Digital Transformation Requires Leadership Transformation: Moritz Meissner, Vinci Energies – HRD

While tools and processes are an essential part of digital transformation, the right mindset is a crucial part in making it happen. The million-dollar question is: how can business leaders develop the mindsets necessary for digital transformation, and how can HR perform an essential role in helping this transition to take place?

Following his appearance at the HRD Summit Europe 2019, RAI Amsterdam, June 19th-20th, Moritz Meissner, Head of Digital Learning, Vinci Energies, discussed the role of HR in the digital era, the teething problems of transformation, and how technology will transform HR irrevocably in the near future.

How do you define a true digital mindset in leadership?

In my opinion, the things that were important in the past only become more important in the face of digital transformation. What is essential for leaders embracing a digital mindset is that they remain open to new things, that they maintain a kind of growth mindset and that they are able to trust their employees in order to empower them. I think this is something that was important in the past, but with the short innovation cycle that we have right now in a digital era, it’s getting out of control. If a leader isn’t able to adapt, and adopt this mindset, their future as a leader will be limited.

Despite its advantages, technology doesn’t erase those problems. Fundamentally it still comes down to a central human problem.

Exactly. There are always new buzzwords out there, but the baseline remains the same. But in the past, while companies and leaders were looking for new, young and smart people, there was so much talent in the markets that they could behave how they liked, as they always had. But today, if they don’t behave in the right way and set the right examples to attract young employees to their company, they will have a huge talent problem. Because, if you can’t get to smart people, you can’t get to smart, innovative products or processes.

What do you think that leaders are most anxious about when it comes to digital transformation?

I think they struggle in situations they can’t control. When it comes to using digital skills and transforming a company, leaders have to hand over power to employees, to other people, which can be a strange feeling for them. They’re not sure what the path they have to take looks like, so they have to give up control to employees they trust, put the power in their hands and say “explain this to me”. It’s a difficult situation but a crucial hurdle to overcome in adapting to digital transformation.

It seems that there are quite a few anxieties among HR leaders when it comes to digital transformation because a lot of people in HR don’t really know enough about technology to effectively deploy it.

Many leaders I know don’t know the meaning of certain buzzwords like “digitalisation”, “new work”, or “agile”, but they are leaders, and normally leaders don’t ask something, they have to know everything. So, they sit together in meetings and talk about things that they don’t really understand. When they talk about digitalisation, normally they’re talking about 10 or 20 different topics. So first of all, they have to come together to talk about the baseline definitions.

What do you think organisations can do to develop those digital leaders?

They have to get the managers out of the treadmill, to give them time to learn new things. When I look at a manager’s calendar, their scheduled is usually completely packed for the next six months, from meeting to meeting. This means that they don’t have time to learn. Networking is also really important in this regard – managers have to get even more connected with other people, but across borders within their company and with other companies. This gives them an opportunity to learn, and to discuss the problems they’re facing with others who are facing a similar situation, or who might hold the answer.

What do you think is the most unexploited potential in HR technology?

This is what I’m working on every day – it’s about collaboration tools. We use so many different tools every day, to schedule meetings, share information and so on. But for employees to develop the right mindset, they need the right tools. Whether it’s G Suite, Office, Slack or something else, you have to know the power of your tools and how you want to use them.

So many organisations send emails from left to right, from up to down, and in doing so they lose a lot of information and create a lot of versions of one document. If you move to a cloud-based system, like OneDrive, SharePoint, Dropbox and so on, it becomes very easy, and spares a lot of time and confusion. In the end, this makes work a lot more fun, and consequently more productive. But, to enact this in the first place, you have to trust your colleagues, because it relies on giving up a certain amount of power.

How do you think technology will transform the HR function in the next 10 to 15 years?

In the next 15 years, HR will become a real business partner. Right now, many people talk about HR as a business partner, but they’re usually not. But I think they can become a real business partner, somebody who’s asked about strategic topics, somebody who’s on the board, who is a central part of the business, because, crucially, HR will provide the measurements that will create success. Everything that can be measured, will be measured.

There’s a great opportunity here for good HR people, but there’s also a major risk for bad HR people too. HR will be required to deliver far more than ideas – there will be a real need for HR to provide the data-driven solutions that an organisation needs to grow and succeed.

I also think that, in the next 15 years, a lot of admin administrative tasks will go AI, so many of the tasks HR people are doing right now won’t be necessary in the future. Because with new tools, powered by AI, the easy and boring work will be done by technology. HR’s role will be far more powerful, but not in the same way as it is today.


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