Digital transformation changing the workplace
Digital Transformation in HRM: Is it the death of paper?

In just a few years Human Resources Management (HRM) could have very little to no paper as part of its process. This on-going transition poses questions and opportunities to make businesses more efficient and productive.

According to Declan McMahon, Senior Vice-President, Client Services at OrangeHRM, although businesses had been slow in adopting this aspect of the technology, which was to some extent determined by the type of industry in which one is involved, the COVID-19 stipulation that physical distance has to be maintained caused a significant mind-shift in people and their dependency on paper.

Age-old practices, such as validating the time one gets to work or leave, by popping a ticket into a machine and getting it time-stamped or running around the office with a vacation leave application form for approval, and then walking down to the Human Resources Department to drop it off, is already a thing of the past for many organisations.

Work teams are now punching in arrival time from a mobile phone and uploading leave applications online, with a response via text message or email at any time.

This ‘cultural revolution’ being enabled by digital transformation has already started to affect every sector across multiple industries; undoubtedly rendering terms such as a ‘paper trail’ obsolete, in a few years’ time.

The revolution began years ago

According to McMahon, this evolution has been in the making for the past 40 years “but back then there was no sense of the groundswell of transfer of documents, data and other information being between departments, agencies and companies separated by time and distance.”

He described the technology transfer as slow and gradual, with a massive acceleration over the last two years and the implications for various industries, mind-boggling.

Supporting this view is the Association for Intelligent Information Management (AIIM), which provides independent research and gathers survey results from its members across Europe and America. Key findings, from a survey to collect data on transitioning paper out of the office, revealed that:

  • More than 60 per cent of members agreed that paper processes hinder productivity and increase costs
  • They agreed that digital is key to attracting new talent and going green
  • ‘Increased efficiency’ and the ‘ease of filing and maintenance’ were tagged as the most popular benefits of going paperless

Digital transformation changing the workplace

From an HR vantage point, the digital transformation process has considerable impact on jobs, skills and company culture in many different ways. There remains, however, huge misconceptions within workforces around digital transformation and automation – most notably, that ‘the robots are taking over’ and that jobs will simply become redundant.

The reality, according to Dr Zeynep Hizir in an article entitled: Will Digital Transformation Really Lead To A Jobocalypse ?’  is that Robotic Process Automation (RPA) aim(s) to automate repetitive, manual, mundane high-volume tasks that do not require expertise and take up valuable employee time – freeing up people to focus on tasks that require human interaction, or the expertise of a highly trained employee.

Espousing the job enhancement and creation benefits of the RPA technology, Tasha Smith, Head of Sales at MC Systems added:

“Given RPA cannot function or be configured without human intelligence; it has not yet been a source of unemployment. Instead, the technology is there to enhance, not to replace. So while digital transformation does mean some jobs become obsolete, this, in turn, actually leads to more jobs, albeit of a different type, being created. This means a happier, better skilled and more fulfilled workforce – not the mass redundancies or replacement many workers may fear.”

Digital natives, cultured in the ways of instancy, ease and integration, will dominate the workforce of the future. They are more likely to appreciate completing a job application form where the fields are populated once they put in a name and email address, scanning an e-time card and using an app to apply for vacation and/or a staff loan. Confining all that to paper could be the death of their productivity and motivation to remain in such an organisation.

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