Human Capital & Strategy-II

Digital Transformation: Helping Employees Get on Board

A true digital transformation brings profound change to an organization in every aspect of doing business. Leveraging the changes in a way that generates the greatest positive impacts requires the right mindset.
By Belinda Jones

Any business can implement technology, but a true digital transformation requires a shift in mindset. It is the word "transformation" that brings home the fact that utilizing technology in a way that generates the most advantages requires a cultural shift in the organization.

Installing new technology is only one step in a change process in which all people should be engaged and understand the link between the technology and the organization's mission. People must embrace the technology as tools that can lead to improved on-the-job performance, increased connectedness and knowledge of things like benefits and rewards, and a higher quality customer experience. The communication process that leaders use is instrumental in the acceptance of technology.

Beyond Raw Data
Technology is here to stay and has become an integral component of every size and type of business. However, adding the latest and greatest technology is of benefit only if people in the organization utilize it in a way that advances the mission, engages employees, and improves job performance and the customer experience.

For example, adding the ability to collect massive amounts of data is only useful if there is a way to present the data in an informative format like a dashboard that enables managers to produce critical metrics for decision-making. Otherwise, it is just raw data. The same is true when using technology to effectively communicate compensation, benefits, and reward systems to increase knowledge and utilization of available programs.

Adding new features to existing systems is only beneficial if people are willing to learn and apply the new features as employees. If people are locked in a mindset in which change is avoided or they drag their feet when it comes to learning new technology-based initiatives, the business suffers in many ways – derailed initiatives, poor performance, increased errors, lower level of customer service, and low ROI are just a few consequences. There are also missed opportunities to engage employees in programs like health and wellness, retirement options, and a variety of benefits.

Culture of Buy-In
People must buy into the company's technology vision and understand its relationship to the organization's vision and mission. Culture is the backbone of any change because people determine how well change is accepted, implemented and supported.

Those who embrace technology as a change agent embrace it as an opportunity to grow in their jobs and helping the organization grow as well. They utilize technology to improve their lives. The process for developing the right mindset is similar to the process for developing a growth mindset. People must feel safe in stretching their thinking and be willing to admit mistakes and to request training as needed. They must be willing to ask questions.

People who fear taking the risk of admitting vulnerabilities are not likely to embrace change and will pursue a safe course, which likely means "business as usual" rather than progress. It also will probably lead to low utilization of technology-based systems that are designed to meet the needs of employees in areas like retirement planning, wellness programs, feedback programs, etc.

Developing a Change Mindset
There are several steps an organization can take to develop a change mindset that supports digital transformation.

The research company Gartner recommends four steps, the first of which is to create a compelling vision that motivates employees to embrace change. When people internalize the concept and importance of digital transformation as crucial to organizational success, they will accept responsibility for their roles.

The second recommended step is defining the behavioral attributes that support the desired mindset for change. Leaders should identify the types of accomplishments, skills and results that support the digital transformation.

The third step is implementation of a process that assigns roles and responsibilities to key people who then become change ambassadors. Job descriptions, performance metrics, and training and development systems are updated to incorporate the goals and desired change.

The fourth step is developing and implementing a measurement system to ensure employees understand and embrace the digital transformation vision.

This four-step process can be applied to any desired change process, such as implementing a total rewards system.

Force for Positive Change
The Genpact Research Institute found that digital transformation is more about mindset and supporting strategies than it is about the technology. The newest technology may be fascinating and enticing, but it is not going to be adopted unless there is the right culture, management processes, employee behaviors and understanding of how the technology supports the business mission.

Genpact makes the point that legacy computer systems were suitable for a business environment in which competitors worked inside specific industries, key assets are held within the company, and a few competitors existed per category. In the digital environment, everything changes. Competition, as many industries have discovered, can come from any direction, computerized assets are held by outside vendors, and networks create fluid dynamics. The culture should enable speed, empowerment and learning.

Developing a culture that moves from a "legacy mindset" to a "digital transformation" mindset involves everything that makes a business successful – mission, strategies, investments in resources, marketing, customer services, computer systems, talent, leadership style and so on.

Changing a company's culture and the mindset of employees does not happen overnight. It is a process, and the sooner a company starts, the sooner it can move toward the desired goal – employees fully engaged in the digital technologies as a force for positive change and improved competitiveness.