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How Digital Technologies are Impacting Human Resources

We are living in an era of constant innovation and accelerating change. New technologies have allowed startups to disrupt the business world. Airbnb, Uber, and Netflix are typically cited in business journals to make this point. However, Amazon, Google, and eBay were startups less than twenty-five years ago. They all used technology to change the relationship between customers and organizations, and ended up removing intermediaries and developing new business models.

The pressure to grow is leading organizations to adopt technological advances to remain atop or leapfrog the competition. Companies are engaging in business (digital) transformations, not in digital adaptations, because these new technologies are radically changing the way things get done, how people work, how a company is organized, and how people feel when they come to work. In short, the way in which an organization does business.

Artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, advanced machine learning, robotics, and Internet of Things are some of the technologies already impacting the workplace. They are changing practically every aspect of human resources.


Connecting to job seekers is different nowadays. We now post openings online, send a LinkedIn InMail with a link to our career site to prospective candidates, ask interested people to apply via an applicant tracking system, provide company updates to past applicants and former employees, deploy a referral program targeting hard-to-fill roles, schedule Skype interviews before setting up in-person visits, etc.

Modern recruiting solutions collect information on applicants and career-site visitors to make design improvements, render videos and more relevant content to an individual on the current webpage or even suggest other places to visit using advanced machine learning algorithms. Other solutions offer standardized reports to analyze the effectiveness of recruiting strategies and make recommendations.

Employee Productivity & Training

Virtual and augmented reality are no longer terms spoken by Star Trek fans. These technologies are starting to hit the market. Consider, for example, Microsoft’s HoloLens – a product launched in 2017. In a manufacturing setting, a HoloLens could superimpose digital information on a physical machine to facilitate its use, accelerate training certification, simplify onboarding, etc. It could also help expand roles, which would further increase employee productivity and impact job descriptions.

Service Delivery

Medium and large organizations have already deployed HR shared service centers to increase employee experience and improve service delivery. Modern HRIS systems are already mobile capable; i.e., employees can use their smartphones to get a copy of their most recent pay slip, change their W2 form, etc. However, voice recognition has just started to enable employees to use voice commands with their HRIS systems. For a demonstration, which was done in 2015, interested readers should consider this SAP SuccessFactors video. An updated conversation can be found here.

Health & Wellness

Since health benefits make up a large portion of an organization’s operating budget, HR has been focused on offering better health plans while reducing costs. Wellness initiatives have helped mitigate the tide of costs over the past decade. Wearable devices outfitted with sensors are tracking the effectiveness of wellness initiatives and providing valuable data for HR to make improvements and negotiate advantageous terms with health insurance companies. Stress management and monitoring can become the norm, especially in environments where it impacts retention. Beyond health & wellness, wearables can enhance productivity and employee engagement.

Workforce Planning

The advent of digital HR processes is enabling HR leaders to analyze key performance indicators across the enterprise. For example, it can assess the effectiveness of talent swaps, development and mentor programs, succession decisions over time, and expat programs. Depending on the maturity of an organization, HR can not only depict and explain the effectiveness of past people decisions but also recommend improvements. Better yet, during an executive discussion of potential acquisition targets; for example, HR could shed light on the feasibility of developing new sales distribution channels for the different business scenarios having performed what-if analyses with their own as well as industry talent management data.

Additional consequences of implementing digital technologies are depicted in the adjacent table.

Advances in technology are lowering the barriers of entry in all industries and allowing new market entrants to challenge established leaders. Amid these market pressures, creating a culture to attract and retain top talent is of paramount importance. As companies contemplate new ways to outdo the competition, HR can gain strategic cloud by improving and accelerating business plan execution leveraging digital technologies as it focuses on engagement and talent optimization.


Enio Velazco, Ph.D. is currently the VP for HR Strategy and Business Transformation at SAP and serves as an adjunct faculty member for the Graduate Program in Human Resources Development at Villanova. Learn more about him here!

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