HR Trends

HR as a Key Driver for Digital Transformation: The 5 E’s Every HR Manager Should Know

Nick Vinckier

Recently I was asked to give the closing keynote presentation for recruiters and HR managers at the biggest Graduation Fair in Belgium. The message I wanted to transmit to them was that "digital disruption will be overcome by companies with the best people, not the best technology". And that HR managers really need to realise that they hold a (mega) crucial role in the digital transformation of those -winning or losing- companies.

I was truly amazed by the great feedback, so I decided to share my vision with you. I'm looking forward to reading your opinion as well. So don't hold back and hit me up in the comments to discuss this topic more thoroughly!

The 5 E's every HR manager should know.

  1. Enlighten Yourself

    Digital success, whether it's your entire digital transformation or 'just' setting up your social media governance starts with a wake up call. It's 2017: customer service agents are being replaced by chat bots, masons are becoming obsolete by the adoption of technology like SAM and Elon Musk just launched a company to link our brains with computers.

    It's time to wake up, right?

    Everybody in your company should feel this urgency. You need to create a shared by all belief that change is coming and a clear vision of how you see yourself within 5 years from now. As an HR-manager you should have a feeling of how (differently) Human Resources will look like in 2022.

    Once you know this to-be situation, you need to set up an actionable plan: your transformation strategy. I can only hope that your company has this already, or is working on it. In this case: take a look at it, translate it to your department and realise how big of an impact HR will have in the coming years.

    In short, enlighten yourself with the question: "How will we move forward from 2017 to 2022? And how will I, as an HR manager, contribute to this?"

  2. Engage Everyone

    One of the key principals in digital transformation is to move from a "digital department", where an exclusive club of marketers has the privilege to play with Facebook to an integrated way of using technology to reach your business goals - and become a digital organisation.

    Communication is super important to do so, according to me.

    That's why you should create a digital culture, where "drive", "ambition" & "challenges" are fundamental and print this on a paper leaflet. That's right: paper!

    It's proven: writing down an ambition gives you more chance to reach your goals and handing out your "digital manifesto" to all your colleagues makes you all speak the same language and fight for the same cause.But it does not stop there, internally. Be proud of what you are doing today. Show your actions, accomplishments, and failures to the outside world. Instead of walking the talk, we should talk the walk a bit more.


    Create a culture where everyone is feeling the heat in a positive way, where everyone speaks the same language and works to reach the same objectives. Engage every single soul, top-down and bottom-up, because like Peter Drucker once stated: Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

  3. Educate The Company

    Companies lack digital expertise. There I said it.

    As an HR manager, it is your responsibility to educate yourself, upgrade your traditional colleagues and hire new digital natives.

    You need to know that "social recruiting" is more than blasting the same InMail via LinkedIn over and over again. When was the last time you've set up a content funnel to attract digital talent? ;-)

    Because you will need those new people, with "digital" running through their veins. And with digital, I don't mean 20-year-olds with an Instagram account. I mean the marketing automation queen of 41, that already transformed herself into the new era. It's not an age thing!


    At last, you'll need to transform your traditional colleagues (from all positions within the company). It's your opportunity to make sure that they stay relevant the coming years. That they can pivot into a new function when robotics take over their traditional job right now.

    You can help them by hosting "internal digital labs", where they can discover new things like Bitcoin or Artificial Intelligence, or by setting up "reverse mentoring", where traditionals and digitals teach each other new skills.

    Inspire, educate and activate your colleagues every day. And you'll see that magic will happen.

  4. Encourage Trial & Error

    And you should even take it up a notch. When activating your coworkers you should encourage them to try.

    In their own digital manifesto, Facebook says that "The quick shall inherit the Earth. Those who ship quickly, improve quickly."


    Install a mindset where people test, try and experiment fast and fail cheap. Not for the sake of it but to learn from it.

    Move from maximum validation to minimum viability. Because anybody can have your next "one billion dollar idea."

  5. Empower Radically

    And that's why you should empower people who want to change the company for the better. Don't numb their enthusiasm but use their light to ignite a bonfire of "goesting" (wanting to do stuff) throughout your company.

    Remember Steven Sasson, the guy who invented the digital camera?

    He worked for Kodak at the time and was so kind to share his innovation with his bosses. They made him hide it, in fear of disruption.

    Instead of empowering Steven and driving radical disruption themselves, they've made a huge mistake and contain internal innovation - ultimately resulting in a fatal backlash.

    Look for the people who have entrepreneurial tendencies and give them a prominent role in your governance.

    AccorHotels even created a 'shadow comex' of 13 younger, digital natives to counter every decision being made by the 'traditional comex'. Just to make sure they don't miss out on opportunities and make the drivers of tomorrow feel empowered.

    If you don't create the thing that kills you, somebody else surely will. Or as Pierre Nanterme (CEO, Accenture) clearly says: "digital is the main reason half of the companies of the Fortune 500 have disappeared since the year 2000."

    Let this be your wake up call. If you were waiting for a sign, this is it ;-)

HR as a Key Driver for Digital Transformation

Realising all the above will be a challenge but following these guiding principles will create a thriving environment to overcome disruption within the coming five years.

To wrap things up, every HR manager should remember the following 5 E's:

  • Enlighten yourself
  • Engage everyone
  • Educate the company
  • Encourage trial & error
  • Empower your people

First published on Nick's LinkedIn profile!