Being digital and redefining work 

Business woman talking to her colleagues during a meeting in a boardroom. Group of happy business people working together in a creative office.
If organizations are to scale and sustain organizational performance in the next age of work, they must understand the concept of “being digital.” As Jason Averbook described in Chapter 6 of The Human-Centric Enterprise, there is a marked difference in how work feels on the inside compared to the rest of our lives on the outside. The disconnect we feel is what happens when we design processes, not journeys. Or when we focus on technology as the experience and forget that the human experience of work is a product of the HR organization.

Putting people at the center of work design in the digital era

The other thing to understand is that work has always been designed for profit, not for people. Shifting to human-centered design thinking for workforce experience also requires a shift in our thinking when it comes to measures of success. Growth at all costs, efficiency and output gains, and human units of productivity can no longer be our yardstick for business and HR operational success. If we want to measure success in a digital enterprise, we need to focus on whether we have fundamentally changed the way work gets done — not just by humans, but by our machine counterparts too. We’ll want to know whether humans feel more effective, experience less friction, and feel more connected and aligned to the overall purpose of their work. But we not only need to consider humans, we must also ensure that they thrive and flourish in the new shape of work — and that means literally designing work so they can.

Embracing digital: Redefining work and rediscovering our humanity

Applying this people-centric approach to work design in the fully digital enterprise removes fear, uncertainty and doubt about what humans will do and what machines can do. In its place, we can focus on how being digital can help us be more human. All measures of success must point to that.

So perhaps being digital is understanding the digital being. Enabling the human at work requires a deep understanding of the distance and friction we feel between our work lives and our outside-of-work lives. Each of us is a single human; we don’t function differently when we step in and out of work. That’s never been more apparent than when the physical boundaries of work dissolved. We no longer step very far between our work lives and our everyday lives in today’s hybrid, blended, virtual, digital workplace.

Being digital is understanding the digital being.
 Jess Von Bank

Global Leader, HR Transformation and Technology Advisor, Mercer

Breaking down silos and transforming measures of success

Certainly, there are other “boundaries” that should be dissolved too — like the silos we’ve created to manage certain functions of the business, which also represent talent processes. Consider the natural overlap and intersections between talent attraction, talent acquisition, skills development, career development, performance management, learning and development, and strategic workforce planning. Each of these HR disciplines has its own aims, hopefully tied to a broader, well-aligned people agenda. The strategies, experience design and measures of success are quite specific to the discipline.

Talent acquisition will measure its success by speed to quality talent, time to hire and how much that workflow costs for each hire. Ideally, it should share measures of success with the broader people agenda, which might mean that skill detection and alignment to the business, time to velocity and overall retention, and thriving at work become better measures of success. These are important shifts for any organization to make if it is to become a truly digital enterprise, and they are mindset shifts first.

From mindset to design: Unlocking the power of digital transformation

Perpetual transformation — the path to becoming a digital-first culture and business — is both cultural and infrastructural. We need to understand the digital human and the human experience of work: MINDSET. We need to realign around the desired outcomes for people and the business, and those are likely different measures of success than we’ve used before: VISION. Then we get to reimagine the journeys and personas they serve to better design work: DESIGN FOR CHANGE. Only then have we earned the right to consider the technologies that can fuel, sustain, optimize and measure our progress against those goals. This is why digital isn’t the same as technology; technology plays a very important role in the digital enterprise — it isn’t the answer itself.

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