How HR Can Drive Digital Transformation in the Workplace

Bringing the modern workplace into the digital era is no longer an option. Digital technology is all around us – from our communication devices to the software that makes it possible for us to do our jobs. Any company that has not yet entered the digital world eventually will. HR can be the driver. If possible, it should be.

There is a tendency among business owners and upper management to believe that technology, in and of itself, will transform the workplace. They assume that the technology they choose to adopt will magically modernize the place. But it cannot. It will not. Technology is just a tool. Transforming an office from a legacy environment to a digital one requires people who will use the new tools.


Buy-In, Skills, and Culture

According to a 2017 Accenture survey, the top two barriers to workplace digital transformation are entrenched legacy culture and the lack of appropriate skills. That's backed up by a McKinsey & Company study that found that 70% of all company transformations fail because employees are not on board. This is why HR is so important in the drive toward digitization.


There are five things HR department should focus on:


1. Establishing Goals

It is not enough to simply tell staff members new technology is coming. People need direction. They need goals to achieve. HR is in the unique position to establish those goals and a follow-up on their progress. By setting goals and a clear path to achieve them, the HR department gives team members a reason to buy into the transformation.


2. Getting Buy-In

Management has a tendency to talk about buy-in a lot; perhaps too flippantly at times. Yet there's no denying that buy-in is required for a digital transformation to actually work. Again, HR is a unique position to get people on board. They have the ability to promote the new technology. They can arrange for training opportunities. They can develop resources to help team members understand how much better the workplace will be once the transformation is complete.


3. Keeping Things in Check

The transformation process can easily come off the rails if it is allowed to get too complicated. HR can be the voice of reason. By stepping back and reviewing the project from an objective point of view, HR managers can put the brakes on things if they start getting out of hand. The goal here is to keep things as simple as possible.


4. Maintaining Priorities

Undoubtedly, a digital transformation will start with lofty goals and unrealistic expectations. Time and experience will temper both. It's up to HR to set and maintain priorities with the understanding that some goals are more important than others. Get the top priorities finished first and then move on from there.


5. Measuring Performance

Finally, it is up to HR to measure the performance of team members as the company goes through transition. This is not to keep everybody in line but rather, to identify where team members are struggling so that they can be helped. Identify and address struggles and maintaining buy-in becomes a lot easier.

Underlying all of this is company culture. Unfortunately, culture is something that isn't necessarily changed by either technology or a proactive HR department. Sometimes cultural changes only occur by bringing in new people with a fresh perspective. HR must always be cognizant of that reality.

Is your office in need of a digital transformation? If so, task HR with being the driver of that transformation. HR is probably the best positioned department in your company to get the job done.



  1. Accenture –
  2. McKinsey & Company – sector/pdfs/how_do_i_implement_complex_change_at_scale.ashx