Michelle Rowbotham, Head of Division Digital Workplace at Endress+Hauser, and Prof. Dr. Michael Lindemann from DHBW Lörrach in an hkp.com interview on the challenges on the road to becoming a digital champion. In this discussion, they outline the role that the use of digital networks and a decentralized structure plays in the company.

Ms. Rowbotham, according to the HR drives digital study prepared by the hkp/// group and DHBW Lörrach, you are one of the digital champions among companies with global operations. What direction did you have to take as full-service provider in process automation to earn this title?
Michelle Rowbotham: I think that one of our keys to success was enabling our employees to make use of digital resources. The use of tools, technology, and social media in particular was very important for us at this point. This means that employees can access information that is relevant to them and work together in collaboration. For this reason, at Endress+Hauser we have a global intranet and a global collaboration platform, supplemented with applications such as Skype, OneDrive, and OneNote.

Presumably this means that many HR processes are supported digitally…
Michelle Rowbotham: Yes, that’s right—from digital personnel records to travel management, training management and even the online learning platform. We don’t want to stop here, however.  It is our aim—as part of the major digitization project—to optimize many more HR processes, harmonize them globally, and relaunch them on a digital platform.
Prof. Dr. Michael Lindemann: I am very pleased to see that companies like Endress+Hauser have already heavily invested in their internal HR digitization and nevertheless still show the determination to continuously improve. In my view, it is precisely this mindset that makes a digital champion, and in our study HR drives digital it was what characterized the group of “progressives”: companies that have reached a particularly high level of digitization.

What makes these pioneers of digitization stand out in particular?
Prof. Dr. Michael Lindemann: One of the most interesting findings in the approach of using HR IT was that the group of “progressives” take a different approach in contrast to the groups with lower level of digitization. They frequently do not restrict themselves to digitizing existing workflows and processes. Instead, they make thorough use of the improved availability and quality of data on all aspects of personnel management. They use HR analytics to raise their personnel work to a new level.

How exactly did you approach this major digitization project, Ms. Rowbotham? What specific steps were needed to make the internal HR digitization a success?
Michelle Rowbotham: With regard to the introduction of major changes, we made particular use of varied change management activities and active stakeholder management. More specifically, we made extensive use of internal networks, alongside familiar communication tools such as news articles on the intranet, e-mails, brochures, flyers, in-house magazines, and on-site events.

Your 14,000 employees are spread across many companies and sites worldwide. That must have been a challenge.
Michelle Rowbotham:
In decentralized structures, it is particularly important for global transformations to also be driven locally. To this end, a network of change agents was set up. These agents drive the changes in their organization, in their own language and adjusted to the local requirements.
Prof. Dr. Michael Lindemann: Ms. Rowbotham describes a very important driver of internal HR digitization: the use of social media. Web 2.0 technologies and the motivation mechanisms used in social media platforms can be utilized not only in private life but also in the context of work, to enable information to be collected and shared in internal company platforms.

Were you actually able to verify this relationship between the use of social media and the level of digitization in a company?
Prof. Dr. Michael Lindemann: Absolutely! Our study, carried out for the second time with the hkp/// group, showed that in companies with advanced digitization, employees have more digital options at their disposal—and they also use them more extensively.
In your opinion, are there other important aspects in addition to the internal use of social media that should be borne in mind for successful HR digitization?
Michelle Rowbotham: The most important thing is to learn from past mistakes. We took into account our experience from previous projects.

Can you give any specific examples of this learning process?
Michelle Rowbotham: Well, we have reached the decision, for example, that classroom training for software use is not sustainable or efficient. An online platform was therefore set up where employees can either work through a guided learning path or search for an entry on a particular topic with a short video, as required. This resulted in an online reference work that is also structured for specific target groups. An online community was also launched where users can help one another. Of course, this all takes a lot of work, but it’s all necessary!

What else can companies do to promote internal digitalization? How can a digitization project be started quickly and efficiently?
Prof. Dr. Michael Lindemann: The current report on the study provides a good overview.  If you want to delve deeper into the topic and above all obtain information as to where your own company stands in comparison with its competitors in terms of digitization, you can fill out the study questionnaire and have it evaluated by the hkp/// group experts.

Does this mean that you get a second, individual report?
Prof. Dr. Michael Lindemann:
The result is an individual report on your level of internal HR digitization. This data can then be used to compile an individual digital timetable for the company, from the first step of stocktaking and clarification of concepts, to the identification of target groups and stakeholders and finally the specific end goal, including recommended actions.

Ms. Rowbotham, Mr. Prof. Dr. Lindemann, many thanks for the interview.


Background on the study

The study “HR drives digital” is a joint project of hkp/// group with the Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg Lörrach. In an online survey, HR experts and decision-makers from a total of 136 companies of different sizes and sectors from the German-speaking region took part. The evaluations were carried out on the basis of a series of statistical procedures such as analysis of factors and clusters.


Author Michael Lindemann

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