Prediction 2: Accelerating digital transformation will force new leadership models

Posted by Josh Bersin on January 16, 2018.

According to Deloitte’s latest research with MIT, more than 70 percent of companies today are transforming their products and services into “digital businesses.”1 This doesn’t mean they are just building apps and installing new systems. They are realizing they must transform their products and services to become more digital in nature, which in turn creates a need to be more service-centric, agile, experimental, and data-driven. Additionally, a digital transformation demands new technical skills, skills in DevOps, and skills in user design, experience design, mobile applications, and other forms of web security and infrastructure.

Digital DNA

While it’s hard enough to find or train people with these skills, the even bigger issue is how HR can design a digital organization model, talent model, and management model. How do HR leaders help their organizations “be digital”?

After several years working with companies on this process, Deloitte developed a body of research called Digital DNA. By studying the management practices of highly effective digital businesses, Deloitte defined 23 management practices that change as a business transforms (see graphic below).

These new management practices change the nature of leadership—forcing companies to develop and find more “digital leaders,” implement experimental and agile management practices, and sometimes do away with senior leaders who cannot keep up. At the most basic level, this transformation also demands that companies develop digital fluency—teaching people at all levels about digital terminology, technology, and business models.

In 2018, this transition will accelerate, forcing HR departments to take a leadership role in the digital transformation. Bersin’s recent High-Impact HR research2 found that one of the defining characteristics of the highest-performing HR teams is that they lead the digital transformation. “Leading” means understanding how leadership changes, developing the skills needed, helping with hiring, and working to design the digital organization and digital culture. If you are in a midsize to large organization, this must be high on your priority list for the coming year.

Every day from January 16 through January 26, Bersin will be sharing perspectives on the most timely, relevant, and interesting developments for HR professionals to watch in 2018. Check back every day, or visit on January 29 for a consolidated report with all of the predictions.

Josh founded Bersin & Associates in 2001 to provide research and advisory services focused on corporate learning. He is a frequent speaker at industry events and a popular blogger. Prior to founding Bersin & Associates, Josh spent 25 years in product development, product management, marketing, and sales of e-learning and other enterprise technologies. Josh’s education includes a bachelor of science degree in engineering from Cornell, a master’s of science degree in engineering from Stanford, and an MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.


1 Achieving Digital Maturity: Adapting Your Company to a Changing World, MIT Sloan Management Review, Deloitte Digital, and Deloitte University Press / Gerald C. Kane, Doug Palmer, Anh Nguyen Phillips, David Kiron, and Natasha Buckley, 2017,
2 Seven High-Impact Findings to Redefine HR, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Jeff Mike, 2017; and The HR Maturity Model, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Jeff Mike, 2017.


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