How to put people at the centre of your digital transformation

Transformations get stuck.  Surveys suggest that 70 to 80% of transformation programmes do not succeed,  and the reasons for failure are often rooted in the human factor.   It’s people who make change happen, who make the decisions and take the actions on a day to day basis that bring a digital strategy to life.  

Employee experience is now a critical factor in the success of your digital transformation, much as we have invested in customer and brand experience.  Here’s what I’ve learned about why putting people at the centre, understanding and shaping employee experience, is key to successful change, and how you can make your transformation a success.  

People need to be involved and inspired - engage your employees to imagine what’s possible

Let’s face it, we don’t like to be told what to do, even if it’s the right thing.  Involve your people in imagining the future.  Invite them to bring their insight into what customers really need, and to bring their practical experience of how things work today.  Work with them to build the new employee experience, the new way of working that will deliver for the business, the customer, and for themselves.

Employee engagement is the key to building the commitment and ownership that connects people’s daily work to your business strategy.  Involve your people in building the future employee experience, shaping your vision, and enabling them to be inspired by seeing the possibilities and opportunities ahead.  

People need leaders with the capacity to lead complex, fast changing change

Organisations are struggling to move from a controlled, planned, hierarchical world view.  The future that is emerging is one where agility and taking ownership is vital.  Leaders need to engage their people, and build commitment to a future, even as that future may be ambiguous and uncertain.  They are not just leading a digital transformation, they are leading a change in culture.

Digital transformation also means that we are moving away from silo working, to a world where collaboration, transparency and communication are key.  Leaders must recognise that digital is not just about what they do in their functional areas, it’s about how they collectively own a business agenda, that they must deliver together.

How?  Develop your leaders with the insights and people engagement skills to lead your people through a culture change.  Invest in leadership team working, so you can collectively own and deliver a complex fast-changing agenda that cuts across the business.  

People need to have confidence

We learn by experimenting and through experience.  In this way, we build our confidence that we can work differently, and we begin to see that it works and brings success.  Create the opportunity for your people to do exactly that, by generating early successes, prototyping new ways of working, or developing proofs of concept.  Involve them, through hackathons or innovation sessions.  Let people see and feel the change that is happening.

Look for the quick wins, the early projects that cut across the business, to signpost the new way of working.   Create a safe, risk-free, environment where people have the confidence to try working in a new way.

People respond to authenticity and honesty

Change programmes lose momentum, and fail to deliver the expected benefits.  Often it’s because people are not ready or able to speak authentically and honestly about the challenges and obstacles.  How often do we genuinely engage with questions like these:

  • “Tell me again why we are doing this programme?”

  • “Are we boiling the ocean here?”

  • “Nothing seems to be changing, why aren’t we making any progress?”

Take the time to talk to stakeholders, change agents, and your people to listen, and to understand the blockers to change; stimulate conversation to learn about the issues that are blocking the progress you want to make.  

Be authentic with your people, speak honestly.  Be open to challenge, and create a safe environment where people can bring their issues and concerns into the open.

It’s people who make the connection between their work and the strategy

It’s people, at every level in the organisation, who need to make sense of the constantly changing environment.   They need to learn how their work can be more impactful, so they can be more demanding of themselves and their colleagues to make the difference that matters.  The digital strategy is alive, when people make their work connect directly to the strategy and your ambitions.  It’s about how they operate and behave on a daily basis.

Invest in understanding the employee experience.  Build understanding of the journey that you are on, and tell the story of the change.  Be clear on the the route map that will guide, give confidence, and build momentum.  Then create the space for people to learn, connect, and make the difference for themselves.

You can put people at the centre of your digital transformation, and inspire, engage, and support your people to embrace and bring the strategy to life.  Here’s how you can involve your people in shaping a new employee experience that builds engagement and commitment:

  • Employee engagement is the key to building the commitment and ownership that connects people’s daily work to your business strategy.  Involve your people in building the future employee experience, shaping your vision, and enabling them to be inspired by seeing the possibilities and opportunities ahead;

  • Develop your leaders with the insights and people engagement skills to lead your people through a culture change.  Invest in leadership team working, so you can collectively own and deliver a complex fast-changing agenda that cuts across the business;

  • Look for the quick wins, the early projects that cut across the business, to signpost the new way of working.   Create a safe, risk-free, environment where people have the confidence to try working in a new way;

  • Be authentic with your people, speak honestly.  Be open to challenge, and create a safe environment where people can bring their issues and concerns into the open;

  • Invest in understanding the employee experience.  Build understanding of the journey that you are on, and tell the story of the change.  Be clear on the the route map that will guide, give confidence, and build momentum.  Then create the space for people to learn, connect, and make the difference for themselves.

Willson Hau