It can be jarring to see how much digital technology has changed people’s jobs, even over just the last dozen years or so. Today, physicians use digital stethoscopes and can share the results with patients or other medical professionals instantly. Salespeople gather contract signatures from distant parties via electronic signature services. Auditors conducting inventory counts have traded manual spreadsheet entries for image recognition and text-to-speech software.
Changes like these seem so natural that business leaders can be forgiven for thinking the people affected by digital transformation will readily adapt on their own. In reality, there’s no guarantee that your employees will embrace and use a new technology or application as intended — or that digitization will prompt employees to change their behavior in more productive ways. In fact, it usually takes a focused change management effort for new technology to take hold in the workplace. We identified five tips that have proven effective for managing the human side of this equation and bringing digital transformation to life at Deloitte.
- Make people a pillar of your strategy.
Many organizations talk about how people are the greatest asset to the company, only for this asset to be conspicuously absent from the core pillars of their strategy. Make your people the priority — your strategy’s focus — and not merely an enabler of the strategy. This sends the message, loud and clear, that your organization is committed to transforming its talent model simultaneously as it transforms its business. It also helps to hold leadership accountable for managing the various ways digitization can impact the workforce.
- Develop a strategy specifically to manage change.
The reality is that digital transformation often exposes a skills gap in the workforce. But it can also surface gaps in your organization’s culture, behaviors, and other people-related dimensions of success. Ignoring these at the outset can make the rest of the digital transformation effort an uphill battle.
That’s why having a sound change management strategy in place is vital. An effective strategy starts with an in-depth stakeholder analysis that identifies the affected groups and assesses the impact for each group. Next, gauge and evaluate the level of commitment among employees. Are they just becoming aware of the changes? Are they in the process of adopting the new digital tools and methods? Have the tools and methods been integrated into their day-to-day process? A change management effort should meet people where they are on the transformation journey, then move them quickly along the spectrum of commitment.
- Make a personal case for change.
In a word, communicate. In order to motivate people to change, they need to understand why the change is necessary — how it benefits them and adds to their sense of purpose in their work. The latter elements are where many digital transformation communication efforts fall short. As important as it is to explain how a change or new technology is necessary to the business, if you don’t make change personal and meaningful to each stakeholder group the project can veer off course.
Keep in mind that benefits can be perceived differently depending on job level as well as function. For example, individual contributors may care more about digital capabilities that eliminate manual tasks so they can focus on higher-value work. Senior executives, on the other hand, may be more interested in analytics and predictive modeling that can help them make better, more informed decisions.
Pay particular attention to those with a strong voice in your organization. The skeptics in this group could stall your efforts, so try to understand their concerns and engage them directly. For example, you might provide an immersive, one-day experience working with the technology. Once they understand the benefits for themselves and their teams, they can become some of your greatest champions.
- Invest in training and development.
Having laid the groundwork for change, it’s time to put strategy into action. First, update your hiring profiles and training curriculum to reflect the skills that digital transformation demands — not only for today, but for the foreseeable future as well. Revise goals and expected behaviors as needed so that people know what success looks like for their role and level.
At Deloitte, we identified and communicated representative behaviors for each pillar of our strategy. We also shared stories about colleagues who exhibited on-strategy behavior, tying those examples with others to show how different pillars of the strategy reinforce one another to move the organization forward. And, we identified six enduring human capabilities that, when cultivated by an organization, can help employees pivot successfully toward new opportunities, such as those presented by digital transformation.
As you tackle training and development, home in on super users — individuals or teams who are early adopters and those who are embracing the technology. Share their success stories and recruit them to help others so you can build a natural momentum for digital transformation.
At the same time, be aware that the current crop of technologies — robotic process automation and artificial intelligence, to name two — may be chipping away at fixed, stable roles. In their place are hybrid jobs that demand a mix of technical and soft skills, such as a data analyst who can create visual communications. These in turn are evolving into “super jobs,” where technology hasn’t just changed what it takes to do the job, it’s changed the nature of the job itself. The upshot? Expect to rethink some existing roles and even some of the work to be done.
- Measure progress against goals
It’s not uncommon for an organization to come up with targets and key performance indicators (KPIs) only after a transformation effort is complete. This deprives people of the opportunity to understand what the specific objectives are as the initiative unfolds, so take the time to define those upfront.
Another common challenge is finding targets and KPIs that can be measured. That’s not to say qualitative metrics are off the table. A recurring pulse survey, for instance, can help to gauge awareness, buy-in, adoption level, and other attitudes or behaviors over time. But don’t stop there, quantitative metrics are an important component to measuring success. Establish KPIs to measure whether desired outcomes and target goals are being achieved. You can also use them to assess your return on investment. But quantitative metrics can be hard to measure without the appropriate systems and processes, so plan on putting those in place if the metric is important enough.
What is the right duration to measure progress on a digital transformation initiative? Long enough for the change to become business as usual.
Winning hearts and minds
The human element of digital transformation is something that transcends organizations and even industries. It’s an issue that goes to the core of a successful implementation: winning the hearts and minds of your people. By focusing on them and helping them connect the change to the organization’s broader purpose — then helping them change, making it meaningful, investing in their success, and measuring their progress — your people will create a path for your transformation journey and propel the organization into a digital future.
By Erin Shannon, Managing Director and Strategic Initiatives Leader, Deloitte & Touche LLP