Digital HR: Putting Our Heads in the Cloud

23/08/2017
We had an interview with Yazad Dalal, Head of Human Capital Management (HCM) Cloud Applications at Oracle (Asia Pacific), who shared how Oracle utilises Cloud and analytics in human capital management to develop a versatile, future ready workforce.

What are the competitive advantages for companies who embrace digital HR?

That combination of increased satisfaction and productivity directly leads to profitability. The most critical advantage is that digital HR provides the platform they need to deliver a better employee experience. Our survey shows that when employees have a positive experience on HR digital platform, they are happier and more productive.

A major component is that digital HR must be based on a cloud application. Only through the cloud can organisations ensure that what they provide to their employees will continuously innovate and keep up with the pace of change. We are not far away from seeing artificial intelligence become part of our everyday life, including our HR tools. This includes natural language and speech recognition, Internet of Things (IoT) and even robotics!

What are three emerging trends in digital HR? What can companies do to get ahead of the curve?

There are three key emerging trends:

  1. Employee experience will become the foundation of all HR processes. That’s the beauty of using a design thinking approach. Companies will move away from building HR processes and instead start designing strong experiences for training or on-boarding that allow them to inform and engage their employees in a richer, more inspiring way.
  2. Using the IoT and wearables to measure productivity will start to become standardised. Driving productivity and performance through work-life programmes and wellness initiatives that incorporate IoT and wearables will be a key focus. For example, in Singapore an employer might take the National Steps Challenge and directly integrate it into their HR platform through the wearables to drive and track fitness, teamwork, morale and fun.
  3. Real-time and predictive analytics will start to play a larger role in decision-making. As the need to measure and improve the employee experience increases, there will be an ongoing requirement for real-time data to adapt alignment on the fly.

As a function, HR has gone through a transformation from being a support function to strategic advisor to business. How will HR transform even more in this digital age?

Let’s put it all together. As we focus on measuring employee and team performance at a more detailed level, we capture more data. The more data we have, the more rigourously we can apply analytics and search for patterns. With the right technology, we can use that data to see the future – through predictive analytics. If we can see the future, we can make smarter, more informed decisions. The best part is, it is full of possibilities! If you are Gen X or younger you grew up playing games, trying different scenarios. “What if” analysis allows you to play around with different models of the future, giving HR an exclusive view of the different business outcomes that would result based on pulling different levers related to compensation, performance or external contingencies.
From a purely pragmatic ‘hard numbers’ perspective, many companies, especially in developed markets, have made significant investments in health, wellness and insurance. If the well-being of employees increases, insurance premiums drop – resulting in a real financial benefit to the employer. From a ‘soft benefit’ perspective, an employer may have an ageing workforce. It’s in the employer’s best interest to know if more medical-related leave is going to be required.

Alternatively, for work environments that require long hours, productivity becomes an issue – employers will want to track who’s doing what and for how long. From a company culture perspective, people often work better when they see themselves as part of a team. When they engage in group activities, especially out of office hours, usually morale and engagement levels increase.

How can companies adopt an employee experience approach? Can they adapt strategies from user experience (UX/UI)?

The key to a successful employee experience is to mimic that existing consumer environment in the workplace. The consumer user experience has influenced technology everywhere, driven by mobile devices, sensors, location awareness and soon wearables. We spend hours a day interacting with digital apps (we check our phones 8 billion times a day), we are not monitoring those digital devices anymore – they monitor us! They influence us by suggestions, nudges and recommendations – all driven by analytics and behavioural economics. This makes it easy to adopt – we are already used to it and know how to use it! And it will make employees happy. Happy employees equal happy customers.

How can companies develop employees who work for them and are also part of the gig economy?

We are used to adapting new realities quickly. Our parents worked for the same employer for 30+ years while today’s worker will have 5-10 different employers in their entire career. The “new normal” changes frequently. As employers have grown accustomed to shorter employee tenure they must focus on how to get the best out of them as rapidly as they can – before that employee moves on. As we see more gig workers balancing full-time jobs with their gigs, the full-time employer has a unique opportunity to leverage that separate expertise. Encouraging employees to share a little bit about their outside interests or occupations only adds strength to the bench.

Imagine a company who needs a seasoned event planner to plan an internal event – if they know one of their accountants runs a catering business on the side, that’s an asset! Or an employer who is building a corporate social responsibility initiative around underprivileged communities might find one of their employees is also a leader at a related non-profit – there’s a significant benefit to nurturing that openness and leveraging it for both employer and employee.

How does cloud technology empower and help to upskill employees in the gig economy?

Cloud HR and learning are a compelling force, for both full time employees and gig workers. The ability to learn in short digestible pieces, delivered through a rich mobile experience, is changing the world of learning. It provides a platform for self-directed learning in formats that are actually appealing to learners at all levels. For instance, Oracle drives a digital-first workforce. With Oracle’s HR technology, the HR process is modernised and improved – from initial onboarding to collaborating with colleagues to long-term skills development. When it comes to timesheets, expenses, and other HR tasks, employees want efficient and modern processes so they can get back to the work that matters most.

By empowering employees with the digital tools they need to share knowledge and work efficiently, employees are able to focus on their expertise, collaborate, and develop innovative ways that are crucial for the business to succeed. This kick-starts a cycle of putting their newly adopted skills and knowledge to practice, increase their proficiency and begin the process of upskilling.

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