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Human resources management: Workplace digitization presents new challenges for employees and HR departments alike

Profile Photo By: Carsten Hennig
April 10, 2017

Human resources management: Workplace digitization presents new challenges for employees and HR departments alike

Roland Berger’s “HR Trends Survey 2017” examines the maturity of the HR function across companies – The bigger the company, the bigger the gap between ambition and reality – Workplace 4.0: New work processes and structures put employees and HR managers under pressure – Talent management and strategic workforce planning are key challenges for companies in their efforts to remain competitive

Munich, Germany – 10 April 2017 –
The working environment is growing ever more digitized on a daily basis. Companies are increasingly digitizing work processes; employees have to get used to new methods and technologies. All of this challenges not just the employees, but HR departments as well.

“The extent of automation and the growing interconnectivity of the real and virtual worlds combine to place new demands on the workforce today,” explains Jörg Seufert, Partner at Roland Berger. “HR departments need to ask themselves whether the employees of today have the capabilities needed for the company of tomorrow. For many HR managers that is just too big an ask.”

This is one of the conclusions drawn by the latest Roland Berger study, HR Trends Survey 2017, indicating that HR departments’ aspirations demonstrate a significant gap to reality. And the bigger the company, the bigger the gap: whereas small companies showed an ambition-to-reality gap of just under 18 percent, in medium-sized firms the discrepancy was 27 percent, while the gap in large companies was as much as 37 percent. These are some of the key findings of the recent Roland Berger survey spanning more than 300 European companies from a range of industries.

Talent management as a strategic success factor
The experts identified six key areas with an urgent need for improvement within HR, namely talent management, strategic workforce planning and people analytics, leadership, change management, culture and engagement, and the digitization of HR services and systems. In all six areas, the gap between aspiration and actual level of maturity is particularly large. But talent management is the area presenting the greatest difficulties: “Companies in our survey do not always feel capable of retaining key members of staff and putting people with the right profiles in newly created positions,” says Seufert. “A structured method of strategic workforce planning is instrumental here. That’s because it takes the best people in the right jobs to make a company successful in the market.”

Companies that manage to precisely analyze the strengths of their various employees and to plan their career accordingly will be most successful at retaining those employees. The better the match between the job description and the employees’ capabilities and needs, the longer they will stay with their employer.

Digital HR analytics systems can help structure large volumes of HR data and analyze it in greater detail. More and more companies are therefore taking advantage of the support provided by IT-based solutions for human resources management – the German market for products of this kind is expected to reach a volume of 1.7 billion euros by 2020.

Workplace 4.0: Cultural shift required
The digital transformation of the workplace is also dependent upon a significant cultural shift within the companies themselves. New work processes and personnel structures need to be implemented step by step. “Proper change management is called for, and it needs to be handled at CxO level,” explains Roland Berger Partner Jörg Seufert. “Top managers must be in a position to support the digital transformation of their company and their structure, to motivate staff throughout the process and to give them a sense of inspiration for new functions and processes. This is the only way for a company to successfully pull off the digital transformation of its own organization.”

The HR department needs to be the management’s transformation partner in areas such as restructuring, reorganization, post-merger integration and digital transformation. It’s an important role that goes hand in hand with the new understanding of Human Resources as less of a project-supporting function and more of a permanent shaper of long-term transformation processes.

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