Digital used to be a thing. Now it’s everything.

Today, business growth is unthinkable without digital transformation – a source of new value for both customers and employees. At the same time, businesses are grappling with ‘Digital Darwinism’, where technology is evolving faster than the capacity to learn and adapt. In some areas change has been slow and partial, in others rapid and total.

Despite today’s tendency to make a hero of the technology itself, all this change is really powered by and serves people. Given HR’s role in championing human capital, you might imagine that HR leaders and their teams are playing major roles in digital transformation in business today. The truth is more complicated.

Working with HR Grapevine, organizer of one of the world’s most respected HR forums, we used a blend of quantitative and qualitative research to understand how HR is impacting the world of work during a time of rapid digital change – and the role HR would like to play in the future. We then used our research to identify the barriers HR faces and the most important levers available to becoming a critical player in digital transformation.

Key findings 

  • Many HR teams are trapped in conventional roles and have little or no impact on the digital direction of the businesses they serve.
  • HR leaders recognize that they need to play more active parts in digital transformation, moving beyond their perceived traditional roles to become shapers, partners and even provocateurs of their organization’s digital journey.
  • There is a distinct tipping point for HR teams along the journey from traditional functions to being digital provocateurs. This is the point at which HR moves beyond merely supporting digital transformation to actively shaping it.
  • Four important barriers are preventing many HR teams from fulfilling their potential as enablers of digital transformation: problems of perception, lack of investment, paucity of influence and scarcity of internal HR transformation.

Finally, we looked to explore how HR can realize its potential as a catalyst for digital change across three levers: leadership, culture and strategy.

The case studies throughout this report show the potential for HR to play a vital role in digital transformation, but most of the evidence points to an ongoing struggle for relevance and influence.

Download the report.