The Promise of Digital for HR transformation

Martin Colyer

The Promise of Digital for HR transformation.

Startups are disrupting entire sectors at an unprecedented pace. New gadgets, apps and devices are heralded with promises of providing new capabilities and then those same devices catch fire in our pockets! Jobs are being automated, while news headlines are screaming of skills shortages for the future. HR is either doomed, or set to be the most strategic function in the business.

Added to this, with the digital age now well and truly with us, and the unstoppable pace with which technology is impacting our personal and professional selves, the effect on an organisation can make it seem like a hostile place to be and pretty overwhelming at that! Or, it could equally be seen as the advent of huge possibility and opportunity, with the chance for us to reach our full potential.

I prefer to see it as the latter. But you have to consider the foundations which will allow you to potentially take advantage of this and reap the potential benefits.

If I were able to teleport you

...back to the offices of Madison Avenue in the 1960’s (ala ‘Mad Men’), aside from being well-loaded on scotch and cigars, you would be astounded at the relevant state of inequality, inefficiency, and lack of efficacy of the workplace. So too, when your successor (several generations along) is asked the same question looking back at today’s work environment, what will they identify as the absurd? The rate of change continues to accelerate unabated. HR transformation is a relative and constant game.

The key to succeeding in shaping your business to benefit from change lies in preparation (as with most things in life!).

Preparation needs to drive the business forward to the point of achieving:

  • Better, more effective collaboration
  • Authentic engagement
  • Flexibility amidst new ways of working
  • Greater return on people technology investment

The productivity puzzle

It can be tackled from multiple angles; often we focus on doing ‘more’ but what about the the chance to remove waste? Waste is possibly the biggest culprit, and the lowest hanging fruit. The benefits of this would benefit all throughout the business. Replace wasted time with holiday for employees or other flexible working patterns and you are already ahead. How many times have you had unproductive days, with one or two useful meetings and then hours of answering emails. When more coordinated communication and flexibility in process could have saved that arduous commute and given you some of your life back. Rather than just making us more productive aiming to be less wasteful & more efficient may be a more realistic goal to begin with.

It isn't just putting the latest technology in place hoping it will be a silver bullet.

To illustrate, gains can come from unexpected places; the washing machine has done more for productivity than the internet. (

People leaders must have a seat at the technology table.

In summary, the need for the people leader to add value to the technology discussion is critical for businesses that wish to avoid costly and painful misfires with regards to technology in the workplace. Digital is both ubiquitous and no longer 'black-box', the potential is huge for those who have the support and guidance that allows them to seize the opportunity with both hands.

For those who don't? Well, fire fighting is hot and exhaustive work.

Over the coming weeks I will do a deeper dive on each of these areas to look at how the power of digital unlocks the potential of your people.

At Atmosphere

We spend a lot of our time defining strategies and thoughts around the focus for the “People Leader”, equipping their organisation for a digitally enabled future into three overlapping spheres of change:

HR transformation spheres

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