The critical part that the Human Resources and Learning and Development (HR and L&D) functions play in digital transformation has always been clear.

As digital impacts ever more broadly across sectors and corporate divisions, both areas have over time become only more essential to the transformation of business functions to become truly ‘fit-for-purpose’ for a digital-empowered world.

While HR and L&D professionals have always been part of the Econsultancy community we have not (until now) focused specifically on how the functions themselves are changing in response to challenges and opportunities brought by digital. A number of our previous Digital Transformation reports have touched on this area, most notably the Digital Marketing: Organisational Structures and Resourcing Best Practice Guide and our Skills of the Modern Marketer Guide, but this is an opportunity to consider how the practice of HR is shifting.

This research drew both from our existing knowledge and data, derived from multiple studies and reports, and from a series of in-depth interviews conducted with HR professionals across a broad range of sectors incorporating an equally broad set of challenges.

Key findings

  • Redefining human resources (HR) – an increasingly greater role for technology and particularly data has the potential to radically shift HR practice and processes. This brings new challenges in the need for HR professionals to improve digital literacy and skills in order to maximise the possibilities created by new technologies and adapt to the rapidly shifting organisational context that surrounds them.
  • Customer experience (CX) and digital transformation are both acting as key drivers for shifting HR practice as many organisations reorient resourcing, focus and culture around customer-centric strategies. As businesses transform to become ‘fit-for-purpose’ for a rapidly changing digital world, the HR function is playing a critical role in supporting change through a heightened focus on culture, learning and employee engagement.
  • Talent – shifting organisational priorities are creating high demand for talent in particular fields and creating challenges for HR to recruit scarce but high-demand talent. As a result, recruitment processes and relationships are being reinvented.
  • Performance management – rapidly changing contexts are impacting performance management processes, as organisations seek to be more adaptive and rely on more regular, informal feedback rather than rigid annual performance reviews and ratings.
  • Empowerment – as businesses seek to move faster, employee and team autonomy and empowerment have taken on a new level of importance. The HR function is playing a key role in encouraging employee ownership and empowerment.
  • Leadership and culture – our research shows that in the context of the increasingly agile, digitally-empowered operating environment, the qualities that define great leadership are changing. HR and learning professionals are refocusing leadership development programmes on enhancing not only traditional leadership skills, but ‘softer’ skills that can enable greater collaboration, entrepreneurialism and the ability for the business to move fast. A key part of this is focusing not only on knowledge, but on the behaviours that can establish organisational norms and support the right culture for agility.