Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Digital transformation is inevitable for businesses in the shorter as well as longer term. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has proved that having a digital dimension to your business can prove to be a life raft in a sea of uncertainty. Large enterprises already have an indispensable large digital infrastructure, whereas mid-to-small enterprises are sometimes partially automated, or lack digital infrastructure entirely. This year has highlighted many times over that it is time for SMEs to rethink their existence and reinvent themselves, and that digital transformation is the way to achieve this.
According to the International Data Corporation, the organizational spend on digital transformation is projected to touch $2 trillion in just two years. The driving factor, particularly for SMEs, is the need to catch up with their more tech-entrenched competitors.
Now if one were to think digital transformation, the first thought is that of technology. Sure, technology is key to getting the job done. But technology doesn’t cut it alone. The human element simply cannot be ignored when it comes to authentic digital transformation.
What do we mean by that?
An organization is partly defined by its culture. If the organization has historically been placing a premium on a culture of openness, innovation, and learning for personal as well as professional growth, the employees are more likely to be open to new things and experiences, and yes, new technologies. Conversely, if an organization is filled with employees that are wary of technology in general, mounting a digital transformation campaign will not be easy: people will be less accepting of any such initiatives, or frankly distrustful or fearful of losing their jobs to automated systems.
In other words, investing in technological developments is only one half of the equation. The other half is having your personnel not just adopt, but embrace it. This is where the magic happens: true digital transformation and true tech enablement.
Bringing about digital transformation through a culture of learning
Assuming that you have a workforce that is less than enthused about automation and digital transformation, what can be done to tip the balance?
Foster an environment of learning. Organizational learning refers to “the process of creating, retaining, and transferring knowledge within an organization.” The workforce of today whether tech savvy or not, value in-house education and development opportunities to boost their career graph. This feeling is not seen just in the corporate world. According to research by the Middlesex University for Work-Based Learning, 74% from a 4,300-strong sample of workers felt that they were not achieving their full potential at work due to a dearth of development opportunities. This hunger for quality organizational learning can work in your favor. It can also help alleviate any fears that their jobs and roles may become obsolete in the digital transformation process.
Bring company goals as well as employee goals in alignment with the digital transformation policy. Strong leadership and reassurance is the way to achieve this. Executives and department heads must connect with their teams to impart a clear vision of how digital transformation will improve the employees work lives, enhance processes, save time and effort, contribute to individual skills and personal growth, and overall boost performance. Galvanizing a workforce to adopt a new way of doing things requires some effort. Find out what matters to your employees, what makes them tick. Is it customer satisfaction? Is it optimized workflows and operations? When they discover how technology is an ally to strengthen their position, not dislodge them from it, employees are certainly more open to learning new tech skills.
Communication is key. Top execs must never drop the ball on effective communication of the digital transformation goals and its progress. They must boost new learnings by encouraging cross-functional, inter-departmental collaborations within the framework of the new tech systems. They must clarify beyond a doubt how the new technological developments tie in with the company’s long-term strategic goals, and how they are indispensable to successful execution. They must also realign metrics, particularly in the context of eLearning opportunities the new digital framework provides, and make them an important component of performance-tracking processes. Similarly, they must revise the compensation and reward systems to incorporate the revised goals. Most importantly, they must communicate how exactly this will be done. Transparency is of utmost importance when deploying new, tech-based changes to the existing systems that people have been culturally used to.
Creating an atmosphere of curiosity and learning in which digital transformation can thrive is key to optimizing asset performance, improving employee engagement ratings, and boosting productivity.