Digital Adoption In HR: COVID-19 And Beyond

Digital Adoption In HR: COVID-19 And Beyond

Human ingenuity and our ability to adapt to immense change make us exceptional as a species, which was evident in how we quickly transitioned into a work-from-home approach to ensure business continuity. Digital technologies came to our rescue, saving the livelihood of millions of people globally.

COVID-19 is probably the biggest disruption that humanity has faced in modern times. The pandemic completely upended the status quo, turning livelihoods upsidedown and decimating the global economy. However, it is also true that the massive disruptions or threats bring an opportunity for monumental transformation. Human ingenuity and our ability to adapt to immense change make us exceptional as a species, which was evident in how we quickly transitioned into a work-from-home approach to ensure business continuity. Digital technologies came to our rescue, saving the livelihood of millions of people globally.


As Deloitte put it, “While this crisis surfaced weaknesses in the existing digital HR landscape, it also offers an opportunity for HR to take the lead and model how the rest of the organisation can thrive in a continuously disrupted environment by applying more digital ways of working.”


As a positive consequence of the pandemic, companies have come to rely on technology to help their workforce perform the same tasks with diligence and accountability as they would from an office. An added advantage to organisations was the rent and operating costs they saved by shutting down offices. There is no reason to believe that things will go back to normal once this crisis has averted. It is now clear that digital technologies are a necessity, not just something to turn to in times of adversity.


According to a survey done by Darwinbox, a cloud-based Integrated HR platform, 84% of organisations reported having either adopted at least one HR tech solution during the pandemic or planning to do so in the next 12 months. COVID-19 taught the global business world many lessons that have peculiarly made digital technologies ubiquitous. In this article, I discuss the lessons which led to the widespread adoption of digital technologies in HR.


1. Remote Work Is Here to Stay


Companies worldwide have realised that remote working is an opportunity for them to work more sustainably and reap numerous benefits in both the medium and long term. Some broad benefits include the need for less office space, less commuting, fewer business trips, and increased employee productivity and focus. It also offers companies the flexibility to deal with similar unexpected events in the future.


2. Personal Safety and Health Have Become Paramount


The pandemic helped organisations realise that human resource is, in fact, the most valuable resource a company has. For the first time ever, there is a unanimous and overwhelming agreement across the global business fraternity that health and safety issues are the number one priority. Companies have put in place not only several policies where employees have slowly begun to return to offices but also policies for those working from home: for example, flexible working arrangements, mental health guidelines, and new ways of performance review and management.


3. Going Digital Was Inevitable


Most enterprise-sized global organisations were well on their way to a complete digital transformation before the pandemic hit. However, what was supposed to be a process that would take years to be completely rolled out was accelerated and completed in a matter of weeks. Companies of all shapes and sizes succeeded in making digital transformation work for them simply because there was no alternative; they had to. Employees and leadership quickly learned the tools, norms, culture, and behaviours required to work efficiently in adverse circumstances. The pandemic simply reinforced what most organisations already knew but were dilly-dallying with: that going digital is inevitable.


4. Distributed Authority Must Include Central Coordination


In a pre-COVID world, each authority in an organisational hierarchy, e.g. managers, directors, and CXOs spread diversely across geographies, had to deal with issues on their level. Although distributed authority was always present in the organisational hierarchy, centralised coordination was lacking. COVID forced the HR function of organisations to have a strategy for central coordination with local control based on shared platforms, strategies, and values. Daily Zoom or Google meetings where employees from all over the world talk about their problems and local decisions have become a norm.


5. A Business Continuity Plan is Essential


The pandemic laid bare the lack of a crisis response plan of numerous global organisations. Every company must have a business continuity plan in case something goes wrong, not necessarily a global pandemic. Global business leaders prophecy that COVID-19 is just the first of many global crises we’re going to face in the future, the most imminent ones being global warming and the rise of sea levels. Cloud platforms, focus on employee experience, understanding employee journeys, and implementing people analytics are all critical when preparing to respond to a global crisis.


6. Communication is Key


Business continuity during a global pandemic wouldn’t have been possible were it not for proper communication within organisations. Digital technologies did play a key role in connecting people and managing things, but unless organisations had talked to their employees, understood their concerns, and took affirmative action, nothing would’ve worked. Software and digital technology, even the best ones, can only do so much. HR tech and tools are here to augment our abilities, not replace us or make us redundant.




This crisis fundamentally changed the way businesses operate. Organisations have had to worry about business continuity, revenue generation, workplace safety, employees’ health and offering them sound and ethical policies. Digital technology in HR is the cog that has kept the wheel of global business turning. Many forward-looking organisations had foreseen the importance of digital transformation well before the pandemic. Now that the rest understand and appreciate the value of digital tech in HR, they realise they should’ve switched to digital sooner. Hopefully, organisations do not forget these lessons too soon.


Pradyumna Pandey is an HR professional with over 30 years of experience. He is the CHRO of Mother Dairy and is responsible for providing strategic leadership by articulating Human Resource needs and plans and focusing on organisational capability building, people development, performance management, employee communication, policy development, legal compliances, industrial relations, and nurturing, shaping and sustaining the company’s overall culture strategy.


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