Further confirmation – if it were needed – that digital skills are going to be core for HR professionals of the future, comes in the shape of a recent article from the HR Director. The magazine puts digital-savvy HR advisors in the top 10 most in-demand roles for 2019.

There’s no doubt that technology is already changing the face of HR as we know it. There are examples of companies using chat-bots and AI-augmented video interviewing in recruitment, introducing digital learning platforms that suggest training to employees and using hackathons to engage staff in redesigning performance management processes.

As a Deloitte report points out, HR also has a critical role to play in helping organisations to be digital, not just do digital. HR practitioners, it suggests, can lead the way in creating working environments that enable people to be more productive, collaborative and better networked.

So as an HR practitioner, what can you do to future-proof your career – and deliver business benefits to your organisation at the same time?

1. Get familiar with the technologies

It seems as if almost every day, another digital development comes along that is predicted to disrupt markets and wipe out the old ways of doing things. It’s not possible – or indeed necessary – for HR people to be expert in all these new technologies. You don’t need to be able to code or understand all the intricacies of Artificial Intelligence – there are IT experts who can do that. What is important, however, is to keep up with what’s out there and develop an understanding of the opportunities (and threats) it presents to the business.

A healthy dose of practicality is needed too. Not all technologies are fit for purpose just yet, as Amazon’s decision last year to scrap their AI recruiting tool demonstrated. You’ll need to match the available solutions to your organisation pain points if you are to make headway in the digital space.

2. Digitise your own HR processes

Excel spreadsheets and paper-based forms are no longer fit for purpose. If you’ve not already moved your HR processes into the Cloud, now is the time to start. HR software has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, with sophisticated but easy to implement HRIS software now affordable for any business, large or small.

By digitising HR, you’ll not only demonstrate that you know what it takes to implement digital technologies, but free up more of your time by centralising data, automating time-consuming processes and providing information on-demand to the wider workforce. One of our clients recently told us that following their implementation of Cezanne HR, they’d cut HR admin overheads by an impressive 80%.

3. Collaborate to innovate

HR has a clear role in helping the organisation embrace digitisation and all that it brings. But it can’t do it alone. It’s important to reach out to all areas of the business. It’s about being curious about the issues that managers across the business are facing and how they envisage AI and other digital technologies can help them meet their people-related and other challenges. Communication is often a good place to start and an area where it is possible to achieve quick wins. Is the business using the latest technologies to help employees communicate quickly and easily? There are a number of commercially available tools that do this (Slack, Facebook Workplace) but most up-to-date HR systems will also come with integral communication portals where staff can easily access core information, get answers to questions and find others to network and collaborate with.

4. Develop your HR networks

HR practitioners are generally happy to share their experiences, and nothing beats learning from those that have been there already. If you don’t have the chance to go to conferences or networking events then online LinkedIn Groups or CIPD communities can offer the opportunity to listen in on what others are saying and ask your own questions. With any digital initiative comes the need to demonstrate a wider range of competencies, including influencing, change management, and project planning. Developing an understanding of how peers have approached their digitisation projects will better equip you take similar projects in your stride.

5. Don’t forget the human touch

Employees won’t always greet attempts to bring digitisation to their workplace with open arms. They will inevitably have concerns about the impact it will have on their jobs and career prospects going forward. Although advances in process automation and AI will almost certainly wipe out some roles, other jobs will emerge. As with any change, people are much more likely to get on board if they are involved in the process and offered opportunities to develop their own skills sets. Keep the lines of communication with employees open, to provide reassurance and also gain valuable input about how roles might develop and what inter-action will be needed between humans and the machines.

Erika Lucas author image

Erika Lucas

Writer and Communications Consultant

Erika Lucas is a writer and communications consultant with a special interest in HR, leadership, management and personal development. Her career has spanned journalism and PR, with previous roles in regional press, BBC Radio, PR consultancy, charities and business schools.