How to lead staff through a transformational journey
Many people don't like change The reassuring comfort of routine and the status quo grounds many of us in our lives and changing the way that things have historically been done can feel both uncomfortable and unnecessary. Yet the combination of both technology’s rapid advancement and the pace of cultural shifts means that agility has become a prerequisite for survival. In today’s highly competitive environment, failure to evolve in the face of change will see businesses fall out of favour with their modern customer-base.
Embracing digital transformation
Digital transformation may seem to be confusing jargon on the face of things; little more than a buzzword that’s thrown about within the business community. Yet it’s terminology with genuine meaning and purpose: digital transformation is the strategic and carefully considered upheaval of outdated systems, processes, tools and techniques - all with the aim of ensuring that an organisation can thrive in the future. Of course, successful transformation takes more than simply deciding to change. The path ahead can be laden with pitfalls, but as American politician Frank A. Clark once famously remarked, "if you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.” As well as a solid strategy, senior management must make sure that staff are actively engaged and invested in the project every step of the way, and receive the necessary training and ongoing support that’s essential to success. Technology may be the solution, but true digital transformation hinges on behavioural change and buy-in from all corners of the business. A breakdown in communication or an internal reluctance to embrace new ways of working can lead to a digital transformation project going awry and the business suffering rather than prospering from the results.
Communicate a clear vision for success
Fear of change is an obvious hindrance to success. It’s only natural for employees, at any level, to be cautious about integrating new technology into every aspect of their work. Before a company can embark on a transformational IT project, leaders must prepare employees for the tidal wave of change that will sweep through the organisation - and explain the reasons why it’s essential. Employees are the backbone of every organisation; they must not only understand the need for transformation and the value of new technology-led solutions, but also be involved with the creation of a shared vision from the outset. Communicating a positive and ambitious vision for the company - one that has been collaboratively created by senior management and stakeholders alike - is an essential first step on the journey to successful digital transformation. Leaders must effectively demonstrate how digital transformation will enhance workflow efficiencies and, in turn, effectively improve the productivity and strategic success of the business in the long run. Securing valuable internal support for the project will mean that staff are more likely to be onboard with - and accepting of - the inevitable disruption, and eager to play a role in the implementation.
Empower employees from the beginning
The very point of digital transformation is to breathe new life into a business. Technology is the tool that allows a company, and its people, to become more agile and responsive. Naturally, any change in tech infrastructure can have cultural repercussions; staff will need to learn new skills and the company structure may look very different upon completion. Transparency is essential when it comes to keeping staff on side; involving them in the planning stage will help inform which areas of the business demand innovation. No employee should ever feel that digital transformation is an unwelcome change being forced upon them; instead, it should be an opportunity to improve ways of working and secure the future of the company. Empower your employees by encouraging them to be upfront on which practical changes they would like to see: after all, it’s your staff who will have the most hands-on relationship with the tech and who will be adopting new agile ways of working. Seeking input and opinions will also reassure employees that their perspective is of critical importance to the project’s success - in turn, engagement levels should rise as employees sense their contribution is valued by senior staff.
Break down barriers
One of digital transformation’s key advantages is its ability to overcome departmental silos; the invisible lines of division that all too often prevent staff from easily collaborating with one another. By giving your employees the tools to stay connected and access information with ease, a culture of collaboration will be forged - one that not only breaks down departmental barriers but also the obstacles that all too often come with age, seniority, and culture. With employees successfully engaged, it becomes easier to channel a challenger mindset and even think like a start-up once again - everyone can work together to solve problems as they arise, in real-time. When an organisation is truly digitally transformed, it no longer matters if staff are in the same department, the same building or even on the same continent. Yet while the use of technology is central to the journey, true transformation can only ultimately be achieved with people at the centre. Communicating a clear vision, managing expectations and supporting staff through a period of transition is the key to cultivating a culture of empowered staff, ready and willing to embrace new possibilities and look positively to what the future holds. Great Western Credit Union underwent a long-term transformation and by putting people first, were able to expand its reach and deliver a fast and efficient service offering to its members.