Debunking digital transformation and emphasising the employee experience

Research reveals that most digital transformation strategies fail, primarily because the employee experience and productivity is overlooked. Can a more people-centric approach improve digital transformation efforts?

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This is a contributed article by Toby Alcock, Chief Technology Officer, at Logicalis.

Digital transformation has become the buzzword of the decade. Despite the exponential increase in interest, however, over 79% of executives admitted they do not review internal processes or set objectives before a transformation process begins.

This has led to over 80% of digital transformation strategies failing for a range of reasons including lack of leadership, shared vision, and clarity of purpose. If executives can’t identify why they should embark on a digital transformation journey – what’s the point of anyone else going on the journey with them? In truth, digital transformation means nothing for an organisation without considering employees. The employee experience, and employee productivity, should be at the heart of a company’s business transformation and digitalisation.

Involve your employees One of the most overlooked elements in digital transformation is the role of training new employees, as well as providing ongoing professional support to existing ones - digitisation and digital transformation impact not just customers but employees too. By centring digital transformation on employee experience and engagement, organisations will create advocates for the business, creating positive experience for customers that will be much further reaching than just an updated IT infrastructure.

From ways of working, to evolving software, and new working practices, we’ve all experienced change during the pandemic. As some of the changes put in place become permanent rather than temporary, it’s critical to keep people focused on how we can all operate more effectively in the future, rather than looking back to the past.

The impact of optimising employees Increasing workforce engagement by reimagining the employee journey, empowering employees, and automating operations contributes positively to not only employee quality of life but also their performance and the overall customer experience.

In a Zensar survey, 53% of professionals believe their company’s digital transformation priorities are focused on how to increase profits instead of empowering employees. Additionally, most said their companies would benefit from employee empowerment via investments in IT.

Employee empowerment is a key point. Lack of proper technology tools can hinder productivity and kill morale. For example, the same survey found that 53% of surveyed employees said they would be more empowered to better manage workflow if they were provided with the necessary tools, and 42% said these tools would not only speed up boring tasks but also result in better worker morale.

The turning point for effective digital transformation

Nearly 80% of organisations implemented “quick-fix solutions” as a result of the pandemic, many of which have failed to stay on target or achieve their loosely defined goals.

These changes may have provided the “quick-fix” needed at the time but are mostly no longer fit for purpose. They are unlikely to truly consider employee experience, a holistic security approach or encourage innovation to name but a few issues.

All these challenges can be avoided, and proper, employee-first digital transformation journey adopted with the support and guidance of an expert partner. Just because short-term attempts at digital transformation failed, doesn't mean it will fail again, especially not with the correct approach.

Taking a human-centric approach

Digital transformation led by a human-centric approach emphasises the employee experience, enables optimisation, which drives productivity and business growth. Furthermore, employees gain access to the right tools and training which help them buy into the wider purpose/business objectives, and, from that, organisational efficiency follows.

A holistic human-centric approach to digital transformation should be based on the following principles:

  • Balance business productivity with employee wellbeing to get the best out of everyone
  • Provide a holistic view of the physical as well as the digital workplace and allow for the differences in environment
  • Break down geographical and hierarchical barriers to align business and employee vision and values through communication and collaboration
  • Foster creativity and encourage employee contribution by providing insights into activities and offering an open forum for innovation

By taking a human-centric approach to empowering employees through digital transformation businesses can empower employees and offer a range of benefits that work for both parties:

  • Employees are more likely to exhibit increased productivity with data-driven insights and digital tools to automate basic activities, so they can work in the way that best works for them
  • Businesses are likely to attract more top talent with younger generations more focused on careers in organisations which offer them a purpose and freedom to use the latest tools and tech
  • Reduction in turnover with more engaged, empowered employees who are more invested in the long-term success of the business
  • Improved customer experience with employees that are happy with their working environment and willing to provide above-and-beyond customer service

It’s important to note though that technology is only as efficient as you make it. Involve employees in the technology about to be adopted; is it right for them? Easy to use? Are there better options with a consumer-grade experience? When employees see tech as an asset that enables them and frees up their time, they become advocates and proactively contribute to business success and a better bottom-line.

Ultimately, businesses need to ensure they adopt a planned, strategic, and people-first approach to digital transformation, rather than just embarking on a course with no clear outcome and simply hoping for a positive outcome. The failure rate of transformations is incredibly high because the route to transformation is a surprisingly hard one to navigate. 

By auditing where the challenges lie, and involving employees in the process, organisations can create clear roadmaps that advance digital transformation with employee needs, and business goals, in mind. It’s all about developing a plan that maximises connection and collaboration while mitigating risks. It’s not an easy adventure, but it is worth it in the end.

Toby Alcock is the Chief Technology Officer for Logicalis. He has over 25 years’ experience in the technology industry. Alcock is obsessed about customer problems and how technology can help to build a solid foundation for your business’ digital transformation but only when empowering employees to harness that technology to drive results for customers.