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Why HR teams in 2021 need to have a “digital-first” approach to everything!

When you work in HR, there's an obscene number of plates to keep spinning. To help keep on top of everything from wellbeing to disputes, progressive HR teams have adopted a digital-first way of thinking and working.

Yet with one recent study showing that HR departments tend to be more reluctant to adopt new technologies compared to colleagues in other departments, there are many working in HR today that are still making lives hard for themselves with their lack of a robust tech stack.

What do we mean by "digital-first"?

Taking a "digital-first" approach to anything means that you look to overcome challenges and solve problems using technological means as the primary step. After all the best HR solutions are tech-based. Last year we saw a prominent example of a "digital-first" approach to work with the mass uptake of remote work in response to the pandemic.

This would be much more difficult, or outright impossible, if not for the wide array of video conferencing, filesharing and virtual workspace applications being used today. But telecommuting isn't the only aspect of workplace culture that can benefit from a digital touch.

The right HR technology can be found for almost any issue you can imagine, from employee feedback to remote interviewing and hiring. And, if you have employees with the right technical skills, you can even use a hackathon to develop your own in-house solutions the way the likes of Spotify and Deloitte do.

Why HR must adopt effective technologies

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" works great for heating engineers, but less so for HR directors. Competitive businesses are always looking for a cultural edge over their rivals, and if you don't have the right employee tools or human resources software to compete, it's going to end in tears.

There are a number of reasons why HR should look to build a robust digital tech stack today:

  • Unlimited digital reach: One reason that the best HR solutions usually involve digital technology is its ability to overcome any measure of distance instantly. Digital platforms can reach vast numbers of people worldwide, limited only by distribution and advertisement.

    Vettery's 2020 survey of over 70,000 tech, finance and sales candidates found that opening up roles to remote candidates regardless of geographical location increased the number of applications by a minimum of 84%, depending on the role. In fact, the highest increase was an incredible 430% for Boston-based front-end engineer positions.
  • Employee expectations: Increasingly we live in a digital-enabled world. Technology makes countless things so much easier, from online banking and grocery shopping to finding a new series to watch and communicating with family.

Because of this, there is an expectation, particularly among Gen Y and Gen Z staff, that our working lives keep up with the pace. Your people want digital solutions that speed up processes and make work a more pleasurable, or at least manageable, experience. '

In an international survey by the Workforce Institute, 52% of UK employees reported that their personal technology is "˜more user-friendly and modern than what is used in their workplace.' Half of UK respondents also "˜wish that their workplace technology performed in a similar manner to what they experience in their personal lives.'

  • HR digital transformation is a form of future-proofing: Digital technology is an ever-advancing field, with legions of ambitious coders and agile tech startups looking to make bank by designing the next killer app. Then there are the hundreds, if not thousands, of companies looking at the tech that will make the best HR solutions.

    Choosing the right tech is key to future success. Even back in 2017, more than half of companies surveyed by Deloitte were already redesigning their HR platforms to make use of digital tech (56%) and were in the process of restructuring to make use of digital business models (51%). One third were even using some form of AI in their HR tech. Post-pandemic, those figures will only have increased.

  • Automation:  To a lot of employees, automation is something of a dirty word. It's often accompanied by hushed whispers of redundancies and joblessness. But automation isn't about removing jobs but making them easier in most cases. Automation can streamline your work so you have more time to focus on the important stuff such as innovation, and can even help you achieve greater results.

    A great example is how Anchor Trust used chatbots in Facebook messenger to boost recruitment, increasing their conversion rate from just over 2% with a typical website CV upload section, to more than 27% using the bot function.

Just remember to test your tech - new isn't always better. The only way to ensure you have the best HR solutions is to inform your decision-making with solid data. In that Kronos study from earlier, 39% of respondents said their companies keep investing in tech that doesn't help them work effectively.

Some of the ways tech is helping HR right now

There are countless tools that can help you take a digital-first HR approach. Of course, it's important to take the specific needs of your business into account, but some of the best HR solutions include:

  • Automated hiring and background checks: Tech can massively increase a business's hiring reach. But on top of that, it can streamline once-lengthy processes like background checks. The right tool can even filter lists of applicants for the most suitable candidates, based on your criteria. This frees you up to focus on things like onboarding new staff.

  • Sentiment analysis: Whether you use surveys or an employee check-in, getting actionable insight from employee sentiment can be a bit of a guessing game. But the right machine learning algorithm can take the guesswork out, and create a bespoke report full of trends that human eyes might miss.

  • Perks and benefits platforms: Digital benefits platforms like Perkbox means you don't have to sit around figuring out what employees like. Just point them to a user-friendly platform, and let them pick the perks that appeal to them.

  • Performance and engagement solutions: Probably the broadest category, these are the tools HR implements to help employees work effectively. It might be a new feedback platform to help managers, a virtual collaboration tool like Asana, or even just something that reminds staff members to take breaks and avoid burnout.

Want more tips on how to embrace a digital-first mindset within your HR team? Download our free 30-page HRD guide today!