Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Digital Transformation to Your Workforce

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Digital Transformation to Your Workforce

in , jul 17, 2017

If your organisation has arrived in the 21st century already, but hasn’t escaped into the 22nd century yet, then “Digital Transformation” has probably popped up in some strategic initiative recently. There is a high risk of failure if the way your employees see your organisation does not match how you want your organisation to be seen by customers. The days are long gone when HR systems only affected the HR department. They are now your organisation’s face towards the workforce and that transcends to your customers.

Digital Transformation is probably part of your strategy already

Whether or not “Digital Transformation” is a fitting name for what is happening (some people argue that digital technology has been used in organisations for more than half a century now), there is no doubt this technology is now becoming so omnipresent and independent that we can expect huge change and, with that change, will come winners and losers.

As an example, cautious estimates assume 35% of today’s jobs in Britain will be obsolete within 20 years and drivers being replaced by driver-less cars are only the tip of the iceberg. While reading a newspaper article recently, I was very surprised to find out that what used to be referred to as “the oldest profession in the world” and what was often jokingly used as an example of workers who will never be replaced by technology, is now under attack by makers of high tech dolls.

Business leaders, who believe they can avoid technology and keep winning “the old way” are on borrowed time. Sure, many old capabilities will still remain relevant. But they won’t be enough. So, yes, there is change ahead and it’s just as well that your business strategy recognizes that and finds ways to exploit rather than suffer from it. However, the old truism “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is still true. If Digital Transformation is at the heart of your business strategy, but not at the heart of your culture – or, worse at loggerheads with your culture, then you’ll be in troubled waters soon – or in the doldrums. So, what to do?

Make sure Digital Transformation is part of your organisational culture

The answer is obvious: we need a culture of digital transformation. Let’s write up a bright and shiny brochure called “This is our culture”, use the words “digital” and  “transformation” in there 99 times, print it and distribute it in the tea rooms. Done! Or is it?

Not quite, I’m afraid. Culture manifests itself in artifacts and behaviours, but company brochures, printed or not, are just one weak indicator. Culture can also be influenced by manipulating these artifacts and behaviours. The basic prerequisite is: walk the walk, not just talk the talk. And that affects workforce facing processes, usually part of overhead / back office functions in particular. Saying “the customer comes first – we need to show a modern face towards the market and more importantly get our products up to speed” can get you only so far. If your people don’t buy into it, your competition will just shoot past you, possibly with some of your former colleagues on board, who became disillusioned.

The sad truth is that most companies are actively discouraging employees from living and breathing Digital Transformation

I daresay the majority of organisations would already be doing much better if their workforce facing processes wouldn’t make any disciple of Digital Transformation cringe. Just look at some examples.

Praveen, Nano-Technology Engineer:
Praveen has just been to a conference on industry 4.0 and digital transformation and came back full of enthusiasm and ideas to improve customer service by using a big data approach. But when he sits down at his desk a reminder pops up “don’t forget your expense report”. He finds the spreadsheet form somewhere on the intranet, fills it all in, emails it to his boss and puts all the paper receipts into a paper bag to send it to the accounts department. Once that has been accomplished, the energy levels driving his Digital vision have been cut by half, so he decides to call it a day and orders some beer and pizza on his Deliveroo App.

Helen, Team Manager, Sales
Helen is leading a sales team and her knowledge and enthusiasm earned her the job to spearhead sales of data driven highly automated maintenance services with customers in her region. At the end of the meeting where this was agreed, her boss realises this would change the goals they had agreed on in January. So, he asks her to write a paper note about it, make him sign it and bring it to HR so they can add it to her employee file for consideration next January. The thought of the tedious annual ritual drained all her energy. She still managed trigger the agreed new hire process for a young professional with passion for and experience in digital transformation when she was in the HR office (another form).

Yuan, Data Sciences Graduate
6 weeks later the job has been published. Yuan, a data sciences graduate, who just finished a very successful project in her first job that cut delivery times to customers by 35% using predictive analytics, finds the advert on Linkedin and wants to apply. When she realises that the job portal asks her to manually fill in a score of fields – including information it should be able to pull from her Linkedin profile – she just can’t be bothered to go ahead. She closes her browser and opens WhatsApp on her mobile to get some advice from friends for the interviews she has scheduled next week.

I could go on and on…

Culture change needs consistency

Your people expect some consistency of vision. They can understand that not everything is perfect and that customer facing projects may enjoy priority, but at least they need to see a start. What you do internally will inadvertently transcend to your customers. A modern HR and Talent Management system can support a Digital culture, give you a cutting edge brand, and empower people to make the right decisions for the organisation. If you leave it until it’s too late, many people will become disengaged and leave. Or worse, they become disengaged, feel trapped and stay.

The good news is that some good starting points for workforce facing digital transformation are also good starting points for your transformation journey as a company. Recruiting or Core HR are typically:

  • low risk processes compared to, say, CRM or production
  • affecting a large number of people
  • and, with cloud-based systems like SAP SuccessFactors Recruiting or Employee Central, can really deliver encouraging quick wins at the start of your journey

You are likely to underestimate the speed of change, until it’s too late

A 25-year-old young professional today would look at a leave request form in an online Excel sheet (rather than a mobile app) with the same disdain as I would have looked at a paper-based process in 1995.

When your employees start to talk about your organisation as a 20th century employer amongst their peers or put on that cynical smile, when customers ask about the “cutting edge” solutions you offer, it won’t be easy to turn around. Losing driven, innovative people to the competition, letting other employees slip into poor engagement and failing to attract the right talent can become a vicious circle.

Workforce facing Digital Transformation can be your saviour

So, in a nutshell, transforming people management processes with modern ideas and IT solutions

  • facilitates or even drives your Digital Transformation initiative;
  • drives your culture;
  • is often a great sandbox for digital transformation or cloud transformation in particular;
  • And, as a “side effect”, also improves your HR and Talent Management practise considerably

Luckily, help is nigh!

To plan your transformation to a 21st century Talent Management or Core HR system, just reach out to iXerv. SAP SuccessFactors is our solution of choice. Let’s talk about this journey. Request a call by contacting the iXerv team here.