Resilience Readiness Maturity Model for Digital HR



The advent of 2020 ushered in an unforeseen business disruption – global lockdown. Fast-paced, hyper-competitive businesses stopped across industries and geographies. Billions got eroded from market capitalization in a matter of hours. Death and helplessness made mankind realize the frugality of its existence.  Yet human ingenuity refused to lose. New ways of work, collaboration, and co-operation emerged. People, professionals, and places of work recalibrated thinking, behaviors, and actions and stayed productive, relevant, and ultimately resilient.

Interestingly digital applications and technologies helped run the world and lives of humans in unprecedented ways. From school classes to family gatherings, from vaccine discovery to vacation planning, digital became the preferred mode of delivering goods and services and getting the work done.

Now that we have returned to the ‘new normal’ most of the organizations are ready to take their Digital ecosystem to the next level to ensure contemporary working and being more resilient in the future. While the budgets are sanctioned, and the intentions are set, organizations will need to tread the path of developing maturity of their digital workstreams, one level at a time.

Designing resilient digital organizations, specifically in HR, will need 2 fundamental tenants at the core:

  1. Digitize everything that can be digitized: unlike earlier when companies prioritized the digitization of work processes based on multiple factors, the verdict of the new work of work is clear. Digitization is not a choice, it’s a survival imperative. The good news is that the workplace is rapidly evolving to welcome men and machines as coworkers. The fears of technology taking over jobs are also now becoming a redundant idea. We all know that the partnership of men and machines will only work in the favor of mankind, unleashing unprecedented levels of productivity and precision and at the same time leaving humans with much more time and energy to pursue creative endeavors for organizational betterment.
  2. Understand the ‘Resilience Readiness’ of the current organization: Digitization is a journey that has a sequential path, traversing different levels of maturity. One cannot expect to be at the level 4 maturity without having mastered levels 1 to 3. As organizations embark on their unique change management endeavors, embracing technology that is relevant to their context will be imperative. Due to limited understanding, HR leaders perceive the role of HR tech in enabling the change in a very limited manner. As the leading HR technology provider, we hear comments like “these HR applications are very cool and sophisticated, not sure if we are ready as an organization to embark on such a futuristic transformation” or at the other extreme “while this product seems to have all features & functionalities, we don’t see how it will enable the cultural transformation we are seeking”. The challenge is NOT technology applications in the market, the challenge is a vague understating of the maturity levels that the organizations have. The majority of the projects fail because the maturity of the organization and maturity of the product do not match.

There are 5 levels of ‘Resilience Readiness’ from a Digital perspective. I call this the ‘Resilience Readiness Maturity Model’:

Level 1 Compliance It is foolhardy to create a process framework where compliances are handled by existing systems and the ‘cooler’ applications are being deployed at the front end. If we study the initial days of the pandemic, most of the organizations struggled to stay compliant in the suddenly evolved distributed workplace. Data protection, device management, access controls, etc. kept many CIOs sleepless for weeks together. One of the largest IT services firms in the world, for example, struggled hard to enable remote working for its 100’s of 1000’s of employees across the globe. At the first level of maturity, the organizations must focus on getting all its compliance requirements delivered digitally, unleashing the power of ML, AI, Analytics, etc. to guarantee a ‘resilient’ organization from a business continuity perspective.

Level 2 Efficiency – the ‘original’ trigger of automation has to be the next step in the journey of resilience readiness. In today’s context driving efficiency may need consolidation of multiple data sources, advanced real-time analytics to provide actionable insights, reducing the siloed functioning of HR applications, and merging them (not just integrating) with other applications like ERP, etc. Driving efficiencies using the right digital platforms at the right maturity will ensure no compliance leakage while accelerating productivity.

Level 3 Empowerment – having traversed the first two levels of the maturity continuum, the organization is only now ready to explore digital technologies to bring contemporary self-service capabilities to the enterprise applications to empower its workforce. For e.g, a digital platform cannot be activated to enable managers to transfer employees across locations unless all the associated processes can be triggered at one click. This is only possible if level 1 and level 2 have been accomplished fully. Organizations’ inability to appreciate the maturity level-based digital aspiration is the biggest reason that most of the new agree enterprise applications are not fully deployed and/or fully leveraged in the organization. Because they have not fixed the gaps of level 1 and level 2, organizations struggle to provide the required levels of empowerment and transparency in the culture for digital to unleash its true potential.

Level 4 Experience – irony of our times is that most of the digital transformation is triggered by the aspiration of providing a new age employee experience. Nothing wrong with that, just that a majority of leaders fail to recognize the need for a mature foundation to provide the aspired experience. Point solution providers, who claim to have solutions to point problems add to the overall disjointed employee experience by providing piecemeal solutions. Resilience, during the time of crisis, obviously goes for a toss because the digital function is built on a weak foundation in the form of immature level 1-3

Level 5 Resilience – Empathy, perhaps is the most abused word of 2020. While everyone talked about empathy and perhaps even intended to be empathetic, the rising stress and anxiety at work suggest that we have failed to be adequately empathetic. True resilience comes when an organization is able to operate with the highest levels of empathy, under any situation. The good news is that technology can enable organizations to invoke empathy by leveraging ML, AI, analytics, etc to bring the right things to the focus of the right person at the right time. E.g. the systems, when deployed properly, can sense the mood of the employee by looking at the verbiage s/he is using recently. Advanced analytics and then conclude if there is a pattern detected and therefore signal manager or HR, all ethically and transparently, building empathy in the system.

Digitization, certainly is the elixir that, can create undaunting organizational resilience. Right from compliance to empathy, digital can augment human capabilities in unprecedented ways. However, it needs a mature foundation of the preceding level before serving the next, higher purpose. Becoming a resilient organization is a journey and not a one-time activity.

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