Digital transformation is not science fiction - how to get people to engage with it today


Talking to the main sponsor of Zukunft Personal 2017, SAP, represented by Stefan Schuessler, Business Development Manager Human Capital Management, one thing becomes blatantly clear: Digital transformation is in the hands of people. It needs to be embraced, explored and used by humans. So in a way, even technology platform providers and enablers, just like SAP, need to reach out to the professionals and engage them in learning about the technology and the role of people in making technology useful and a value add to businesses.

One should not underestimate the educational power of events like Zukunft Personal, where year after year HR professionals and auxiliary people like professionals, coaches, managing directors, recruiters can come and be exposed to what is happening in the technology arena. The many high level speakers as well as the blossoming HR tech startups offer a great opportunity to learn about technology – but most importantly make us reflect about our behavior and our relationship with tech.

Digital Transformation: Most importantly make us reflect about our behavior and our relationship with tech. Click To Tweet

Just think about the intersection of health, wellbeing and technology. The amount of people wearing fitness trackers and other wearable devices has skyrocketed in the past. In the quest of better health, more exercise and more restoring sleep we attach sensors to our bodies to monitor what we are doing. It is not the technology, that is going to make us healthier, it is our behavior. Despite about a third of adults are wearing these devices, recent research finds they don’t actually improve our health[1]. Wearers did in fact make more effort to move, added 16 minutes on average per week to their exercise regime, but this is not enough to significantly improve health outcomes.

The technology is great, it monitors our steps, our sleep, and may even send us nudges about taking the stairs or about going for the salad option at lunch and not the sausage. Yet it is still us, that need to ultimately take these decisions following the nudges. We need to become better in our habits and trade in the comfort for the less comfortable choices, which will be beneficial for us in the long run.

The same is true for all technology and innovation related to HR and the entire employee cycle. Just because a bot may welcome you to the building via a sms when you arrive for your interview and guide you to the right room. It is still the overall experience with the hiring manager or recruiter, the quality of the human interaction and connection, that will determine the choice of being offered and that of accepting or refusing the job offer.

The first step in engaging with technology is to understand that tech should be doing whatever we want it to learn, do and repeat. It is there to free up our most human capabilities of empathy, connection, listening, prioritising, decision making, from the tedious, routine or even boring tasks.

The 1. step in engaging with technology is to understand that tech should be doing whatever we want it to do. Click To Tweet

Secondly, the responsibility to act and adopt new ways of behaving is ours alone. The most advanced CRM tool won’t turn you into the best sales in your company, unless you make the calls, arrange the meetings, follow-up the conversations. The same goes for HR.

The biggest problem with this is the huge gap between our current understanding of technology, and the level of advancement of technology itself. It is seriously frightening. Listening to some of the presentations of AI at the Zukunft Personal, one may conjure a utopistic vision of bots roaming the hallways of office buildings void of people… but then we go back to our problems about who ate my sandwich from the fridge at work, and the world seems whole again.

Therefor digitalization of the organization needs to happen in tight cooperation between the different stakeholders, HR, IT, management and operations, as well as sales and marketing. It may take a lot longer to adopt a new technology by first consulting groups of employees, but by gaining enthusiastic change agents and tackling some of the resistance head-on, a lot can be won in the long-run.

So how to meet this challenge head-on? Great advice from SAP there: find one area that you are particularly comfortable with, either onboarding, recruitment or candidate relationships, and start there. We need to ease ourselves into digitalization to get used to the discomfort of letting processes go or enhancing certain processes, in order to tackle our learning anxiety.

Watch the whole interview with Stefan Schuessler, Business Development Manager Human Capital Management at SAP:


Why not start with creating a series of videos with current employees for the recruitment page? Or putting in place a chat option for the recruitment page? How about a tool to allow employees to give continuous, anonymous feedback at work?

Whichever area you chose: you cannot go wrong. It will feel awkward at first, but with time the quality of the interaction with technology will improve, and so will the processes. But you have to start first!

[1]  „Fitness trackers do not increase activity enough to noticeably improve health “. In: on 4. October 2016. (30. November 2017).

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