HR departments are far behind the digital transformation curve, according to survey

The human resources industry is way behind the curve in regards to digital transformation, according to a new study from McLean & Company, and one of its analysts says human resources should begin focussing on data analysis as one of their tools of the future.

The study, which surveyed 838 business professionals, indicated that only 10 per cent of HR departments have implemented new agile ways of working and a whopping 30 per cent say their departments have done absolutely nothing in its digital transformation efforts.

This lack of innovation could be a driving force in a lack of effectiveness across the industry, as only 38 per cent of those surveyed thought their department was “highly effective” (which for the purposes of this survey is an 8-10 on a scale of 10), and employees who work outside of HR have an even bleaker view, with only 29 per cent of them agreeing with the statement.


Canadian HR departments unsure they can adapt to technological change

Evan Hughes, senior manager in the HR research & advisory practice at McLean & Company, said that he believes the lack of progress stems from HR departments often being brought into the conversation much later down the road without much of an opportunity to input their suggestions.

Evan Hughes says that despite HR being human-oriented, there is still a place for software solutions. Credit: LinkedIn

“We see that often… those conversations aren’t happening at the same time,” said Hughes in an interview with IT Business Canada. “Organizations are paying consulting firms… to identify what these transformations look like and how to go about it. And then HR is often unfortunately brought in after the fact. And that leads to a disconnect between the capabilities and competencies that you have in the workforce and what you need to execute on these trends.”

While not every HR department is going to receive the support they require, for those lucky few who do have the support to move forward with digital transformation, he said an area that they should focus on is data analysis.

As with many industries all across the globe, data is becoming more and more valuable every day.

Through the use of such data practices, Hughes said there are three main areas he sees as ripe for the picking with data analysis.

Firstly, he said data should be used to aid selection decisions like hiring or promoting someone or deciding where to allocate funds.

Secondly, Hughes said HR should be using data to guide their learning development efforts. Through data analysis, he said, HR departments should be able to discern the areas that their employees are lacking knowledge in.

And finally, Hughes said data analysis can be used to remove inefficiencies from the workplace by analyzing trends rather than responding to individual “help desk” requests.

“When you’re collecting data on the types of requests that are coming in – the frequency, where they’re coming from – it allows you to root cause things much more effectively,” explained Hughes. “Rather than just responding to every single inquiry that comes in, we can put something in place to get in front of this, to answer these questions before they’re asked, or to make it easy for employees to find the answers and just make our processes work better.”

And despite HR being a very human-oriented role, Hughes believes there is still a place for an inhuman solution like software to supplement the work of humans in the industry; something that is all the more important when taken in the context that 41 per cent of the HR professionals surveyed said that their stress levels have increased.

The challenge lies in them being able to explain those decisions when leveraging algorithms to make decisions, he said.

“One of the challenges… is that when you’re using machine learning or an algorithm… can tell you what the answer should be? It’s much more complex for it to say ‘This is how I got to that answer’,” he said. “When you’re talking about people, you can make a decision that we’re going to promote Person A over Person B and you can then have a conversation with Person B and say ‘These are the reasons that you didn’t get the promotion’. If you’re using machine learning to do that, that’s not always very easy. So that transparency really is a barrier to the application of AI.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Buckley Smith
Buckley Smith
Staff writer for IT World Canada. Covering the world of technology as it applies to business. Buckley is an avid sports fan who loves travel, food, and music. Can be contacted at [email protected] or 416-290-2000.

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