Change management to ensure successful digital transformations
Transformation is a multi-faceted challenge, affecting businesses’ structures, cultures and employees. 70% of digital transformation projects, however, do not achieve their goals, which has been attributed to lacking change management resulting in workforce resistance (4). Soley technology-driven projects will not bring about the internal change needed for success; employees must be at the forefront of digital transformation efforts in order for projects to bring value to businesses. Incorporating a strategy to ensuring that your workforce is on-board with change within digital transformation can even increase your chances of success by 30% (4), so despite the challenge of planning for human behavior, it can be a worthwhile exercise to secure transformational success (9).
As COVID has accelerated digital adoption by several years (11), now more than ever it is critical that businesses ensure that digital transformations are a success to remain competitive in the digital market. It is more important than ever, therefore, to ensure that your employees are adopting change.
Successful transformations are challenging because change is commonly met with resistance and skepticism (5)(6)(7). Problems intensify when this natural opposition is not tackled with clear communication. Without absolute clarity regarding the nature and consequences of change, employees are left to fill the gaps with interpretation and speculation, and, if employees do not feel that the assumed changes resonate with them, this could increase employee attrition (9).
A critical fear, for instance, which must be addressed transparently is that of job security. It should be assumed that employees may fear that transformation will threaten their employment (7), rather than produce opportunities for personal development. These types of assumptions will foster resistance to change and digital adoption (5).
The resulting fallout for companies could be missed deadlines, increased costs of implementing digital innovation, decreased ROIs from employees’ rejection of change (9), or ultimately, failure to transform and remain competitive.
Actions to Take
Successful transformation, therefore, involves a both a digital solution and a considered approach to internal communication, combining both new technology and your people. In order to improve change management, this combined strategy for digital transformation should provide:
A robust approach
Creation of digital champions
Robust Approach: Creating a solution
Digital transformation is not the same for all companies, and therefore, although elements of each solution may be similar, a solution that works for one business may not be effective for another. This requires companies to create a bespoke solution, often incorporating key elements including but not limited to:
Buy in (the involvement in creating the solution)
Roll out (sequence of priority in who first receives the solution)
Plan (how to phase out the old system)
Clarity (establishing people’s roles in the transformation)
Awareness (how to bring ideas back into the project from disconnected teams and establish communication channels)
Responsibility (establishing who is responsible for what)
Working on a bespoke solution enables you to identify, for your company, which are the priorities for making your solution work for your business. In order for this solution to be effectively implemented, though, it is critical that all employees across the company share a correct vision and an optimistic outlook on the transformation that allows then to drive the technology (7). It is helpful to have leaders clearly articulating this vision in a way that appeals to the workforce, without the use of jargon, ensuring clear and empathetic communication, and to encourage buy-in from employees to establish a shared sense of ownership (9).
Transparent Communication: Internal strategy
To avoid anxieties stemming from confusion, uncertainty and miscommunication, employees across all levels of the company should be provided with a clear understanding of the impacts and constraints of the transformation on people, technology, and processes (10). As honesty builds trust, leaders should be prepared to answer tough questions about topics such as head count (8), but communication should also make clear the benefits that transformation will have, on both the individual employees, as well as for the company (7). Transparency will allow employees to better understand and feel comfortable with their new role in the new strategy.
Buy-in: Taking ownership
Your workforce is critical to the success of your transformation, so it is important to engage them throughout the process (1). Employees are more likely to adopt digital transformation if they are involved and can create a sense of ownership over the project and are assigned responsibilities.
Sense of ownership can be cultivated by involving employees in the process of creating and implementing digital transformations and encourages employees to generate ideas and feedback to improve the solution (3)(4). This will enhance the enthusiasm of the workforce, increasing the likelihood of digital adoption. It can also help build a culture of positive change, where you employees willingly question current systems (3), which can help your company adapt to new innovations and remain competitive in future. Allowing employees the freedom to generate ideas about the direction of digital transformation makes businesses 1.4 times more likely to achieve transformational success (3).
Success may also arise by giving responsibility to employees. Employees should be encouraged to align their strengths to the goals of transformation, encouraging them to take responsibility for the way the transformation is implemented (5). Ensuring that employees have goals that align with the transformation, and are provided with accountability for their work, both individually and within a team, and praise for when they reach their goals, can increase chances of successful outcomes during digital transformation (8)(2)(3).
Digital Champions: Mitigating resistance
It could be valuable for companies to identify key team members who could lead or champion digital transformation. This may allow potential resistors to change to become digital champions by incorporating them into the solution (7)(8), in turn building a culture of digital adoption within their teams. This will, again, involve transparent communication and trust (7).
People are at the heart of your work, so they should be at the heart of your digital adoption strategy. By finding a bespoke solution that fits the needs of your company, and encouraging transparent communication and ownership, your employees can be a vital tool in driving a successful digital transformation, increasing your likelihood of success by 30% (4).
If you are planning to undertake a transformation or are actively engaged in a transformation journey, have a look at our readiness assessment tool here to evaluate your current state and the transformation success blueprint for a step-by-step guide to ensure you have a solution that suits your requirements.
Wondering how to create the perfect solution for your business, how we can help you to manage internal strategies and communication or how your organisation might benefit? Schedule a call with one of our consultants to discuss how our AFFIX-3 Discovery process can help guide your business through a successful transformation.