From manual to digital: HR’s transformation

Today’s digital economy is forcing HR leaders to rethink how they deliver HR services to business

From manual to digital: HR’s transformation

Today’s digital economy is forcing HR leaders to rethink how they deliver HR services to business. HRD explores how to start on this journey

“Imagine if HR had the same consumer-friendly digital influence as Amazon. How would that change our work world engagement and performance?” That thought-provoking statement is made in an SAP SuccessFactors white paper, titled Translating the HR Digital Revolution to Everyday Work.

While the consumer digital experience has transformed our daily lives, the workplace itself has often seemed like a throwback to a bygone era. And dragging the chain the most is the HR function, which has been criticised in the past for being too slow to digitise many of its manual processes.

Finally, it seems the tide is turning. Organisations are looking for new, effective and productive ways to meet the rapidly evolving demands of doing business. This means that agility, 24/7 global access and automation are becoming standard. The same applies – or should apply – to HR functions.

Scott Davidson, managing director of Synchrony Global, says the adoption of SaaS and cloud-based HRM technology is ramping up as HR professionals are now generally aware of the employee performance and process benefits associated with investing in digital workforce capability.

“We’re finding that the benefits and improvements that come with digital workforce transformation are more and more widely understood, and it is those HR leaders who can link these benefits to organisational strategic goals and priorities that are leading the way and truly enabling different workforce outcomes,” says Davidson.

However, while Davidson says the desire to move to digital is apparent to HR professionals, many still find it a challenge to secure funding for two key reasons. Firstly, a lot of organisations are prioritising digitising their customer experience and interaction over digitising the workforce. Secondly, there are often difficulties in articulating the tangible benefits case for digital HR.

Below, HRD sets out some key steps that should be taken in order to build a solid business case for creating a digitally focused HR team.

Where is digitisation needed?
First, it’s necessary to investigate how and where digital capabilities might help HR. When asked which areas of HR processes are being digitised, Davidson says typically organisations are looking for help in several key areas:

  • streamlining recruitment and onboarding processes to reduce time and cost of hiring and bringing new staff up to speed quickly
  •  enabling paperless workflows for requests, approvals and feedback via any web-connected device
  • enabling strong coordination of all organisational training and therefore reducing training costs
  • aligning employees though performance and goals management
  • identifying and developing high-performers through succession management
  • managing core processes like payroll efficiently

In 2017, a shift from manual to digital processes typically means a shift into the cloud. For Davidson, the cloud is fast becoming the “new normal”. He adds that the traditional concern of HR about shifting to the cloud – ie data security – is no longer a key issue as all SaaS providers today must have robust security systems, which are often more secure than on-premise systems.

“It’s become a bit of a cliché now, but to a large extent it’s true – many customers regard their data as being more secure in the hands of global HCM cloud software providers than they do with their own lowly funded IT department,” Davidson says.

Instead, organisations today are primarily concerned about ensuring that the cloud system integrates seamlessly, and is also future-proof, scalable and extendable.

Building a business case
With key concerns addressed, HR should next look at how to build a business case to get cynical CFOs and CEOs over the line to invest in new HCM technology. Davidson says that while it’s widely understood that HR technology adoption has a positive qualitative impact on the engagement of employees, many HR professionals underestimate the need for making a strong business case for HR investments. However, in his view it’s critical that HR business proposals clearly outline the tangible benefits that HCM technologies can accrue for the company.

“HR should not be any different from any other functional department like finance, marketing or logistics, all of which adeptly emphasise the bottom-line financial benefits expected out of proposed investments,” Davidson says. “HR professionals typically project their mission as mostly qualitative, and fail to convince CFOs that tangible, quantitative ROI exists.”

In Synchrony Global’s view, a robust business case has to be able to stack up holistically across both tangible and intangible benefits. For example, HR should emphasise that the key business benefit that directly affects employees is the efficiency it brings. ‘Any time, anywhere’ cloud-based HR drives increased usage and engagement, since accessing and updating information is fast, convenient and easy; today this can be done through any device (computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone).

Davidson points out that automating frustrating and routine HR processes frees up time, which can then be used to focus on “real HR”.

Additional benefits include:

  • going green by reducing the paperwork and paper-based workflows
  • providing leaders with a 360-degree employee view, to better manage performance
  • increased collaboration
  • easy onboarding and platform adoption
  • data security
Mike Ellis, chief commercial officer, Synchrony Global, has five key tips for HR professionals looking to convince the CFO to make investments in digital HCM.

1. Understand the whole business direction and strategy and how the project aligns to it.
2. Identify the real buyer (if not the CFO) and understand how to influence outcomes with them and what ROI they will be looking for. Some CFOs and CEOs are much more understanding of intangibles like better employee engagement than others.
3. Understand the approval process (finance, IT, procurement).
4. Know the impacts to work, worker and workplace.
5. Communicate function improvement as a tangible value.

Successful adoption
Organisations are coming to understand that the potential of HR technology goes beyond digitising standard processes. HR platforms today are capable of boosting efficiency and productivity, with staggering results. However, these results are only possible when the employees successfully adopt the platform.

“The challenge now is to reinvent how we fully engage employees in the digital workplace, across platforms,” Davidson says. “Often, only a fraction of the functionality that is made available to users actually gets used, resulting in significant training and retraining costs and a longer time to realise return on investment due to lower adoption rates than forecasted.”

Indeed, research reveals that digital skills are lacking in most job roles. The Oxford Economics Leaders 2020 Fact Sheet, produced in partnership with SAP, suggests that just 59% of surveyed global executives feel that employees are equipped with skills to keep up with digital technology and 67% feel that management is equipped to facilitate digital transformation.

Fortunately, some service providers have recognised the skills gap and the need for employers to get employees using new technology smoothly and quickly. Synchrony Global’s solutions, for example, are delivered with step-by-step guidance software that helps deliver high levels of cost-effective user adoption and increases user engagement levels, allowing companies to fully realise the investment they have made in cloud technology. Synchrony uses WalkMe’s enterprise-class software to create a layer of visual prompts and input rules to provide employees with step-by-step ‘GPS like’ guidance to complete digital business processes quickly and accurately. The software also drives continuous improvement by collecting and analyzing usage data to recognise behaviour patterns and obstacles.

Starting the journey
Mike Ellis, chief commercial officer, Synchrony Global, suggests a straightforward approach is best for those organisations looking to start their digital transformation journey. He recommends a strategy involving two key concepts: adopt, then adapt.

“You’ll be far better taking a standard out-of-the-box best practice approach that has quick, cost-effective implementation and then tweaking the process over time,” he says. “Therefore, adopt standard best practices, and then adapt them over time.”

However, Ellis concedes this can be easier said than done. Many key tasks and activities need to be put in place before this mindset can work. These include:

  • executive stakeholder engagement
  • benefits case development
  • creation of an organisation design
  • embedding a strong change management mindset

As always, having a trusted business partner can help.

Synchrony Global is a specialist HR technology partner for businesses of all sizes. The company supplies best practice digital tools that allow organisations to optimise and manage the end-to-end employee life cycle and increase productivity through guided in-work process support.

“What sets us apart is our ability to work with HR leaders to make best practice digital transformation as simple, straightforward and scalable as it can possibly be,” says Davidson. “Our delivery approach eliminates the unnecessary complexity of traditional HR IT, providing rapid implementation and high levels of cost-effective adoption.”

One thing is certain: the HR digital revolution is here and moving at rapid speed. The savviest HR leaders will want to be part of that revolution.

Synchrony Global is enabling HR leaders to discover their digital workforce potential by making the leading out-of-the-box HCM solution SAP SuccessFactors accessible in a way that is rapid, scalable, and ready for fast and easy employee adoption. To find out more and request a demo, visit or call +61 29956 3803.

Recent articles & video

Manager gets fired via text: 'If you're not at work, then you don't have a job'

Can an oral contract prove an employment relationship?

Employers, unions clash on flexible work deal for public service employees: report

Qantas to pay $21,000 for unlawfully standing down HSR

Most Read Articles

Could remote work become a legal right?

Which industries have the highest pay in Australia?

Woolworths bars Indigenous, LGBTQI+ stickers on badges: reports