[Webinar] Kickstart Your Digital HR Strategy


As part of SHRM’s webcast series, Talroo sponsored a webinar hosted by Dr. Deborah Waddill, President of Restek Consulting. The topic of technology combined with HR may be considered an oxymoron. Aren’t HR decision makers interested in people and processes not technology systems? In this program Deborah Waddill, author of the SHRM book Digital HR: A Guide to Technology Enabled Human Resources discussed what an HR technology strategy is and why you should care. She reviewed important elements of a HR digital strategy and how it differs from your organizational strategy, as well as how your digital strategy fits in with your talent acquisition initiatives.

View the webcast and receive SHRM CP-SCP credit!

From a Capterra study,  91% of Small and Medium Business (SMB) leaders say HR technology is critical or beneficial to their business, yet only 57% are currently using it. Seventy percent of SMBs will be using HR technology by 2020, led by organizations in heavily regulated industries such as banking/financial services (91%), healthcare (90%), and construction (79%). 86% of SMBs investing in HR technology are already significantly impacted by it, or expect to be significantly impacted by it within one to two years.

Dr. Waddill shares there is a need for small to medium sized businesses to have an understanding of how to develop a digital HR strategy. She says in the last 8-10 years, there has been a shift from HR trying to get a seat at the table to HR driving company and organizational strategy. We’re the only group that has the entire lifecycle of every employee in our domain. We’re now driving organizational change.

And on technology, the way HR delivers its services to employees has radically changed in the last five years with the rise of digital HR. HR technology services are now handled by Human Resource professionals (not the IT department).

Digital Human Resources Is the Following

  • Integrated HR platform, automated workflows and business processes
  • Mobile-first apps
  • Data sharing and minimal redundancies to increase efficiency and effectiveness
  • Human-centered design with data entry at the source
  • Distributing HR system throughout the organization available through portal-based, employee self-service
  • Predictive analytics/dashboards from integration.

The shift in the HR role from individual specialists to strategic business partner and change agent, working with the business units to drive innovation across the company. The skills that HR needs today are different as well.

“The most important skill of the future isn’t coding or technical in nature. It’s the soft skills that will matter.” – Jeff Weiner, CEO, LinkedIn

The Value of Soft Skills in the Workplace

Soft skills like creativity, curiosity, collaboration and compassion come naturally to HR professionals. Critical thinking is also of of those soft skills and it’s one we should be adopting for ourselves and our teams. In order to succeed in this new paradigm, HR will have to: adopt critical thinking, understand and embrace future trends, follow technology selection best practices and lead by modeling technology adoption.

Strategy and critical thinking are becoming more and more important. Strategy creation uses higher-level, critical thinking skills. Critical thinking requires analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and creation— higher-level thinking skills. Critical thinking goes beyond knowledge, comprehension, and application. We must be able to forecast trends, predict how we can use the knowledge in our roles, and execute this technology transformation throughout our organization.

This applies to everything from HR technology software, cloud computing, social media and networking, mobile technology, the internet of things, and big data. If we’re not already embracing the value of data, we’re behind the curve.

Here we have divided the HR function into three major groupings:

  • Talent management
  • Learning management
  • Knowledge management

They overlap, they are not distinct, and the point that intersects is digital HR. We can use technology to integrate these three domains.

Big Data and Data Analytics

Definition: Data analytics refers to qualitative and quantitative techniques and processes used to enhance productivity and business gain. (Techopedia, 2017)

Use Case: Decision making, planning, gauging employee engagement, retention, and satisfaction, staffing, hiring, etc. See Carilion Clinic Case in Digital HR (pp. 128-130). There is a clinic in VA using big data to improve their staffing in really efficient ways.

Caveats: An overload of data can cause analysis paralysis, fragmentation of data sources, requires investment for reliable data. (Information Age, January, 2016)

Mobile HR

Definition: A mobile workforce refers to a group of employees who are scattered across various physical locations and are connected by tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices via the global Internet. Mobile workers are increasingly becoming the norm. (Techopedia, 2017)

Use Case: Mobile portals, m-Learning (delivery of e-learning to a mobile device), performance support, time tracking, e-recruiting, etc. See Fortis Healthcare m-Learning Case in Digital HR (pp. 75-77; 97). Its m-learning product for sales training is outstanding.

Caveats: Clarity around “terms of use” policies and “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) guidelines for mobile using current laws as foundation.

Social Media and Social Networking

Definition: Forms of electronic communication (e.g., websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (e.g., videos).

Use Case: Internal communications, crowdsourcing, employee engagement, brand recognition, learning, etc. See Yammer use case in Digital HR (pp. 188-189).

Caveats: Lack of privacy of information, no clear netiquette framework, lack of guidelines for use on work time. Social media in particular has taken on an edge that can quickly go sour. It’s important to set up expectations and guidelines for social media before publishing a policy of social media use on work time.

Cloud Computing

Definition: A model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of computing resources (Digital HR, 2018, p. 18).

Use Case: Web and mobile access to computer software, programs, and data from anywhere [with Internet/Mobile access] at any time via a computer or mobile device. See Panasonic Case in Digital HR (pp. 116-118).

Caveats: Possible security issues resulting from lack of uniform policies for use of cloud-based systems and governance. Government sector companies are much more risk averse, but we’re at a point in history where that can be reconsidered. Cloud has become more secure and internal issues can actually cause more risk.

Cloud computing has become an expectation now. There are so many benefits to cloud computing for SMBs, specifically in the area of automation. Other than automatic updates and upgrades, being able to access data from nearly anywhere and having the ability to choose HR vendors based on scalability means that we can be more efficient than ever. We can now scale up or down and pay for what we use, which makes it much more elastic.

Artificial Intelliegence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT)

Definition of IoT: The interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send / receive data and respond according to input.

Relationship of IoT to AI: IoT is backbone for machine learning, a subset of AI. AI is being built into IoT applications to analyze the big data that results from the IoT data gathering.

AI Use Case: Candidate screening, candidate engagement, post-offer acceptance, onboarding, scheduling, etc. AI is being built into IoT applications to analyze the big data. IoT gathers data, but then you have to do something with it.  See IBM Case in Digital HR (pp. 202-204).

Caveats: Losing control of what the IoT/AI is doing as well as considering it a panacea. People outside of HR thinking IoT/AI will replace the human element in HR, which is not true.

There are so many benefits of IoT and data gathering, including health and wellness tracking and rewards, or for time-keeping, or location tracking.


Organizations respond to new technology in one of three ways:

Tinkering: Making incremental adjustments around the periphery of legacy systems by adding new technologies with no unifying, comprehensive plan. For example, making the learning management system mobile friendly. This may be out of fear of wholesale upheaval.

Tweaking: Modifying the “As Is” situation to customize existing technologies. We keep working with our current system, but customize it to respond as more current systems, in hopes that we can get our legacy systems to do the same thing.

Strategizing: Developing an overall systems approach that incorporates technology effectively. This is, in the long term, the most cost effective and efficient.


Pre-strategy analysis, or strategy formation.

Consider your own organization. Where does it fit and why? Assess your own company’s digital readiness, identify systems for learning, knowledge, and talent management, understand in what areas you’ll need to modify HR approach, and so on. The placement of your organization on will tell you what role you will need to take with regard to technology leadership…change agent, cheerleader, or something in-between.

Some organizations are less willing to embrace technology than others, whether based on budget constraints or a lack of need. HR is the central location at your company that can conduct this analysis. What is the disposition relative to technology? What systems that support learning and talent management are best for your organization? There are open source systems, or software that you can adopt and modify for your own purposes, but considering your budget and room for growth, what would you use in the ideal case? Here is where you become engaged with the people in your IT department if you haven’t before. It’s critical to work hand in hand with IT.

What do you need for your business to grow and report out to company management? In HR, we may need to make adjustments based on your organization’s business model today and where it’s heading in the future. The future state of your technology is important and must be considered when evaluating what systems you need.

When it’s time to make decisions on vendor partners, it’s important to acknowledge that no single system will do everything well.

Your goals should be to:

  • Configure systems to eliminate system redundancies.
  • Integrate systems to exchange information.
  • Strive for a “Single source of truth.” Single Source of Truth (SSOT) -- structure information models and data schema such that every data element is stored exactly once.
  • Strive for a “Single version of truth.” Single Version of Truth (SVOT) -- storage of data in a single centralized database or distributed, synchronized databases.


When evaluating HR systems functions

You’ll want to consider how each of your systems work with one another - for example, how your payroll systems talks to your benefits portal, or how your employee engagement CRM works with your performance management system. Once you acknowledge that there is no single HR talent management or human capital system that handles all HR functions well, you can take a look at what you need to focus on. You’ll want to try and eliminate as much redundancy as possible, whether than means you invest in one major system with a couple of add ons, or a less complete system with scalable capabilities so you can upgrade based on the future needs of your company.

Critical capabilities guide: Vendors should provide at least four capabilities of the six.

  1. Recruiting and onboarding
  2. Performance management
  3. Training & development
  4. Employee relations
  5. Payroll and benefits
  6. Pensions and leaving

Again, it’s a given that no single system does everything well at this point in time, so you can use other systems as add-ons, like e-recruiting/ applicant tracking, payroll, timekeeping, scheduling, benefits, and/or performance support.

In order to identify vendors, there are many resources for general information, like webinars, podcasts, videos, etc. that are available through HR organizations. You can do research by looking at other organizations or best of breed systems, SHRM is a terrific source of information, HR blogs, conferences, and so on can help you identify a short list of vendors to evaluate for new technology.


  • Every organization needs an HR technology strategy.
  • HR technology strategy may require a shift in HR role, functions, and focus.
  • Strategy creation requires analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
  • Strategizing—not tinkering or tweaking—must be the approach to technology.
  • There is preparation—or ground work—prior to creating an HR technology strategy.
  • Pre-work to the HR strategy requires consideration of the “To-Be” state.
  • Example of the pre-work to selecting an ATS

View the webcast and receive SHRM CP-SCP credit!

Topics: Technology

Updated May 6, 2019