When discussions arise around a digital transformation journey, the focus is generally put on the technology. After all, in theory, it is technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, automation and additive manufacturing that drive the efficiencies and speed companies long for.
But digital transformation is not all about the technology. Digital transformation shifts the mindset of how organizations create value for their end-customers, and none of that would be possible without educated and agile employees. The technology is great, but companies need to ensure they are educating and empowering employees along the way.
Jabil's 2018 Digital Transformation Trends Survey reveals that despite human factor challenges, like employee pushback and changing organizational structures, are getting easier to mitigate since 2016, 74% still find these cultural and organizational changes harder to navigate than technology changes.
Most people, by their nature, are not resistant to change – they are skeptical of it. In the case of digital transformation, with all the talk around technology such as automation, it is natural for them to wonder:
As leaders, we must do a better job communicating what the digital transformation is and how it will affect our organizations. But more importantly, what can we do to prepare our workforce for it?
As companies prepare to embark on their digital transformation journey, it is critical for leaders to be transparent and communicate often. There is nothing worse than being "in the dark." Whether you have 10 or 150,000 employees, a closed-office environment creates a swamp of fear, rumors and sometimes anger. It's only natural that employees will push back and question.
Therefore, clearly communicating your plan and vision for the company is just as important as coming up with the strategy. Without your people on board for this journey, you won't make it far. As part of your communication plan, be sure to get the perspective of your cross-functional team that may be able to highlight outstanding concerns or bring new issues to the table. Think of it in terms of technology, business processes and organizational structure. At the very least, consider addressing the following questions with your employees:
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Although executives should be the ultimate sponsor of how this information is disseminated, equip your leaders and team managers to be able to discuss these and other key points with their individual groups. While executive communications provide a good basis in company vision and overall direction, employees will likely feel more comfortable hearing about the impact of such activities from their immediate managers. Hearing about a timeline of activities may allow your employees more time to adapt as well.
Provide your employees at every level with transparency, a clear structure and plan to prepare them for the digital transformation. Remove the fear, uncertainty and doubt as early as you can.
The world is changing rapidly and new technologies and capabilities are being introduced at lightning speed. Therefore, as part of our digital transformation plans, we must spend requisite time understanding the impact of various technologies on the organization. Rather than reacting to every new technological advance, I advocate for preparing our workforce in how this is going to proceed over the next several years.
When considering the true value of digital transformation, don't just think in terms of efficiencies and cost-savings that are born from the technologies. Think about the true value of a transformation: freeing up your internal talent so they can focus on high-value, high-impact work that helps company growth.
This is an exciting time because it means a whole new dimension for employees to learn about process, prioritization and quicker decision-making. It is going to be an evolutionary model of how we all work. Therefore, as we all focus on our direct workforce planning for the digital transformation, we must consider the technologies we will utilize and what skills our employees must have to thrive in a new reality.
Let's examine IT groups, for example. With recent advancements and available technologies, it may be important for an IT professional to have domain expertise around:
Having the domain expertise necessary to succeed will be important to how your employees adapt to their evolving roles. Of course, these are only a few of many considerations for your organization. Examine the different groups within your company, evaluate how new technologies may affect them and what skills and domain expertise can support your employees to amplify the impact they can make.
As part of this exercise, you may want to consider what programs you can build internally to equip employees with the necessary skills. Alternatively, you may consider partnering with educational institutions in your communities (or elsewhere) to deliver in-person or online training sessions. The options are out there for you to leverage and now is the time to make your move.
In addition to workforce preparedness, developing your employees' skills helps build a better workplace culture – and we all know how vital that is to a company's well-being. Compare how we work in an office environment today from just 15 or 20 years ago. It is tremendously different. With the speed of business increasing, we expect another evolution of the same impact to happen within three to five years. Are you ready for it?
Remember, it all starts with happy, educated, inspired and engaged employees. Their happiness translates to happy customers, which translates to happy shareholders. Digital is the means to get you to your end goal, but transformation is an enterprise-wide activity – and people should come first.
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