Digital HR technologies are being introduced at an ever-quickening pace, says digital HR expert Christa Degnan Manning, who leads Bersin by Deloitte’s solution provider research. However, she notes that many of the new devices coming to market have the potential to simplify HR tasks and improve worker productivity. The big challenge for HR execs, she says, is to manage the pace of change. Contributing Editor Bruce Shutan spoke recently with Manning. An edited version of their conversation follows.

EBN: What’s the biggest digital challenge facing HR executives?

Degnan Manning: Change management. And the twist now is that as most enterprise applications move into the cloud, the innovation is almost constant. Sometimes vendors roll up their features and functions in quarterly releases, but, effectively, the new challenge in digital HR technology deployment is what I call the “innovation consumption.” It’s the ability to continuously manage change and adapt to new technologies that can make your organization more productive and effective.

EBN: So, when dealing with these rapid technology changes, should HR professionals take those projects on by developing new competencies and skill sets, should they partner with their IT departments or should they look to an outsourcer?

Degnan Manning: It’s potentially all of the above. Our research shows that shifting to digital HR is really a shift in mindset to always being experimental, always looking at new technologies and solutions to fill gaps in terms of what can make you more efficient and effective.

EBN: How do you think the digital transformation of HR will affect productivity?

Degnan Manning: Digital HR technologies simplify the employee experience, which affects productivity.

To some extent, a lot of earlier HR process automation actually gave workers a lot more to do. It offered employee self-service, but that meant the employee had to do a lot of tasks that HR used to do for them.

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The concept of digital HR is how can we strip out and only offer employees the appropriate tools and experiences that let them get back to their day jobs. More important, get them back to whatever else is meaningful to their lives. And that ties back to employee engagement and productivity.

EBN: To what extent are big data and analytics helping HR benchmark key metrics?

Degnan Manning: There’s certainly a lot of data. And there are so many different technologies and digital tools — almost every HR platform today has some form of reporting or analytics capabilities — that can mine that data for patterns and trends. We’ve seen more companies working with HR departments so that they’re more comfortable with data analytics and how HR data relates back to the business.

HR data is helping organizations make the case to invest in people and support the business.

Certainly, benchmarking is a component of that, but if you want to attract the best employees you want to be innovative. One area that I think is tremendously powerful is benchmarking around salary and gender equity.

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