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When we think about business transformation – which is becoming the thing everyone’s doing – then we think about it being pretty significant, you could say seismic, often digital and certainly about keeping pace with the rapid pace of change.

Let’s just be calm and thoughtful for a moment though: Is it REALLY that rapid (the change)? Is everything we’re transforming really driven by digital tools and technology? Is it so seismic and significant?

In most cases, the answer is "it depends"..! 

Certainly, we are seeing a huge range of new and accessible digital tools coming to the workplace which are threatening some form of transformation. Chatbots, Virtual Reality, Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning but for many people – think Health & Social Care, Public Sector Local Government and Charities – it is more that we aren’t really making the most of Office 365, Slack or Google Hangouts, let alone deploying avatars and digital humans.

That's why "it depends" is the answer. 

When we think about transforming businesses through digital, enhancing the services provided to customers and the necessary work-related implications of this, HR’s role has to be one of analyst, pragmatist and a new term possibilist.

To be the analyst means we have evidence to base our activities upon.

So not just some whimsical belief that if we deploy chatbots for our customers we can lose half of our contact centre staff or cease the contract with our outsourced partner. A good HR professional will be externally vigilant to how far chatbots are impacting on resourcing needs and be contextually intelligent about how to provide guidance and a strategy for any implementation of this technology. There is though, a robust prediction that 85% of the queries we have with businesses as consumers and employees are likely to be handled by some form of automated support.

The pragmatist in HR then looks at how this is deployed sensibly. How we can augment human-human services with human-machine and machine-machine. This means you need to understand the technology and people’s reactions to it. In order to assess take-up and implication. There is something about being outside in and inside out about this approach. Immersion in the technology, awareness and empathy of the customer and employee experience and then the process and knowledge management engineering come into play. Design and Systems Thinking will help HR professionals in this regard. Along with psychology, behavioural economics and lean methodology.

The possibilist then? This is HR being more imaginative. Looking at innovation within the newly recast processes. Looking to adjacent possibilities where the core of the task that is being automated results in additional benefits and issues in nearby functions and flows. There is clearly an opportunity with every challenge and vice versa. Being the possibilist means HR can become more attuned to incidental impacts and marginal gains made in other ways. And mitigate against overzealous technology deployment and overly optimistic take-up routines by us stubborn and choosy humans.

These considerations are only a small part of transforming a business, but as we’re all at it (apparently) then we’d best sharpen our skills in these areas as HR professionals else we’ll look out of touch, live up to our stereotypes of risk-averse blockers and be left out of key thinking and critical experiments.

In order to be transformative, we ought to transform ourselves. And this is something we could all do with some attention to. Whatever the agenda and whatever the answer “it depends” means. HR practitioners transforming themselves at a time when things are heating up in the change game, should be the least we could offer ourselves as hard-working, committed professionals.

It's time to transform who we are.

Acacia Learning and Perry Timms at PTHR are joining forces to do just that – help HR professionals transform themselves whatever the “it depends” answer is. We hope to help you and your fellow professionals become more analytical, pragmatic and be the possibilist in helping transform your organisation.

About Perry

HR Hackathon – Future of Work TEDx speaker | Author: Transformational HR | HR Most Influential Thinker 2017-2018

HR Magazine’s ‘HR’s Most Influential’ List 2017 and 2018, Perry is described by CIPD CEO Peter Cheese as “The HR Futurist” Perry’s energy, passion and insight around new forms of people and organisation development and the future of work are his trademarks.Perry’s adaptation of the technology hackathon into the HR world has taken him across the world – physically and virtually – from 3000 hackers to 30 and created solutions in areas such as diversity, on-boarding, leadership, culture, HR policies and talent development.