By Karim Talhouk, Dynamics 365 Lead, Microsoft Gulf

It is not breaking news: the GCC is suffering from a skills gap. Economic diversification programmes are also not breaking news, but their importance has been inflated by an ongoing slump in oil prices. The private sector must come to the rescue, to attract and retain national workers traditionally employed by the public sector, thereby relieving governments of annual fiscal burdens that run into billions of dollars.

But regional private companies have, in recent years, struggled to discover, hire, retain and nurture talent. Nationals do not see the allure, and expats, through the introduction of economic free zones, are at liberty to move employer when opportunities present themselves, leading to frustratingly transient labour markets.

The ‘personnel umbrella’

Breaking out of this cycle requires optimising the jobseeker’s experience. Digital transformation has the potential to empower the employee, by smoothing out disparate functional areas into one seamless HR operation. From recruitment channels, to interview, to onboarding, to professional development, regional businesses need to consider a “personnel umbrella” that is the single touchstone for every employee.

A common platform and data model, such as that offered by Microsoft Dynamics 365, can help. Operational excellence follows from the simple realisation that employees are people, and people now live digital lives – both personal and professional. That means jobseekers are not looking in newspapers and shop windows for opportunities. They are not going door to door. They are on social media, recruitment sites and corporate webpages. These entry-points should form the perimeter of a business’ HR platform: talent-discovery channels, powered by the intelligent cloud.

Of course, sweeping change can be met with resistance, so HR departments should modularise the building of their platforms. The solutions provider should allow you to, for example, digitise your talent attraction, then your onboarding, so you can adapt at a pace that suits you, with minimal disruption to your day-to-day business operations. The goal to keep in mind is that all-important seamless platform – the means by which you will build your reputation as a desirable employer and shorten the time-to-impact for new hires.

Day One innovators

Discovery-channels like LinkedIn and Dynamics 365 can connect to cloud-based AI, back-office systems and productivity suites, to funnel the most relevant candidate profiles to HR decision-makers. The intelligent edge can play a huge part in the candidate experience, with mobile notifications and follow-up all tied into the same platform.

Onboarding experiences can be easily standardised, with HR teams and new hires working from common checklists. Slick workflow can ensure that key resources, such as PCs, are available to employees from Day One and that their line managers are kept up to date with their professional development.

A modularised HR platform allows you to bolt in whatever other information you require, to drive that ongoing employee experience. For example, companies around the world are becoming more and more concerned with fine-tuning employee performance by digitising micromanagement. This concern is not without justification. In 2012, the McKinsey Global Institute found that only 39% of employees’ time was spent doing their main job. They wasted around 28% of their time reading and answering emails, a further 19% on research and the remaining 14% on meetings and other internal communications.

Over-the-shoulder supervision, while sometimes necessary, is never welcome. But your homogenised HR platform can help. By consuming information from your email server, office-automation suite and communications system, the intelligent cloud can let employees know how they are spending their time, and allow them to fine-tune their schedule. This leads not only to greater productivity, but eliminates banes such as after-hours meetings. So your people end up with enhanced work-life balance; and you end up with improved talent retention rates.

Can’t fight the future

Our world is now digital. And processes and activities that are not digital are finding it increasingly difficult to find their place – they are incompatible. But in trying to digitise business operations, it is critical that we consider not only our first step, but our second, third, and those that come after. Siloed digitisation can create more problems than it solves, where disparate systems may be compatible with the world at large, but not one another. That is why modular transformation is advisable.

The talent that is out there, waiting to be discovered – the talent that will spark your next growth cycle – will recognise, and appreciate, an experience that does not stutter. They will be more likely to remain with an employer that came to them through their preferred channel, interviewed them professionally and conveniently, onboarded them quickly and efficiently, and made their workday and professional development rewarding and memorable.