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Digital HR leaders, strategic partners in a global technological world

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This a chapter from our book "The New Digital HR Leader" -> You can download it here

In a world of uncertainty in constant flux and where technology is a key indicator of progress, the HR professional plays a role that is more important than ever: to lead on paths never taken before, take decisions in new contexts, manage change, risk, and at the end of the day, help their organization to flourish in a new emerging digital complexity.

Just as we have been saying throughout this book, this  revolution in which we find ourselves implies huge changes in many spheres. We are moving from analogue to digital. This revolution is transforming our understanding of the world and the way we interact with it, as well as how organizations operate and as a result, human capital management.

Regarding people management, there are umpteen innovations that shape a new digital environment for the sector’s professionals: big data, cloud, collaborative environments, new ways of working and more. Without attempting to become an expert in all these fields, the HR professional must indeed be very familiar with them and know how to move in the new emerging scenarios.

Even so, all this is not enough. It’s not enough for HR professionals and managers to be up to date ; they must become leaders, pioneers and innovators. In short, just like how this chapter’s headline reads, they must be strategic leaders in a global technological world, with a vision of the future and a human touch.

In this technological transformation from analogue philosophies, structures and environments, the role of HR professionals is essential from three angles:

- No machine or algorithm can make truly strategic decisions, based on risk, ethics, and complexities, among others.

- There is a misalignment between the analogical world and what technology offers: an existing lack of legislation in place for numerous situations.

- Regional and local complexity requires clear, intelligible and inclusive leadership.

The HR professional must know how to adapt technology to the needs of their organization. As much as technology can deal with countless issues, such as revealing an employee’s ethnicity, it must know under which circumstances this can be done and when not. Technology, in short, never will keep track of "ethical" or legal directives.

Fulfilling local needs is also essential for this leadership. Along these lines, one of the issues that most frequently surfaces is that of compliance with the regulations of each country. And this is especially critical with regards to privacy and data security, for instance. Each country has its own legislation which varies geographically and over time. Thus, citing a specific case, for some organizations identifying where they will be hosting the data on their employees and the location of servers is so crucial. If these are in a country with laws that bring about substantial discrepancies in privacy management, it can end up triggering a problem for the company in question.

As we can see, technology advances do not stop the world from following its analogue path or from each locality having its own specific needs. That is why another of the key tasks of this strategic leader will be decision-making and risk management. In unregulated situations (often technology is ahead of the institutions), it will be necessary to make decisions by weighing out the benefits and risks. To manage properly, many factors and nuances must be taken into account.  For the time being, it seems rather difficult for a machine to know how to do such tasks or to possess the criteria for making such distinctions, just as we discussed in the first chapter of this book.

Can one sole man do all this? Not necessarily. On this exciting journey, HR leaders must surround themselves with the best: experts in data analysis, legislation, innovation, collaboration and more. A good team will thus be the key to good strategic management.

Marc Sabbagh

Ingeniero en electrónica por la Ecole Supérieure d´Electricité de París, Marc Sabbagh se incorpora en 1997 a Meta4 como Director de I+D+i y Servicios en Francia, ocupando posteriormente el cargo de Director Corporativo de Estrategia de Producto. Desde 2004, Sabbagh es VP R&D Worldwide en Meta4, liderando un equipo de 200 profesionales centrados fundamentalmente en impulsar la evolución de las soluciones tecnológicas de la compañía y en las investigaciones de las últimas tendencias tecnológicas y de gestión de personas. Marc, ha sido un motor clave en una serie de importantes proyectos de innovación europeos como: LP,SWAP,ASP-Net y ONTOLOGGING.

Marc Sabbagh is VP R&D Worldwide at Meta4 since January 2004. He is responsible for a group of 200 developers based in Europe and the Americas, primarily focused on driving the evolution of Meta4’s flagship product and researching the latest in technology and people management trends. During his tenure, Marc has been a key driver of Meta4’s participation in a number of significant European innovation projects amongst them LIP, SWAP, ASP-Net and ONTOLOGGING. He joined Meta4 in 1997 as R&D and Services Director in France and then became Director of Worldwide Product Strategy and Management. Before Meta4, he was Technical Director for HR Access at the IBM Global Services group in France.

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