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Digital transformation is more than simply introducing new technology; it's about changing the very nature and future of work.

To be successful, consultancy firm Deloitte charges that companies need to "be digital" rather than "do digital." Technology should be part of the DNA of your company, rather than viewed as yet another technology-led business restructuring initiative.

Change on this scale requires full buy-in from the entire leadership team, with a particular role played by HR. At its heart, digital transformation is about people and changing the mindsets of workers.

In many companies, HR is side-lined from the main decision making. Partly, this is because HR still maintains its traditional role as a supporter of business, rather than a leader. In such companies, consulting group Prophet warns in a report that HR is likely to become a passive recipient of digital strategies run by the likes of IT or marketing. The report shows that a paltry 2 percent of HR leaders see HR as a key influencer in strategic digital transformation.

Build a Data-Centric HR Team

To help drive strategic digital transformation across the organization, HR first needs to hire the right people. HR needs to start employing staff who are digitally aware and data-savvy, and comfortable with turning data-driven insights into actions. While digital experimentation is essential within HR, everything HR does needs to be closely aligned with the wider business objectives of digital transformation.

Find The Talent

HR needs to take charge of conversations across the business to find out how each department sees the future of work: Will they need people on site, or will there be more virtual workers? Which parts of the job will be automated and how does that affect the people in those roles?

HR needs to reimagine the organizational structure—and how this impacts its talent program. If people are working differently, perhaps in a more team-based structure rather than rigidly separated departments, it will affect how they are measured and awarded for performance.

Lead People Down the Digital Path

If you want to change the mindset of employees, then you're going to need the leaders to have the right mindset and be able to bring their team along with them. Today's leaders need to know about technology, such as virtual reality or machine learning, because the top customers and candidates will.

It's also vital that they become a role model for values such as openness, integrity and honesty, according to Deloitte's "Building Your Digital DNA" report. In a workplace where department boundaries are broken down, these qualities are vital to survival. These leaders need to inspire loyalty and engagement and be particularly tuned into employee's individual differences and needs.

This is a long and complex journey for the whole organization. It's up to HR whether they play a tactical role in business transformation—or fall behind.

Photo: Creative Commons