may 26, 2020

Reducing Your Biggest Digital Transformation Risk

Kristin Harper

Continuous change has always driven good organisations forward. These organisations realise that successful change projects happen only when the human beings involved are kept safe and engaged. Remember organisational change only happens when one or more people change.

Digital Transformation was quickly becoming normalised in the modern workplace and then COVID-19 hit and it has become a strategic necessity for many. This means that all organisations are now having to deal with larger programs of change than ever before. It is important to support employees, at any level, through the change process caused by these transformations or you risk having failed projects.

From a human perspective, change is not for everyone. We all function differently.  Some members of your organisation will naturally fight transitions, especially when their day to day working lives are fundamentally affected. But statistics say that after the initial hurdles and adjustment, on average 80% of any organisation will move on and find their feet in a changed environment. Employees need to see how these changes will impact them and their success. Will it make their job easier? Will they have more opportunities? What will the long-term benefits be for them?

Here are some suggestions to help your organisation maximise the chance of successful change.

1.    Don’t underestimate your people – they feel it. It’s detrimental to motivation, work satisfaction, and atmosphere. It could be the start of a collective sentiment that has a greater negative impact. Creating an environment where your employees feel empowered to share their ideas and initiate change, often leads to better outcomes.

One of the best ways to engage team members is to involve them early, even in the decision-making process for the changes. This lets them know the driving purpose for the change and lets them feel a sense of ownership.

If they are given ample opportunity to express concerns, necessary changes can be identified, and risks can be managed. Trust and openness are key factors within a changing organisation.

2.    Training and workshops on new processes and systems are essential. Don’t expect your employees to only learn on the job. Give them time and space to understand their new roles and tasks. It’s a perfect opportunity to explain to them the reasons for the change. It can also boost morale. Motivate them by demonstrating how the new ways are more efficient and easier for them. Allow them to explore, ask questions and come back with problems as they learn to adapt. There are so many digital ways of delivering and supporting a training program. Try using video’s, online forums and wikis to deliver on demand coaching and learning.

3.    A couple of the major drivers of staff satisfaction are financial reward and the feeling and prestige that comes from doing a good job. If you witness a genuine effort to work with the changes and adapt to suit your new business model, why not reward them? These rewards can be financial or otherwise.

Offer them target based monetary rewards to help the transition happen efficiently, and with more enthusiasm if you believe it will drive the changed behavior. And don’t forget to acknowledge good work and good attitude when you see it.

4.    Reorganise teams and workspaces. Try new pairing or teaming strategies to mix things up a bit. For example, make teams more cross-functional and more age and experience diverse. This can be a positive and refreshing change at any time but doing it when larger more serious changes are happening can help your staff engage with, and learn from, others during a time of uncertainty.

5.    Continuous reflection, discussion and communication will let your employees know that you care about their happiness at the workplace. Arrange quick team updates and meetings regularly to let them know how things are going with the changes. Give them a chance to bring any issues to attention. Be accessible and in touch constantly.

6.    Acknowledge the old systems, policies and work patterns. Employees may find it hard to accept that all their hard work and dedication on projects in the past, are gone without recognition. Instead of eroding the past, managers should actively recognise how the past got the organisation to the present. By showing employees that their work in the past is still appreciated, employees may be happier to embrace the new ways.

7.    Provide the leadership the team need, when they need it.

Unfortunately, some of the team may struggle to make the changes needed to deliver the companies objectives no matter how much training or communication is delivered. It is vital that leaders make the strong decisions around these resources when the decisions are needed. These decisions may include instigating performance management, reallocation of the resource creating the risk and possibly even termination of the resource if they will not get onboard with the change after all avenues to engage them fail.

Utilise the “Champions” that rise to the challenge of implementing the change whilst keeping the normal operation running. Support them and let them drive quality project outcomes.

Lead by example when needed.  At times you may find the team struggling with the enlarged workload. This is a great time to roll up the sleeves and help. Team members will follow a positive leader who is happy to contribute at all levels of the project.

Your organisation will thrive in these times of change so long as you are transparent and communicative. Uncertainty or confusion in your staff will decrease performance and morale. There is a direct correlation between staff involvement in a change and their commitment to making it work. If you really want the investment in your Digital Transformation projects to start paying off quickly, make sure your employees are involved and enjoying the journey.

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