To extend their sphere of influence even further, HR leaders must now rethink how they can support their organisations to adapt to the workplace of the future and empower digital workplaces. In order to thrive and grow in a post-Covid world, rapid digital transformation and a pandemic-proof organisational model is a must.

Last March, the digitalisation companies were slowly going through suddenly accelerated, seeing transformation projects rapidly sped up. Playing a key role in supporting this acceleration and maintaining a productive virtual workforce, HR leaders emerged as greater influencers within businesses. However, with this increased digitalisation set to be a permanent feature of the post-Covid landscape, it is now vital that HR continues to evolve, adapt and transform across every element of the HR lifecycle to meet a new set of organisational needs and demands.

As companies make work-from-home policies permanent or move toward a hybrid working model, it’s clear that businesses and society are only going one way: a more digital, flexible world. While HR has been key to rapid digitalisation so far, the sector needs to go further in several key areas. By reinventing existing practices, augmenting HR technologies and permanently digitalising old ways of working, there is an opportunity for HR leaders to take the lead in driving digital transformation post-Covid and extend their sphere of influence even further.

The two key areas that need permanently rethinking are upskilling and reskilling current employees, and recruiting and onboarding.

Upskilling and reskilling employees

Many employees are now working remotely for the foreseeable future, which requires using different technologies to deliver their work. The upshot is that digital upskilling is becoming an integral part of many organisations’ learning and development agendas. To play a key role in future-proofing their businesses, HR leaders must now consider implementing effective programmes to ensure employees are equipped with the necessary digital skills and tools needed to succeed in today’s workforce and tomorrow’s more technology-driven world.

Fortunately, a growth in digital executive education solutions is now making courses more accessible than ever before and we are seeing a democratisation of learning, with knowledge reaching more people in more ways, from apps and video conferencing tools to virtual tutoring and online learning software. For HR leaders, tapping into this more engaging, accessible and collaborative learning environment means that there is more opportunity to develop, reskill and upskill employees, giving them the tools to gain new knowledge, skills and attitudes to then apply to their organisation’s services.

Recruiting and onboarding

A second area that needs rethinking is at the onset of the employee lifecycle: recruiting and onboarding employees. With a hybrid working model the most likely outcome for many businesses, most HR leaders will be challenged to have the long-term, flexible infrastructure to recruit, hire and onboard new employees virtually. Having previously relied on in-person conversations and manual, paper-based processes, HR leaders that are still lagging in this area risk, for example, hiring a fraudulent candidate or alienating new employees with an inefficient onboarding experience.

Harnessing digital tools is key to overcoming these challenges and adapting to the workplace of the future. For example, leveraging the right recruitment technology can help get a full view of an applicant’s qualifications, allowing HR teams to build a watertight virtual recruitment process and avoid the potentially damaging scenario of hiring someone who has exaggerated their experience. When it comes to onboarding, new technologies can allow HR leaders to create a tailored, digital hub where new joiners can, for example, access the documents they need to get a deep understanding of the business. This creates an in-office experience in the home long-term, which is critical for new joiners who will lack the physical interaction they need to absorb the culture of their new workplace.

This crisis has changed the way we live and the way we work, but it also offers the possibility for HR leaders to rethink their role, accelerate digitalisation and play a key part in helping businesses meet the challenges of the post-Covid world. Whether this is through implementing programmes to equip employees with digital skills or permanently digitalising elements of the recruiting and onboarding end of the employee lifecycle; HR leaders must continue to rethink every element of the HR function in an increasingly digital world and how they can support their organisations as we bounce back from Covid-19.