Human resources are changing skin

HR are leading the way to digital innovation in order to attract new talents. Let’s have a look at Comau, Eni and GE Oil&Gas

From the preliminary job interview to the database, from the class lesson to online education: the evolution of human resources has taken the way to digital innovation. These are the two key words: technology and data management. Organizations are increasingly investing in HR innovation projects, while the study and exploitation of data, which are still carried out to a limited scale in Italy, are gaining importance and are regarded as the emerging skill in the HR context. These are the main outcomes of the research conducted by the Observatory of HR Innovation Practice of the Management School of the Milan Polytechnic.

In addition to the research, the Observatory has also awarded a number of companies that have made the best use of digital technologies to promote and innovate human resources in Italy. Among the winners of the HR Innovation Awards are Eni, GE Oil&Gas, Assicurazioni Generali, the Segesta group and Recordati. The 2016 edition was set up with the contribution of Adp, Cornerstone OnDemand, Oracle, Skylab Italy and Manpower. Thus, the new target of human resources is technology. «Digital technology has become an integral part of most HR innovation projects», states the research. This is made clear by the figures: 61% of the organizations have planned to invest in new digital enterprises in 2016. Among these, 58% have increased their investments compared to the previous year.

Investing in skills
Where are these investments going? What is the general understanding of digital innovation in human resources? The research explains that most of the companies that have been interviewed will focus on the development of staff skills. In particular, 53% of them will invest in performance management innovation projects (the management of the employees’ enterprises), 51% will invest in education and 5% in research and staff selection.

Innovation doesn’t simply change the typical practices of human resources but also introduces new figures within the sector. During the era of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, one company out of five hires a Social Media Recruiting Specialist, a person who is in charge of scouting and recruiting new talents through the web and the social networks. 13% of the companies also have a Digital Learning Specialist, who is in charge of developing, managing and monitoring paths and platforms suitable to digital learning.

Digital learning
Digital learning is a new approach to education, which is no longer taking place in a classroom but rather on the web. Traditional education still holds a significant importance: among an average number of 5 days a year that an employee devotes to learning, 3,32 are taught in class. At the moment, organizations are investing in digital learning only 12% of their global budget: yet, the trend is changing direction.

«The number of companies which believe that digital learning holds a relevant place compared to traditional education have shifted from 38% within the last three years to 75% as envisaged in the forthcoming three years», states the report. «The main advantage is that digital learning allows a personalized education, tailored made to suit any employee’s needs, and flexibility as regards time and space». It will eventually produce sudden changes of roles: the elderly managers «are often teamed up with newly-hired managers who help them to develop the inborn skills of the Millennials».

The Challenge of Big Data
The ultimate challenge for human resources is the exploitation of data. This is regarded as one of the new emerging skill by the Observatory: 57% of the companies state that the HR Big Data & Analytics are going to become more prominent than just two years ago. The evolution of data will eventually fill the shortcomings that are now clearly emerging. The exploitation of Big Data – states the research – «is still limited and confined to general reporting».

Furthermore, the challenge for human resources will be to use data not only to picture a present situation but also to make broadcasts on future outcomes of working performances and enable people to plan HR strategies accordingly. In order to follow this path, organizations are forced to overcome some obstacles: first of all, the fear of excessive expenses and times; secondly, cultural constraints.

Starting from fear
information are collected
to control people

These are the examples of three companies that are changing consistently the method and the content of their HR practices. Two of them have received the 2016 HR Innovation Award, Eni and GE Oil&Gas, while the third, Comau, features two very promising innovation projects.

Logo_ENIEni launches the digital platforms
Eni has won the HR Innovation Award in the Education Panel for the projects “Enicampus” and “GeTSTeach” (Global Eni Training System), two platforms devoted to digital learning. The initiative “Enicampus” was launched in January 2016 and is open to all employees. The training program is designed to suit the business area of the person involved, but can be enriched taking additional open courses on a voluntary basis. The trainees can make evaluations and comments on the course and the rating is accessible to anyone.

The project “GeTSTeach” is devoted to in-house and external teachers. The platform allows to create area or subject communities for groups of teachers, to manage and update their professional profile and access the evaluations received by the people who have taken their courses, and learn to use the electronic registry.

Logo GEGE Oil&Gas is concerned about its employees’ education
GE Oil&Gas has won the HR Innovation Award in the Performance Management Panel for the project PD@GE (Performance Development at GE). It is an evaluation system for employees’ performances. It was started in October 2014 and was focussed on the personal learning of the employees. The first step is a “priority touchpoint” set up at the beginning of the year, when the priorities are defined, meaning the tasks or features on which the employee will have to focus. During the year, checking and discussion panels are scheduled.

The process has an annual cycle and ends with a Summary Touchpoint: the managers look at what has been done during the year, consider all the feedbacks received and discuss all possible interventions aimed at personal education. The arguments and issues raised during the discussion panels are accessible by the employees via computer or an app on their mobile phone at any moment.

logo comauThe young engineers of Comau
Despite Comau, a Company from the Fca Group specialised in automation, hasn’t won any award, it is worth mentioning for two interesting projects. The first project concerns the Master in Industrial Automation, run in collaboration with the Turin Polytechnic, which has reached its fifth year. It consists in a biennial course and implies employment for students from the very beginning. Each year, 20 engineers are selected: the Master focuses on digital technologies applied to manufacture and combines in-house training, training on the job and project work.

The second project is the Executive Master in Manufacturing Automation and Digital Transformation. It is due to start in January 2017 and will be addressed to client organizations. «On one side, we focus on attracting and educating the best talents», explains Maurizio Cremonini, Head of marketing, and Ezio Fregnan, HR Training Manager of Comau, «on the other side, we want to export our skills in different contexts and attract the attention of other companies».

(translation by Cecilia Braghin)


Stefano De Agostini

Stefano De Agostini Giornalista professionista, ha collaborato con e La Provincia di Como. Chiodi fissi: lavoro ed economia. In tasca, una laurea in storia e un master in giornalismo. Nella vita precedente, educatore in comunità.

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