HR Sidelined As Organizations Talk Transformation


HR departments are widely underrepresented when corporate leaders are immersed in discussions about workplace-transformation strategy. Yet these same executives worry about employee expectations, adoption and other issues that fall squarely in HR’s wheelhouse.

According to an ISG study of “workplace of the future” initiatives, HR is often only “tangentially involved” even in discussions about the employee experience. When asked about HR’s role in workplace transformation, 43 percent of the study’s respondents said HR has little to no involvement.

If that’s not enough to get you thinking say what?, 17 percent said HR is kept informed about—but separate from—transformation planning, although 30 percent said HR is informed and collaborative. Only 9 percent consider HR to be fully integrated into the transformation process.

#HR's often sidelined when corporate leaders discuss workplace transformation strategy. Read that again. @ISG_News #HRTech #HRTribe Share on X

Transformation Technology Trumps All Else

One reason for this disconnect may lie in technology. Only two of the 30 enterprises ISG interviewed said their HR, IT and facilities department strategically engaged with each other on workplace-related decisions, according to ISG Enterprise Research Partner Chris Germann. 

“The most progressive enterprises see technology as one piece of an integrated approach to workplace modernization that includes workspace design, policies and culture,” Germann said. “When HR is intimately involved in workplace strategy discussions, enterprises are further along in providing effective workplace solutions.”

ISG believes the most successful enterprises combine emerging technologies with flexible office spaces to facilitate employee collaboration. The study found an almost-universal move by large enterprises to use cloud-based office tools for email, word processing, presentations, spreadsheets and team collaboration. At the same time, they’re frustrated by a lack of employee understanding among about how to use collaboration tools.

Sins of Omission

That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who considers learning and development to be a function of HR. With IT’s focus on technology implementation and facilities’ prioritization of design-build, training employees on the use of new tools is undoubtedly low on their to-do lists. When IT teams work on transformation with little to no input from other areas of the organization, Germann said, “we see integrations with existing technology systems taking precedence over end users’ real needs and preferences.” Enterprises, he added, should “actively and thoughtfully manage the human-technology connection.”

Four of the five key themes ISG sees as running through workplace transformation directly involve HR:

  • The workplace is changing from hierarchical and physical to collaborative, flexible and always-connected.
  • HR is underrepresented in transformation efforts.
  • Enterprises are struggling to balance a strong employee experience with IT and other cost limitations.
  • They’re struggling to meet employee expectations about flexible technology and work environments.

(The other theme: organizations don’t take enough advantage of the capabilities available from managed service providers.)

ISG’s findings demonstrate that businesses haven’t dramatically changed their approach to transformation. In September 2018, process-automation company Nintex reported that HR wasn’t a top-three priority for companies seeking to intelligently automate or increase their digital footprint. In 2017, Nintex identified a number of HR processes—including onboarding, performance reviews, negotiating compensation and handling time-off requests—as being among the “most broken.”

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