Discussions about the future of work are often labeled by the catchword “work 4.0”. One thing is certain: HR and especially Talent Management are confronted with fundamental challenges. hkp.com spoke to hkp/// group experts Laura Hohmann and Leon Jacob.
Ms. Hohmann, Mr. Jacob, what implications does digitization have on Talent Management inside companies?
Leon Jacob: Talent Management covers the entire Employee Lifecycle: From recruitment to identification and talent development to ensuring critical functions are staffed. Digitization is felt along all these steps and its implications are manifold. In general, digitization offers many opportunities that companies can use to modernize their Talent Management and achieve strategic competitive advantages.
Which opportunities do you have in mind?
Laura Hohmann: A great opportunity is the flexibility and individualization of processes. This means, for example, the integration of mobile and gamified applications into the training offer. Employees can thus develop independently from the workplace. Classical and rather rigid processes are being increasingly phased out.
Leon Jacob: The use of digital technologies also makes it possible to transfer responsibility for their own development to employees themselves. Employees are enabled by digital technologies to independently control and drive their individual development.
What does this mean in practical terms?
Laura Hohmann: For example blogs, social networks, or video platforms provide employees with the opportunity to create content, share knowledge with colleagues, and work together on content. Thus the employee becomes a producer and a driver of knowledge, rather than the mere consumer.
That sounds like increased effort for the employee. Don’t you see the risk that employees are being overstrained?
Leon Jacob: No. Most of the people already use Youtube, Facebook, Wikipedia etc. daily! In particular, younger generations have grown up with such tools and would also miss them in their daily professional life as familiar instruments of communication.
Laura Hohmann: Nevertheless, new technology can also overwhelm users. If employees do not have the required digital skills and competencies, they may lose their orientation. One solution would be "reverse mentoring": employees experienced with the technology teach less technology experienced employees to work with innovative tools. However, this learning process does not take place overnight, it takes time.
Leon Jacob: And of importance are not only the competencies of employees, but also the degree of digital maturity of the organization. Innovative technologies promote fast and agile processes, but the company-specific culture must also be taken into account in order to counteract an overburdening of the organization.
Would you advise companies to use apps and other products from young companies and startups?
Leon Jacob: Absolutely! New opportunities in Talent Management are increasingly supported by innovative products and services from young and innovative startups. As key innovators, startups offer digital solutions for almost all challenges of modern HR work. What’s more, they are mostly very intuitive and user-friendly and are thus quite easy to handle for everyone.
Laura Hohmann: In the meantime, there is a big range of innovative products – from matching tools for the recruiting process to feedback apps to innovative HR Analytics platforms. In order to promote those startups, hkp/// initiated the HR Startup Award together with Quadriga and the Association of HR Managers in Germany (BPM). This year, the award enters the next round!
How should companies get started when they want to take advantage of the opportunities of digitization for their Talent Management?
Leon Jacob: There is no “one-size-fits-all“-approach. Rather, it is necessary to develop an approach that is individually tailored to the needs and culture of the company, its current maturity level and its employees. Quite often, companies try to start in various areas within Talent Management at the same time without previously defining a digitization strategy or having a future target picture in mind.
hkp.com: Digitization strategy – what exactly do you mean with that?
Laura Hohmann: To answer that, we need to first take a step back. The starting point is an assessment of the current degree of digital maturity in the organization and its Talent Management processes. Certain questions need to be answered, for example, "Which processes are standardized and documented?" "Which processes are currently supported with which IT solutions?" Or "What feedback do you get from users themselves?"
Leon Jacob: Right! Only once those questions have been answered, a digitization strategy can be developed. This means that you should see with which areas of the Employee Lifecycle to begin with: Is the greatest need for action in recruiting or rather in the development of employees? With a clearly defined digitization strategy for Talent Management, companies can seize the opportunities offered by digitization.
And what happens after the digitization strategy has been formulated? Where and how can companies begin?
Laura Hohmann: The motto is: go ahead and just try it out! For example, companies can test digital tools such as feedback apps and pilot them in smaller units without having the perfect solution for the entire organization right from the beginning.
Leon Jacob: Organizations should start where the greatest need for action is. If the current Performance Management is often criticized, consideration should be given to Performance Management improvements with the digitization possibilities. If the problem is rather a poor candidate experience of applicants, one should start with recruiting. Every company has to consider where the digitization of processes within Talent Management can create the greatest added value.
hkp.com: Doesn’t that create the impression that HR is prescribing the company a digitization cure?
Leon Jacob: Good point! In the meantime, the procedure here has changed a lot. The modern approach is no longer that HR considers which tools might be needed by employees in isolation over several months. Instead, employees are included in the process of the solution right from the start! There is a wide range of agile approaches and methods – design thinking, hackathons, and sprints are just a few examples of methods we are using with our customers.

Ms. Hohmann, Mr. Jacob, thank you very much for these interesting insights!

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