Digital transformation success? It’s a people thing

By Beverley Dyke

Employees can often get left behind on the road to digital transformation.

Alienated by far reaching five-year plans which lack the context of their day job, and overwhelmed by new systems that seem only to make their day longer, it can make people beg the question, “What’s in it for me?”. 

As a result, their engagement wanes. The project fails.

I’ve spoken to several CIOs recently who feel torn between their excitement for new technology and the fear of being unable to get their employees to adopt it.

This seems to be a valid concern. In its 2018 CIO Agenda, Gartner said that culture was the biggest barrier to organisational change with certain behaviours in the workforce scuppering the chance of digital progression. But how do you measure and invest in something as complex as human behaviour?

I spend a significant amount of time listening to employees and analysing behaviours for clients. I use data to sense and respond to user behaviour, enabling real-time, expert recommendations for employee engagement on new technologies and rapid change. Furthermore, by using a behavioural insights dashboard, I can see where the behavioural goals are being met or missed, how to spot trends and reveal opportunities to reward those who are already engaged.

From this analysis, the ways of working that impede digital transformation can be identified and fixed. Examples to help improve digital transformation include working out new incentives, making technical improvements to the user experience of platforms, or a deeper analysis of employee personas that draws on behavioural science (it should be noted that the interventions are dependent on the situation, but always consider what’s best for the user).

I should flag that this is a collaborative initiative and not a way to be ‘Big Brother’. An important part of making behavioural change a success is being transparent about all the user activity that is captured, and why.

The workforce response is positive because it offers a mutual benefit in return. Employees can also have access to a personal dashboard to track their own progress and see how the technology is having a constructive impact on their career. There is the reassurance that by adopting the technology now, they’ll gain powerful skills and knowledge which may even result in leading the digital direction of the company’s future.

As technology shapes employee roles, managers should work with their staff to redefine them. It’s critical that employee metrics reflect the reality of the digital world (in relation to their own jobs) so that they have incentives to adapt. Technology moves at breakneck speeds so it’s a fact of life that our jobs are going to be in a state of flux for the rest of our careers. Continuous reskilling and redefinition is now part of everyday life, and it should therefore be part of the role description.

The core message here is that advancements in technology will only be seen as a threat to jobs if organisations choose to make it one. At the heart of digital transformation is a chance for us all to stop doing the mundane, day-to-day tasks and enjoy the opportunity and space to think creatively and do amazing things–which is what we humans do best.

So, what is the key for the CIO looking to engage their employees on the road to digital transformation?

Put your people first–there is no organisation without them. Understand the impact of tech, behavioural change, and co-create a solution together. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all method. Your company has its own culture and you will need your employees’ to be part of the journey. Employee adoption of technology and re-skilling will increase as a result, allowing you to gain the ultimate competitive advantage–your people.

Learn more about IBM’s insights into transformation and change management, by reading the IBM Institute of Business Value report on Mastering the art of change in the digital domain.