Forbes research shows that over 80% of digital transformations fail, and it’s often because employers think simply installing the new tech is enough. Often digital transformation is seen as the prerogative of a niche group of IT specialists. Equally, not all HR professionals are clear about their true place in the digital world, with research showing some find digital change challenging and IT ‘unappealing’.

We believe, however, that digital transformation creates a vital role for HR and an opportunity to reassert the strategic value of the function. 

Our research into the changing role of HR in a digital world focused on the public sector but many of its findings are applicable to all sectors.

We identified four big opportunities for HR to lead in digital transformation.

Culture change

How can an organisation avoid the pitfalls so often associated with a failed digital transformation? By grasping the organisational challenges required to ensure that there is a shift in culture, as well as embracing the digital widgets and tools that are integral to the change. Overcoming cultural resistance needs to be part of the change plan, and this requires the integrated involvement of HR to support the delivery of the human elements. 

Digital transformation will also impact how HR delivers its work, as well as aligning the skills and culture of a new digital workplace. HR will also need to consider how these changes impact their ways of working.

Talent management and training

Staff will need new skills in delivering digital transformation, working with the new digital tools and adapting the current working practices to align with the new culture. HR will also need to ensure that management is competent and can lead by example. 

As the pace of change accelerates, data is becoming more readily available – in overwhelming quantities. Leaders and HR need to become much more skilled in asking the right kinds of questions and turning the data into actionable insights.


HR will play a crucial role in attracting digitally competent talent by positioning the organisation as one that will encourage them to use these skills. Recent graduates and ‘digital citizens’ will have levels of natural competence that can only enhance the organisation’s capability.


The challenge of adoption cannot be overstated. Organisational history is littered with failed ‘build it and they will come’ rollouts. HR leaders need to work closely with IT to evaluate relative software innovations and functionality, assess current processes and determine if and how emerging software may change the status quo. They need to understand, alongside communications and training colleagues, how successful adoption can be assured. 

We are in a period that has been described as the biggest challenge facing HR since the agricultural and industrial revolutions (“The HR Professional’s Guide to Digital Transformation: Becoming a leader in the digital sector”,, 2017). Doubtless, the HR professional needs skills in multiple areas, including organisational attitudes and cultures, leadership, skills training and change management if they are to help their orgasniations avoid the pitfalls of transformation.

Get in touch to discuss how your HR team can prepare for and flourish in an increasingly digital environment. 

Sian Dodd
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