Why Employees are Critical to Digital Transformation Success
By Arijit Banerjee
We live in interesting times where the pace of change in digital technologies outpaces organisations’ capability to adapt successfully. According to McKinsey’s Global Survey on Organisational Transformations, companies today are no more successful at overhauling their performance and organisational health than they were 10 years ago. It’s rather astounding that despite investing countless hours on planning their digital future, organisations still falter in execution.
Successful digital transformation, it appears, has less to do with digital and more to do with people and change management techniques. Making employees ‘digital change agents’ is the answer to breaking cross-functional silos, embracing change, and ensuring buy-in at all levels.
If you are eyeing holistic digital transformation, here are three ways to harness your ‘people power’ to ensure success:
#1 Create a clear elevator pitch for your employees: How you pitch digital transformation to your employees determines its success or failure eventually. Does every single employee know and agree with the organisation’s vision, mission, values, and roadmap for digital transformation? As a leader, before you set about embracing digital change, think about how it will impact every employee, how to communicate that value, and set the stage for a smooth transition. The likelihood of digital transformation success is 5.8 times higher in organisations where CEOs articulate and communicate a compelling, high-level change narrative with the rest of the staff. LEGO, the legendary Danish toymaker firm that was on the verge of bankruptcy a few years ago, upturned its fortunes by making employees central to its digital transformation journey. The company’s brand narrative or elevator pitch that has been at the heart of the transformation is ‘Everything is awesome’ as highlighted in the USD 468 million grossing hit The Lego Movie.
#2 Understand how your employees want to learn: Once you have established shared values between the management and employees, educating employees on the significance of digital technologies and their impact on business is the next crucial step to securing buy-in. To do this successfully, you need to know how your employees want to learn, what they are really interested in, who they are, etc. Gone are the days of lengthy training courses and heavy instruction manuals. Modern workers love interactive training courses with a preference for gamification, hands-on workshops, live demos, and more. Be consistent in your training and communication to ensure employees continue to feel engaged and enthusiastic as your digital transformation journey progresses. Coca Cola’s learning and development (L&D) program played a critical role in steering the company through one of the most successful digital transformation journeys across the world.
#3 Constantly work on the corporate culture: The importance of corporate culture in driving successful transformations, digital or otherwise, cannot be overstated. However, building and maintaining a strong corporate culture requires constant work and ranks as the #1 barrier to digital transformation success, according to McKinsey’s latest survey. Risk aversion, lack of flexibility to experiment and innovate, inability to be agile, and failing to break organisational silos are the key obstacles to creating a digital culture. India-based Mahindra Group with business interests in retail, manufacturing, and financial services, is a perfect example of a company leveraging its corporate culture to transform traditional business models to new-age digital ecosystems.
Digital transformation is not a ‘one size fits all’ journey
Every business is different and that’s what makes the tenets of digital transformation success unique for every company. Businesses must look for innovative channels such as change-management apps, games, on-going training, live feedback tools, and social media to keep a finger on the pulse on their company’s evolving culture and drive employee engagement. Celebrate milestones along the journey and don’t hesitate to acknowledge failures – rather when you hit them, take the time to analyse what went wrong and optimise.
Bottom line: think of digital transformation like raising a baby – start small with baby steps, ride the learning curve, and eventually finish strong and successful. Whatever you do, do not forget to take your employees along for the ride.