The Difference Between Technology Enablement and Digital Enablement

In the last five years alone, the breadth of digital tools available to HR professionals has rapidly grown. Technology like artificial intelligence (AI), chat-bots, the cloud, data analytics, and machine learning have shown the potential to completely transform human resource management (HRM) software and the entire HR function. However, despite all their promise, how these resources are implemented can be the determining factor between success and failure.

A common assumption made by technology stakeholders, including those in HR, is that automation in any capacity will positively impact operations. But, without understanding the difference between technology enablement and digital enablement, simply automating a process won’t necessarily add value. Technology enablement is using a tool to produce an outcome, while digital enablement is less about the application of technology, and more about choosing the right technology to sustainably elevate and advance a workforce. 

As the HR tech landscape continues to evolve and diversify, decision-makers should keep the following in mind to ensure their technology investments pay off in the long run:

Consider a core system

The HR function covers every aspect of people management – from recruitment and onboarding to training and employee enrichment initiatives. These processes and the employees and perspective talent involved in them add up to an unsurmountable pool of data that is integral to influencing the way that all lines of business (LoBs) function. 

In an effort to break this information up into usable assets, many organizations will integrate tools piece-meal, adding different technologies for different HR processes, and keeping these separate from the systems used across other key functions like finance, or marketing and sales. This is where our instinct to prioritize technology enablement over digital enablement causes issues. By analyzing recruitment, onboarding and training data in a silo, HR professionals never have a full picture of how a workforce’s current capabilities should inform the recruitment process to help fill talent holes, or how the evolving external skills market should inform trainings for employees.

By connecting business-wide people-related data through a core cloud-based ERP system that combines resource planning with strategic human capital management, the HR function can accurately assess current capabilities and identify required resources. Performing this comprehensive analysis of processes digitally rather than manually allows HR professionals to quickly translate needs and ROI based on current and proposed technology investments, and put more time into taking action on the insights provided. Ultimately, these insights will help HR professionals to better maintain ongoing communication and collaboration with LoB stakeholders across the business, and forge a unified people strategy as a result.

Scale for success

While it’s important to keep people-related software up-to-date, it’s also easy to get caught up in the latest tech trends without considering how they address the current needs of the business. For example, if a company with high attrition rates needs to better retain its existing workforce, that company likely shouldn’t allocate its HR budget toward a next-gen chatbot software to automate the interview process. That’s another benefit of a cloud-based core – scalability offers companies the opportunity to start with a focused set of tools, and build on those resources as needs shift and technology advances. By taking away the pervasive “all or nothing” mentality, HR tech decision makers are less likely to implement technology simply for the sake of implementing the technology.

In order to build a roadmap for incremental digital applications that are most relevant to your business, choosing the right implementation partner can make all the difference. After assessing your business in its entirety, a partner can help to define the best strategy forward to achieve your intended goals – even if this strategy doesn’t involve implementing the technology. The right partner will serve as an outcome-focused consultant guiding you on a path to empowering your workforce, not a salesperson pushing extraneous resources.  As the HR tech landscape continues to grow in complexity, having a knowledgeable advocate to help guide your business in the right direction will prove to be invaluable. 

Regardless of whether you’re dealing with a small or large enterprise, employees, and their overall performance are foundational to success. As such, the HR function will continue to have a growing stake in decisions around business-wide technology implementation to help streamline everything from hiring to ongoing employee experience. As HR professionals continue to take on their new hybrid role of HR and IT, it will be important to take a critical look at how the technology being considered will improve operations. By zeroing in on digital enablement vs. technology enablement, the business won’t merely consume new technology, they will enable their people to accomplish more with technology.

This article was written by Presence of IT’s Gordon Laverock and originally featured on HR Technologist.