The State of HR: Technology Fuels HR's Strategic Role

Over the course of 2020, HR departments leaned on digital technology more than ever before. As they look ahead to the rest of 2021 and beyond, many are recognizing that technology is now essential for overcoming their biggest challenges and meeting their long-term goals. 

DocuSign's 2021 HR Trends report provides a statistical analysis of 2020, offering insight into how HR teams used technology to remain nimble in the face of an unprecedented shift to remote operations—and how it will enable them to prepare for the future. 

With the right technology, HR can reach today’s goals—and long-term priorities  

Today, HR teams are juggling a number of challenges, such as an increasingly mobile workforce, a highly competitive job market, growing skills gaps and other hurdles. Most of these obstacles point to the need for greater adaptability—and the need for better technology. Two in five organizations recognize technology as both a way to attract younger generations of workers and increase the agility of hiring teams.

Looking five years into the future, HR teams see an even sharper focus on attracting, developing and retaining talent. Around 70% of respondents say those talent initiatives will be more of a focus. Those future priorities are expected to look very similar to current ones, except for one important change: Adopting new technology skyrockets to the top of the list. In fact, HR teams consider tools like human resource management systems (85%), enterprise resource planning systems (77%) and customer relationship management systems (66%), to be critical to their success over the next five years.

HR innovators are strategic and tech savvy

Not only does technology equip HR teams to overcome obstacles and reach their goals, it can also make them more strategic collaborators at their organizations, DocuSign’s research revealed. In the report, “strategists” were defined as those who are viewed as a “strategic partner” at their organization and frequently look for ways to innovate through new solutions and tools. Other respondents were classified as “executors,” a less innovative cohort focused primarily on executing the tactical functions of HR, such as hiring. 

One of the key differences in how the two groups operate was that strategists tend to be more deeply entrenched in their organizations and its goals than their executor counterparts. At the core of this difference was a commitment technology. Strategists are more likely than executors to use solutions such as applicant tracking software, training management, benefits management and electronic signature software. This finding is no surprise, since these digital solutions aim to unify, simplify and automate tasks, enabling strategists to be collaborative, cross-functional and adaptable.

This adaptability will only become more essential as teams vie for a seat at the table in the new work environment. HR teams that fully embrace digital technology now to streamline routine tasks and solve new problems will be better positioned to serve as strategic business partners within the organization.

Paired with the right strategy, technology will help HR teams adapt

A properly integrated technology system allows HR teams to become more adaptable in the face of change. It also provides a solution to the growing pressure to overcome challenges, including quickly filling vacant positions, closing skills gaps and delivering positive experiences to employees with growing expectations. 

In order for HR teams to become strategic partners within their organizations, they need the right technology. From highly automated platforms that take repetitive tasks off of HR’s plates to solutions that accelerate workflows and reduce errors, today’s tools can enable HR teams to better perform their jobs.

For a deeper look at the changes and opportunities driving the HR industry today, check out DocuSign’s latest HR Trends Report.

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