The Digital HR Skillset

Soumyasanto Sen
Aug 1 · 11 min read

Mindset — Skills — Capabilities

“Upgrade your digital expertise to stay ahead in our disrupted world”

By Sonia Mooney & Soumyasanto Sen

Digitalising HR is the ultimate business differentiator. A digital strategy and mindset enables us to deliver efficiencies, excellent employee experiences and better business outcomes, becoming a strategic, value adding HR function.

Yet this isn’t about technology alone. Digitalising is a mindset, a way of thinking and working, creating streamlined, thoughtful, cohesive digital solutions with the human touch and the employee experience at the core — it’s about taking a holistic approach. Having the right mindset, skillset and capabilities are critical ingredients, and this includes not only what we need to learn, but also what we need to unlearn.

So, if you’re looking to upgrade your digital skillset to stay ahead in our disrupted world, these ten focus areas will help you shape your next steps to unlearn what’s no longer adding value, and gain fresh skills, capabilities and thinking to harness the true power of digital, delivering maximum impact for your HR functions and businesses.

Contents

1. From a fixed mindset to a growth mindset

2. From command and control leadership to inspirational leadership

3. From complexity to simplicity

4. From siloed working to a culture of collaboration

5. From process centric design to human centric design

6. From tick box activities to business aligned strategies

7. From assumption based decisions to evidence & data driven decisions

8. From fear of failing to daring to experiment

9. From traditional change management to strategic change enablement

10. From focusing on our own area to holistic, big picture thinking

1.From a fixed mindset to a growth mindset

Once we change what’s on the inside — our mindset, we create a ripple effect and everything on the outside begins to transform. With a fixed mindset, we believe our basic qualities, such as intelligence or talent, are fixed characteristics. Whereas, with a growth mindset, we believe our basic abilities can be developed through commitment and hard work — our intelligence or talent are simply the starting point.

The right mindset can impact our beliefs and learning, and accelerate future achievement. We can change our mindset from fixed to growth, and when we do, this leads to increased motivation and achievement. In our change-fatigued organisations mindset is considered one of the most important factors in organizational transformation.

To successfully transform in our digital age we need constant exploration, experimentation and learning. Individuals with a growth mindset can make a significant difference, they’re more likely to invest additional effort in learning and experimenting, and own a resilience that helps them to overcome challenges. Agility, understanding patterns, collaboration and embracing diversity are some of the key characteristics that exist in a digital growth mindset.

2.From command and control leadership to inspirational leadership

The contemporary command-and-control workplaces are still very much dominated by a directive leadership style. This leadership style is based on control and fear where leaders push their decisions down the chain of command — commanding others how to do their jobs. This way of working is outdated, it neglects the wisdom of crowds and it disengages those lower in the organizational hierarchy.

We need to leave this way of working behind and instead adopt inspirational leadership — inspiring our people, creating a sense of purpose, direction and energy for change. This leadership style provides the ability to be a positive influence on those around us and motivates our people toward success, helping our organisations achieve more. Employees of any experience level can practice inspirational leadership, whether they’re an executive or an entry-level employee. Inspirational leadership offers our people opportunities to develop their ambition and abilities based on our attitude and actions.

Real influence is not based on metrics, it’s based on the outcomes that we can generate for others. It’s about the positive difference we make in someone’s life, it’s about meaning and purpose and a journey that inspires others. Real influence is way more than a label. Positivity, gratitude, curiosity, passion, integrity, and a growth mindset are some of the traits of an inspirational leader. For successful transformation, this is a must have for all leaders.

3.From complexity to simplicity

We carry so much legacy and complexity within our individual organisations. We can often find ourselves weighed down with processes, ways of working, rules and limiting beliefs which have been in place for years because we believe they need to be there — for legal, compliance, or policy purposes. In our experience successful transformation is as much about removing what you don’t need as creating what you do need. We’ve found that by taking a fresh look at our solutions, often it’s perception versus reality built up over time and there is a better way. Let’s free ourselves from everything holding us back. Work in collaboration to understand with each policy, process or piece of technology how best to ensure compliance and the right outcomes, whilst shaping streamlined, effective solutions with the employee experience at the core. Leading through this lens of simplicity helps us remove anything that’s not adding value, creating efficiencies and maximising our impact.

4.From siloed working to a culture of collaboration

As HR functions and businesses we need to remember that we are greater than the sum of our parts. The silo mentality belongs in the past — if we want sustainable business results a culture of true collaboration is critical across HR and beyond.

What does true collaboration mean? In practice this means Leaders bringing their teams together across functions such as HR, IT and other key functions to “play on the same team”. To co create visions, design solutions & work together to execute, then review and drive continuous improvement. Building cross functional teams, fusing technical expertise and skillsets, and bringing together diversity of experience & thought enables us to co create the best possible solutions that meet the needs of our people, business and customers, with successful, sustainable results.

5.From process centric design to human centric design

Historically, as HR functions our focus has typically been on process. The problem is, focusing on process alone is counterproductive. By designing based on what we need to get done we often end up with HR solutions which have been designed by experts for experts — without the employee lens. When we add in the legacy complexity we often carry within our organisations this can leave us with confusing solutions, duplication, bolt on additions and hand off’s between teams which create delays in the system as people get stuck and need help. This all drives waste and reduced productivity, both for employees going through these processes, and for the teams managing them across HR, IT and beyond, slowing down performance and results.

To unlock the true value of our people we need to make the shift from process — what needs to get done, to experience — how it feels for an employee when they’re trying to get things done.

We need to ask our people about their experiences regularly to gain a true understanding of their reality rather than our perception, then listen and act on their feedback. And we need to get our people involved — understand their viewpoint. Design with them, not for them. Bringing our people into our world to design alongside us enables us to fully understand the problem we are trying to fix from their perspective — the user. This method of co-creation enables us to harness creativity and innovation, helps us think outside the box and create the most efficient and effective solutions which people can navigate with ease, freeing them up to focus on their day jobs and enabling HR, IT and other teams to focus on value add activities. All of which deliver better outcomes for our business.

6.From tick box activities to business aligned strategies

Traditionally HR has been very activity focused, with success defined through compliance and completed activities. The endless list of what we need to get done as a function — the boxes we need to tick, the legal and regulatory requirements we need to meet to keep our people and organisations safe.

However, the question we need to ask ourselves is, having completed all of these activities, how much value have we delivered? We may have invested significant time, resources and energy but if we’re not seeing or hearing about incredible results, if our organisation is not seeing a return on investment, what was the point?

We need to shift our mindset and measure success by the value we are delivering to our people, business and customers, and through the return on investment we are providing. One of the best ways to deliver this outcome is to align to the business strategy and focus on driving outstanding business results through the strategic use of technology.

Developing a digital HR strategy begins with taking a close look at business priorities and validating whether current systems and processes are supporting the business and reinforcing the organization’s goals. A successful digital HR strategy should be aligned to the needs of the business, agile, and focused on strategic enablement rather than simply efficiency and effectiveness. The strategy should be owned by HR in partnership with IT creating a digital-enabled culture, delivering measurable results.

7.From assumption based decisions to evidence & data driven decisions

We need to make the shift from assumption and perception based decision making to using data and evidence to support our decision making. This approach is not about replacing humans in our decision making processes, it’s about using data to inform our decision-making and validating a course of action before committing to it. When we base our decisions on evidence and facts, we can be more confident in our decisions, we can avoid biases, become more proactive and save costs.

Organizations that make data-driven people decisions achieve higher performance, better results, and a superior return on investment. One key consideration — no matter how much data you have, how statistically significant it is, or how convincing your graphs are, data isn’t actionable without the human touch. Data is information, but information is not a replacement for insight, reason and creativity. This is where the human touch becomes critical, transforming our data into actions, to help us drive our businesses forward.

8. From fear of failing to daring to experiment

Our people are our greatest asset — they are our business. To harness the power of our people we need an environment where they can not only survive, they can thrive. We must leave behind command and control structures, ways of working and leadership styles, move away from a culture where we don’t try anything new for fear of failure, and where teams blame each other when things go wrong. Instead we need to consciously create an environment of enablement and empowerment. We need to remember that the best ideas can come from anywhere in our organisations — providing we create the right environment. We need to facilitate collaboration, inspire our people, treat them as individuals and provide them with the knowledge, tools and support to be successful — then we must trust and let go. Give them ownership & accountability, and most importantly freedom. Be there to coach, guide and help cut through when needed.

Giving our people space to experiment in a no blame zone helps us to create a culture of innovation, of doing things differently, continuously iterating and improving. We celebrate together when things goes well and learn as teams when they don’t, creating learning organisations, constantly driving forwards. This environment helps optimise flexibility, creativity and productivity, enabling our people to do their very best work and helping our businesses to succeed.

9.From traditional change management to strategic change enablement

Traditional change management is linear, it’s a step-by-step approach which works well for certain types of organizational change. Yet in our disrupted, digital world where the pace of change is faster than ever before, agility and flexibility are key, and often this traditional approach is no longer the best fit. In addition, trying to enforce change, or tell people what to do is not a successful strategy.

In our often change resistant and change-fatigued organisations we need a human centric approach, and adaptability and change resilience are vital. This means we need to take a regular temperature check to understand the capacity for change in our organisations, we must understand we cannot change too many things at the same time, and we need to take steps to build change agility or resilience where needed. Getting our people involved in change at the outset helps gain buy in, it helps us understand the problems we are looking to fix from their perspective and to co-create the best solutions.

The final, critical ingredient in successful change is effective communication. The right communication strategy is a differentiator and can mean the difference between the changes we want to make landing well and embedding, or passing our organisations by. We need to get our leaders, our people, and our businesses onboard — to understand “the why”, and what’s in it for them, helping them to not only accept, but also to embrace the change. Creating a compelling vision of the future that people can connect to and showcasing the benefits using inspiring, digital led storytelling can be a powerful way of engaging people, helping the changes to stick.

10. From focusing on our own area to holistic, big picture thinking

The legacy of our traditional HR model and ways of working has left us with teams often working in silo’s, focused predominately on their own areas. So often we are simply doing what we’ve always done — we have separate centres of expertise, separate teams, separate processes and our mindset has been to focus on where a process starts and ends, what’s “mine”, what’s “yours” whether Reward, Talent or Learning. Operating in this way doesn’t maximise our resources and it’s not employee centric.

This legacy approach can mean we find ourselves with a disconnected HR function lacking the holistic view, with hand offs between teams, duplication and waste. Our people fall into the gaps. Why should the products and services we offer be so separate, and look and feel so different across the employee lifecycle?

An integrated approach to HR digitalisation is needed. We need to be bold and operate as one to simplify, digitalise & innovate end to end. Become One HR — a strategic, synchronized HR function shaping value adding, end to end products and services with our people, and their experience at the core.

This approach will enable us to design a seamless, digital, inspiring, end to end experience across the entire employee lifecycle. Helping our people to be at their best, maximising our resources, realising our potential as a function and fully enabling our business.

Focusing on these ten areas will help you upgrade your mindset, skillset and capabilities, enabling you to harness the true power of digital and deliver maximum impact for your HR functions and businesses.

Are you ready to upgrade?

Sonia Mooney is a Global HR Leader and Consultant with over 20 years of experience, helping HR functions to maximise their impact through human centric process and technology optimisation. Sonia is industry-recognized for delivering creative, transformative change, market-leading solutions, and outstanding business results on a global scale. Find out more at:

Soumyasanto Sen is a Digital HR, Transformation and People Analytics leader with over 18 years of experience in advisory and management in technology and transformation across various large firms worldwide. Soumya is the Author of the book ‘Digital HR Strategy’ and ranks among the top global Influencers and thought leaders in HR Technology. Find out more at:

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