CIOs don’t need to reach out to HR – it needs to be the other way around

Mike Rymanov is CEO of DSX -

Digital isn’t one person’s problem. It’s not even one department's problem. Yet all we hear every day is that CIOs should be reaching out across the business to improve data culture and persuade people to get on board with transformation projects.

Rubbish. It’s the job of every department to explore how new technologies can enhance the work they do and that’s as true of the HR department as it is any other part of the business.

The benefits of HR departments becoming a data-driven function are obvious. First, it gives the HR team clarity. Not just around roles and salaries, but, importantly, making sure the right work is being done by the right people at the right skill level. From there, HR can begin to effectively switch from responding to chaos to proactive design. This is vital when modern businesses exist in a constant state of change – particularly as the CIOs – the individuals driving much of this transformation – don’t have a remit for workforce strategy.

But there’s also another less-apparent benefit. HR departments can operate as a strategic part of the business and earn their seat at the top table by embracing data and using it to fuel action.

How this works in practice

What does it mean for HR to be a strategic part of the business? It means operating an organisational planning and analysis (OP&A) function where HR is building on its insights and working alongside the leadership team to confidently model the future of the organisation.

How? Well firstly, it’s about teaming up with CIOs to ensure that the right platforms and services are built into the organisation to allow OP&A to flourish. That means investment. Most organisations spend more on their telephony system than on understanding their people and modelling their future business, so, investment in OP&A is not just a nice to have, it’s a seriously overlooked area.

The initial output from this investment is fearlessness. CIOs, HR leaders and FDs can model various different futures for their workforce and make a recommendation to senior leadership as to how the business should evolve, irrespective of external or ‘out-of-our-control’ pressures. Crucially, these recommendations are underpinned by future-focused data, rather than purely historical insights, and a clear understanding of what this means for the operating strategy and bottom line.

For this to happen, it’s vital for the entire operations function of a business to collaborate, and it’s not just CIOs and HR that need to get a bit more friendly. Take the relationship between HR and finance as an example – 56% of HR pros think they collaborate well, while less than 30% of finance teams think this is the case. That’s according to research in collaboration with Loudhouse exploring this relationship in UK businesses. This gap comes from HR teams not speaking the language of finance.

Singing from the same balance sheet

For collaboration to work, HR needs to adopt not only the language of the different departments, but the tools they work with. That means getting comfortable with tech and data and using it to inform their conversations with the rest of the business, rather than relying on opinions and instincts. The HR department will need to show a willingness to learn from other parts of the business who handle data every day – particularly finance and IT. This will show them the right way to share their insights and expertise with the rest of the organisation and help achieve early buy-in from a key partner.

By enabling collaboration within the business and shifting to becoming a data-driven function, HR has the potential to unlock significant growth for the organisation. In fact, projections suggest that if operations teams learnt to collaborate strategically in this way the whole country could benefit. Projections from our research in conjunction with the Centre for Economics and Business Research suggest there’s a potential £10.4 billion boost to the UK’s GDP, if large companies in the UK collectively adopted better collaborative efforts between HR and other business functions.

For the first time in its history HR has the tools it needs to become a strategic, indispensable part of the boardroom. All that’s needed is for leaders within the HR department to embrace what’s possible and not just sit and wait for the CIO to force change upon them, but instead go knocking on the CIO's door.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data ExpoCyber Security & Cloud Expo and 5G Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

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