Company Culture

6 Tips for a Successful Digital Transformation

This summer’s edition of HR Tech Meetup addressed a major challenge many HR departments are facing, but few are actually prepared for.

Digital transformation is at the top of every organization’s agenda. Every department from marketing to customer success is being pushed to become data driven. However, speakers Gerrit Schimmelpenninck, Talent Intelligence Manager at Philips, and Marelle van Beerschoten, Founder of Digital Shapers, highlighted one key element most companies are getting wrong.

“While companies expect their employees to become data driven, HR is still not transforming.”

van Beerschoten explained. Having partnered with a number of companies in their journey towards digital transformation, she described how this can severely hinder a company’s ability to attract and also maintain the digital talent they need.

We spoke with attendees and gathered six tips your HR team needs to prepare for digital transformation:


1. Create end to end responsibility 

Gerrit Schimmelpenninck, Talent Intelligence Manager at Philips

Even when HR teams are ready and energized to introduce new data driven processes and tools, what they often face is a lack of much needed buy-in from the top level to support this transformation. As Schimmelpenninck explained,

“Digital transformation is all about giving people end to end responsibility. In a lot of big organizations they entitle someone from pretty far down in the hierarchy to drive the whole digital transformation and what you often see is that those people don’t really have that authority. That person then becomes nothing more than an advocate for it."

Your executives should lead by example, living and breathing the change you want to make. If executives aren’t open to change, why should your people change?

"Digital transformation has to come from the top, from people who actually have the end to end responsibility to successfully drive it.”

2. Shape the digital mindset 

Soizic Daniel, Global Staffing Manager at Veon

Companies very often fall into the trap of chasing trends and buzzwords, only to find the change they’re making doesn’t have any real impact. This often comes from a disconnect in what the change actually means to each individual. Soizic Daniel, Global Staffing Manager at Veon, shared how her company overcame this challenge:

“When we moved from a telecom project to a digital project everyone assumed that they knew what digital means. What we actually realized was that nobody had a clue. We had to actually have trainings, digital bootcamps and events like we’re having tonight to talk about it and break the ice. A digital mindset isn’t just about product knowledge, it means being flexible and able to learn how to unlearn ingrained ways of doing things.”

Shaping this digital mindset doesn’t have to be hard but it is necessary to achieve a successful transformation. Daniel explained,

“What we discovered was that there are a lot of new words we think we know deep inside and take for granted. What we actually needed was one common definition throughout the company so that we could go in the same direction with one mindset.”

3. Remember, data beats hierarchy 

Gerrit Schimmelpenninck, Talent Intelligence Manager at Philips

While leaders may want their organizations to become data driven, they may not necessarily understand how to read and interpret data themselves. Sometimes if the data doesn’t match what leadership is looking for, they might question it.

As Schimmelpenninck emphasized during his talk:

“Data beats hierarchy”

Data should be independent of your role or position in the hierarchy. Rather than picking and choosing the data that supports the direction you want to go in, it should be the starting point for the creation of your strategy.

Instead of finding ways to beat the hierarchy, it should be a collaborative effort. The solution is to teach leaders how to access, interpret and use data to inform their decision-making.

4. Use data to be strategic, not just reactive

Aline Swinkels, Project Manager at Digital Shapers

This is also extremely relevant for HR. Often, what prevents the department from becoming data driven is inexperience with collecting and interpreting people data to inform strategies.

People analytics isn’t just about reporting this year’s turnover rate. If HR can learn to collect and make use of people data, they’ll have a powerful force behind the initiatives they present to the executive level. As Aline Swinkels, Project Manager at Digital Shapers, pointed out:

“You can also make use of HR analytics to predict upcoming challenges. For example, some departments use it to predict turnover and find solutions in advance, but you need to have data to predict it."
"You need to work together with data scientists in your HR department to make use of the opportunities HR analytics has to offer.”  

5. Don’t focus on hiring digital talent - Darsh Arunasalam, Events Marketing Manager at Impraise

When a company is going through a digital transformation, job openings for digital marketing, growth hacking, etc. begin popping up on their website. All efforts are centered on attracting digital talent by increasing starting salaries, designing hip office spaces, and introducing Google style perks. The problem is, companies often spend more time and resources recruiting external talent, than helping their internal talent develop new digital skills.

Having worked with global companies across industries to create their own learning cultures, Darsh Arunasalam, Events Marketing Manager at Impraise shared her insights:

“What people really want is a workplace where they can develop and grow. Simply turning HR into a hiring machine, and neglecting your existing talent will only create a disconnect in the digital transformation you want to initiate.”

Studies show that creating an environment in which people are encouraged and given the means to develop are more productive and experience greater retention rates. Arunasalam explained,

“Your people are your company’s greatest brand ambassadors. If you really invest in creating digital learning opportunities for your workforce, you’ll not only experience a much greater return, as a result, you’ll also find more great talent applying and eager to join your team.”

6. Select the right tools for your organization - Soizic Daniel, Global Staffing Managers at Veon

A successful digital transformation isn’t about adopting all of the latest and greatest in cutting edge tech. People are now experiencing an overload of digital distractions with excessive notifications, reminders, and passwords. Daniel explained,

“It used to be that everyone would ask, ‘What tool do you have?’ and people would think, ‘Oh I don’t have that one, maybe I should have that one.’ But that’s not relevant anymore."

"What’s relevant is to ask yourself, ‘Do I have the right tool for the need that we have?’”

Rather than adding more tools, it’s HR’s job to help cut out the noise by carefully selecting the right set of tools for your organization.


Instead of holding HR back, digital transformation should be an opportunity to empower the department with valuable workforce insights. HR Tech Meetup provided the perfect venue to meet others who had gone through this process and share learnings. Sending out a big thank you to Wendy van Lerschot, Maarten Lens-FitzGerald, Siert Akel and Darsh Arunasalam for organizing the event. Looking forward to the next edition!





Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash