Digital Transformation And The Cognitive Enterprise

Digital Transformation And The Cognitive Enterprise

In light of the significant impact digital transformation is having on organisations of all sizes, we frequently speak with our clients and associates to compare perspectives. We asked Tina Marron-Partridge, Managing Partner, Talent and Transformation at IBM Global Business Services, to share her views and insights on the effect digital transformation is having on talent strategies and the unique opportunities this presents to HR leaders.

Digital transformation truly delivers when combined with new paths to data, insight and personalisation enabled by artificial intelligence (AI). As AI becomes more widely adopted in the enterprise, we find ourselves at an inflection point, with the majority of our clients and our own inter nal HR functions moving from AI pilots to implementation at scale. We see that in many industries, digital trends are starting to mature and the next wave beyond digitisation has begun. The rise of new and exponential technologies – including AI, blockchain, the Internet of Things, robotic process automation, virtual and augmented intelligence, 3D printing and others – is teeing up another era of business architecture change. At IBM, we define the result of such revolutionary changes as ‘The Cognitive Enterprise.’

People will need to be in the frontline of this digital and cognitive era. They will need to be enabled to engage in ever-higher-value tasks and decision-making that is better and faster. As in past cycles of technological disruption, the legacy workforce will need to learn new skills, engage with new technologies and reshape career trajectories. All this, combined with a need to ensure employee engagement and experience, forms the backbone of business change.

The Evolving Role Of HR

Looking more closely at the impact of digital transformation places new expectations on HR. We’re seeing more organisations leverage the power of AI in relation to talent – augmenting the capabilities of their leaders and managers with insight on employee sentiment, performance, attrition, diversity, skills and compensation, thus assuring data-driven real-time insight for decision-making. By making use of predictive analytics and AI, conversations are changing from being subjective to data-driven. By providing leaders and managers with greater insight into their workforce, data is helping organisations to personalise and optimise their employee experience.

Despite so much capability and opportunity to transform work and experiences, many organisations are finding the biggest barriers to progress are their own people and culture. They need different mindsets and skills to take advantage of new business capabilities. HR must step up to help address this.

Digital Transformation And The Need For Digitally Fluent Talent

The impact of digital transformation on talent strategies brings opportunities, as well as challenges. The digitisation of work and life is driving a need for new types of talent with new skills. Yet, despite the pressing need for digitally fluent employees to deliver innovation at an extraordinary rate and pace, talent with in-demand skills is limited. To ensure we have digitally skilled talent in place to drive organisations forward, there is a critical need for exponential learning. Leaders must also actively create an internal culture that supports the need for agility and constant change management amid ongoing disruption.

HR has a vital role to play in supporting the attraction and delivery of digitally fluent talent. An urgent requirement is to offer personalised learning to employees – AI-enabled platforms can really elevate this experience. HR must prioritise current skills development and for enterprises, the skills gap is very real. Of the global executives we spoke to in our recent CHRO research, 60% say they are struggling to keep their workforce current and relevant. Our 2018 IBM C-suite research reveals more: only 11% of organisations report they have the necessary technical skills they require today, which includes expertise in data science, machine learning and AI. And beyond technical skills, leaders recognise that inter- and intra-personal skills are essential as well. Half of the global leaders we surveyed cite communication, adaptability and working in teams to be critical workforce capabilities for the future.

Across numerous industries and countries, the most in-demand occupations or specialties required did not exist ten (or even five) years ago, and the pace of change is set to accelerate. Today, we’re working to anticipate what the jobs of the future will be and who will do these jobs – with so little definition at this point – only knowing that evolution is inevitable and we need flexible technology platforms to absorb change.

HR Leaders As Change Agents And Critical To Business Growth

Fundamental shifts taking place in the business landscape and world of work have also impacted the role of HR leaders, offering unique opportunities that place HR at the heart of business change. Our 2018 C-suite study confirms that CEOs rank investment in talent as the most important driver to accelerate performance. This expectation from HR leaders to innovate and change is significant as they seek to modernise their own functions whilst delivering differentiated employee experiences.

EX drives CX – getting the employee experience and engagement right has the opportunity to positively impact the bottom line of every organisation. Organisations that score in the top 25% for employee experience report more than two times the return on sales when compared with organisations in the bottom quartile.

For HR leaders to effectively support digital transformation initiatives, they must view themselves as innovators, shaping the agenda of change with talent at the centre.

Culture, Contribution And Connection

The culture of the Cognitive Enterprise will need to keep human factors front and centre. It relies on leadership to set the tone to create a unique and authentic environment and with the advancements in technology, an increasing need for creativity and empathy. This will ensure that as work changes, individual contribution is valued, providing meaningful work, recognition, feedback and growth – all of which are closely correlated to employee engagement. Finally, connection relates to the depth and quality of co-worker relationships, assuring continuous feedback mechanisms and methods of engaging the wider organisation in the co-creation of attractive experiences.

In summary, there is a new stage for HR in business as the catalyst for change, creating a modern, flexible and dynamic workforce who thrive from the benefit digital reinvention and the Cognitive Enterprise will bring.

To download IBM’s C-suite study, Unplug from the Past: The Chief Human Resource Office Perspective, please visit:

This article first appeared in the tenth edition of The Human Age Newspaper.