Schneider Electric is transforming its human capital managementÂ approaches one tech solution at a time.
By Olivier Blum
Demands on employees have increasedâand HR mustÂ keep pace or risk falling behind. Itâs a daily occurrenceÂ that employees attend video conferences, use workplaceÂ productivity apps, and receive smartphone notifications.Â They canât wait for their HR department to catch upÂ with them via phone calls or letters. Modern workersÂ want the same prompt customer service experienceÂ that they receive from online marketers. They alsoÂ expect to feel empowered by their HR departments, notÂ disenfranchised by them.
At Schneider Electric, digital HR transformationÂ began in 2012. The effort has been titanic: It touchedÂ the companyâs 137,000 employees across more thanÂ 130 countries. For smaller HR departments, digitalÂ transformation can be painful because it isnât easy toÂ know where to start.
Use cases are varied, but in general, HR departmentsÂ should first focus on the more tedious internalÂ processes. Promising areas can include recruiting, skillsÂ management, and career development.
Problem areas such as these require a great deal ofÂ capacity for any department to meet its business goals.Â Also, because many of these public-facing processesÂ are now deemed creaky, they can be alienating toÂ employees (and prospective employees) whoâve grownÂ to expect faster, better service.
Agility or Irrelevance
Drivers for change go far beyond just looking good toÂ present and potential employees: According to the 2019Â U.S. CEO Outlook from KPMG, corporate leaders haveÂ concluded that companies have to choose betweenÂ âagility or irrelevance.â
Organizations of all sizes must therefore consider theÂ potential impact of digital transformation on theirÂ competitive advantage. They should investigate how AI-enabledÂ technologies can help win their war for talentÂ acquisition and how they can be applied to aid presentÂ employees at all stages of their jobs. The ultimate goalÂ is to eliminate or reduce tedium so workers can focus onÂ higher-level tasks.
If the company decides to delayÂ transformation, that choiceÂ should be an informed one.Â And if it chooses to moveÂ forward, all parties mustÂ understand that theÂ usual process flowsÂ will likely change.Â The goal is toÂ exceed presentÂ HR processes, notÂ merely digitizeÂ old methods.
BusinessesÂ that decide toÂ transform shouldÂ remember firstÂ to get buy-inÂ from stakeholders.Â Change agentsÂ should stay involvedÂ while the projectÂ is underway becauseÂ purchasing the latestÂ technologyâthen walkingÂ awayâis a fast track to failure.
While Schneider Electric has ramped up on digitalÂ transformation in the last decade, the final destinationÂ is a moving target. The effort has required patienceÂ and a willingness to learn new methods. Here are someÂ lessons learned along the way.
- Focus on initiatives or products that create value. LookÂ to solve urgent, specific HR problems that can deliverÂ measurable results.
- Don’t go it alone. Seek out the start-ups andÂ established HR entities. Work with companies thatÂ have the willingness and expertise to build out the HRÂ technology stack.
- Work with partners that offer open APIs. Partner withÂ people who are open to solving unique problems. OptÂ for open APIs and make sure solutions are compliant.
- Roll out digital HR projects in sprints. Donât try toÂ present a giant program all at once. Constantly testÂ ideas. Donât be afraid to fail. PerfectionÂ comes over time.
- Do not underestimate theÂ effort required. There willÂ need to be a shift inÂ mindset and ways ofÂ working together.Â Changing minds andÂ workflows takesÂ effort.
Ramping UpÂ Ambitions
Schneider ElectricÂ has opted for aÂ multi-prongedÂ approach toÂ transforming its HRÂ department. So far, itÂ has digitized its globalÂ processes and is nowÂ focusing on a variety ofÂ advanced and innovativeÂ solutions that create value.
The overall goal is to improve bothÂ the employee and manager experienceÂ by 2023. Once this initiative has been completed,Â the company will use AI-enhanced technology toÂ enhance all areas of employment, including onboarding,Â learning, and engagement.
Managers should also find it easier to do their jobsÂ because they too will receive technology-enabled,Â 360-degree care, which will include ways to betterÂ allocate talent. Other tools include recommendationsÂ for succession planning and guidelines for employeeÂ development areas.
But enacting technology isnât about buying a box andÂ then flipping a switch. Successful user interaction isÂ critical to success, and has specific earmarks.
- Users must have a productive experience. ApplicationsÂ must therefore have a modern visual design.
- HR tasks must be simple. Use technology to personalizeÂ as much as possible.
- Employees should be able to self-solve. This can beÂ achieved through virtual assistants and chatbots.
- All available channels should be used. This includesÂ websites, mobile apps, and call centers.
Each company is different and use cases will vary. HereÂ are some examples of whatâs possible now and in theÂ near future.
- Intelligent and automatic talent acquisition. This will beÂ achieved through text analytics and image recognition.
- Job applications though social media. Social mediaÂ chatbots will handle applications efficiently.
- Virtual work experience. Job candidates will receive aÂ real work experience during job interviews.
- Virtual office tours. During the onboarding process,Â employees will tour offices, plants, and warehouses.
- Enhanced learning. Augmented reality will trainÂ workers in new tasks.
- AI-driven coaching. Technology will recommend theÂ best employee development paths.
Schneider Electric has also enacted a number of pilotÂ projects, including the AI-driven âOpen Talent Market.âÂ This internal job posting platform matches employeesÂ and managers to positions and projects, even remoteÂ ones.
âOpen Talent Marketâ is designed to encourage internalÂ mobility for employees. The aim is to ensure employeesÂ remain challenged by their roles and thus motivated toÂ continue in their jobs. Enabling employees to work onÂ new projects also helps Schneider Electric to broaden itsÂ employee cross-functional capabilities.
âOpen Talent Marketâ eases the challenges associatedÂ with talent shortages and competition: ManagersÂ and project leads often arenât aware of the interests,Â experiences, and capabilities that already existÂ within the workforce. Therefore, they tend to hire orÂ outsource, which takes up time and resources. WithÂ âOpen Talent Market,â employees can reach theirÂ potentialâand positions are filled more equitablyÂ because diversity is key to competitive advantage.
Ultimately, digitization is about empowering people:Â It frees up their energy from tactical tasks and allowsÂ them to act more strategically. When this is doneÂ right, digitization becomes instrumental in making theÂ informed decisions that create a more successful peopleÂ strategy. People, not technology, are at the heart ofÂ a companyâs digital transformation, so itâs up to HRÂ organizations to lead the way into a digital future andÂ ensure the long-term success and competitive edge ofÂ companies of all sizes.
Olivier Blum is CHRO of Schneider Electric.