Monday, 5 october 2020 | Brenda Rodríguez López
<<This crisis has served to make a small journey into the future. The good news is that we have survived this journey and have returned transformed>>
The DHR Index is a report that analyzes the level of Digital Transformation in Spanish companies and the role that the Human Resources Departments have on this transformation. It is an initiative in the framework of the CEU DHR COL-HUB, in which the CEU IAM Business School takes part together with a remarkable group of Human Resources directors from leading companies.
One of those directors is Alfonso de San Cristóbal, International Chief HR Officer at Aegon and professor of our Executive Master’s Degree in Human Resources 4.0. We have talked with him about Digital Transformation with the aim of getting closer to this issue and having a new perspective on the results of this report’s last edition.
What data or result would you highlight from the last edition of the DHR Index?
There are many interesting aspects. For the first time, you have a vision beyond intuitions and what your close circle conveys to you about what is being done in your sector and in other industries. This is something powerful.
Getting straight to the point, what perhaps has caught my attention the most is the motivational part. I think the fact that the main motivations for Digital Transformation are highly oriented to modernizing systems, gaining efficiency and functioning, organizational agility, etc. is very important, but I see it as a must, a "hygienic" factor. I admit that it is a challenge (not because it is basic or necessary as a first step, it is simpler), but I miss a greater focus on the key issue: the fundamental driver should be to react to the demand of customers and markets.
Does this have to be the main driver of transformation?
I think it is all about efficiencies, updating our way of working and our operations (which is essential to compete), but, above all, about surviving the future and making sure that we continue being relevant to customers in the coming years. We have seen many industries where disruption has come overnight. In the rest, it is yet to arrive. Little by little, I think that the motivation that should prevail is to adapt to what clients want and how they want it.
Apart from the motivation issue, what other aspects have caught your attention?
I think it is very positive to see that we are gaining in alignment regarding which digital skills and competencies are going to be critical for future success. I think that in the case of capabilities the result is quite expected: Big Data, Analytics, Cybersecurity, Process Optimization,… What I mean when I say "expected" is that the demand for these specializations in the market has been huge for a long time and this already gave us the clue.
Regarding the "softest" side –the one related to skills-, agility, continuous learning, adaptive thinking and social/emotional intelligence stand out. This is in line with the prevailing vision in the international environment in which learning agility is placed in the strategic plans at the same level as other business factors. In my opinion this is the critical part and the guarantee for adaptability and, therefore, for sustainability. The rest of the elements are just as important today, but they may lose strength or become a commodity tomorrow.
In the end, learning agility guarantees that the people who are in your company are able to connect the dots, continue learning, be curious, quickly leave something that no longer works behind (unlearning), ... For this reason, the soft aspect is so important. I think this is what is going to be decisive for the future game: companies that have the capacity, beyond just knowledge, to be actually able to adjust and keep learning at the required speed.
You have mentioned this gap with respect to other countries. How does it place us in relation to other neighboring countries? Are we evolving at a right pace? Are we lagging behind?
We kind of have this Spanish inferiority complex that makes us think that "others surely do it better". The reality is that it varies greatly in relation to the industry and the nature of the business. In the insurance sector, for example, there is an important part of the business that is more oriented towards the long term, such as pensions or savings plans, which provides a certain stability. However, car or travel insurances can be more vulnerable to immediate disruption, so I understand that this is more linked to industries than to countries. Anyway, there are some common elements that I have identified. There are some countries that, because of their culture, embrace change immediately. In others, I notice an element of national pride (with historical roots) that makes them more conservative and resistant to change.
I think Spain is not in a bad place right now. We are just as aware as other countries: very strong investments are being made (although not enough), our plans are opening up far more to open ecosystems based on business collaboration, the mentality of managers is changing (although I think we must be more demanding and not allow the dysfunction between the models that we embrace and the standards that we later allow), a lot more digital profiles are being introduced into boards of directors and management committees, etc. It is something that has been evolving dramatically for many years. There is still a lot of work to do, we should not be complacent. Of course, there are countries that go far faster, but I think we are not doing badly.