quickly, and in helping bring people on board. It brings people together on a global level. But there’s also the human factor.

The change curve is always present when something is disruptive, the trick is how you get people excited and come out of it even stronger.

This is the fifth of our six-part Q&A series with COMPAREX leadership looking at the impact of digital transformation on their lines of business. Join us in January when we speak with Jens Schmidt, Executive Director of Finance, about the evolution of finance and how technology is enabling global opportunities.

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