Young bearded man communicates via video call with colleagues, as he sits at the creative modern office space.
PHOTO: Kateryna

When it comes to change in society, business, or culture, there’s always been a resistance. It causes businesses to stay behind the rest.

Well, change is the only constant. Currently, the world has been going through a change: digitization, aka digital transformation. This is not only about copying hard paper books into the form of information on computers. The bigger aspect of digitization is redefining customer experience and employee experience. Note, customer experience is a driving factor which is not possible to achieve without equally strong employee experience. It is employees who make your digital transformation to succeed.

According to Deloitte, “Digital transformation is all about becoming a digital enterprise — an organization that uses technology to continuously evolve all aspects of its business models (what it offers, how it interacts with customers, and how it operates).”

How Do Your Employees Perceive Digital Transformation?

It requires an intricate understanding of how your employees perceive digital transformation. A good understanding of the company’s culture and a holistic driving force with a vision to provide great customer experience are the constraints.

Digital transformation is about the synchronization of internal and external processes with the help of advanced technology that caters to providing the best digital experience to customers. Although rooted in technology, digital transformation thrives in a culture that supports it, in the hands of people who execute it, and in the mind of business leaders who envision it.

With the “digital-first” world coming to reality years ahead of predicted, customer expectations are soaring beyond limits. It is just not about the look-and-feel of your company’s website anymore. Hence, the transformation has to start internally and operate centrally for external experiences to prosper. No part of the business should be left behind, and the vision must be well communicated to the employees of the enterprise. For a business running in public view, every facet is on display. Online reviews, influencer photos, blogs and videos, employees' experiences, digital features, social media presence, etc. have put every business on a world dais for constant judgment; as it is their good word that contributes to make or break the image of your business. Employees should be ambassadors of change and willing to see the shift as a positive occurrence.

In a transition state, adopting a digital-first mindset is more imperative than introducing new software or technology. Hence, reshaping an organization's culture can only change the way a business operates and delivers value to its customers. This is never easy and probably the reason why most business models never get translated into reality. The intensity of such transformation depends on the ambition of the business leaders and is outcome-based. But the start has to originate from the ground level. The people who define the company’s culture must be placed at the center of the digital transformation process.

Related Article: 4 Steps to Start Connecting Customer Experience and Employee Experience Insights

Optimizing Digitalization by Focusing on Employee Experience

The journey of digital transformation starts with the employee. This is not a hypothesis, but a fact based on the many examples of successful businesses. But change is frightening for employees who are accustomed to the good old ways. Like the evolution of digital media from newspapers, 30% of all journalism jobs were lost in Canada since 2010.

Those statistics alone are enough to create a sense of insecurity in the workplace between the employees. Such a mindset resists change and creates friction between the workforce and top management. Companies need to evolve organizational culture for digital transformation to flourish. It requires the right approach towards empowering, engaging and inspiring employees by C-suite executives to bring a positive shift.

Three Ways to Align Employees' Goals With Your Business

Although this is easier said than done, there are some foolproof ways to align your employees' goals with the organization:

1. Empower With Digital skills

Often the sense of insecurity arises from the inability to understand and cope with the new ways of working. In the climate of growth, there must be no place for self-doubt. Every employee should be engaged in the transformation process and must upgrade their skills to get more aligned with the digital way of working. Companies that make investments toward building digital skills for their employees can reduce the gap between existing capabilities. Beauty cosmetics giant L’Oréal Paris made a significant investment in training its employees by hiring digital training specialists. They built an internal online learning platform focused on digital marketing to train its global marketing employees.

Telecom company AT&T identified that many of its legacy businesses were on the path to becoming obsolete. The company envisioned a radical change with futuristic digital technologies. They also adopted a grand scheme to re-educate employees in very different jobs in the areas of data science and analytics, coding, digital marketing and networking. In 2016, AT&T filled more than 40% of job postings with internal candidates. At least 50% of its workforce is undergoing training programs and online courses that prepare them for new jobs in the coming days.

2. Preach With Digital Agents

Change must be administered by ambassadors who can preach to others the long-term benefits of the transformation and counsel against negative sentiments. By assigning digital ambassadors or representatives, companies can show others that the change is not a risk and also encourage employees to embrace the new working patterns. Digital agents should be recruited as representatives for the employees. Management has to influence their mindset and make them the ambassadors of the company’s vision. The employees can relate to these representatives as they are one among them.

Nestle made use of a digital acceleration team that hosted top talents from various offices to be the change representatives. The objective was to develop their digital expertise and send them back to local markets.

3. Measure With Digital KPIs

The key to bring cultural change in employee mindset is by aligning KPIs with digital transformation strategy. Companies often fail to align their compensation structure to the transformational objective rather than measure performance based on the traditional KPIs. Evaluation based on traditional KPIs will set up your employees for failure and create more resistance to transformation. Instead of measuring performance based on success and failure, companies must set up new digital KPIs based on positive digital behavior.

Companies need to change their measurement program to mirror transformational values. Greater alignment between the team can be brought about by revising the performance framework and driving individual incentives.

Related Article: Digital Transformation Isn't Just a Technology Issue, It's a Business Issue

Why Every Employee Counts in Digital Transformation

When thinking of digital transformation, every employee counts. While digital transformation is a vision to change company operations, companies should have a goal to achieve Operational Excellence (OpEx). Again, that comes down to employees, who run day-to-day operations to keep the business alive. Disengagement between a company’s vision of digital transformation and employees' mindset in performing daily activities can defeat the purpose of digitization. Top leadership and C-Suite executives need to translate their broader digital vision into tangible business outcomes to which the employees can relate and be held accountable. This will help them in incorporating such changes into their day-to-day activities.

Technology can reap maximum ROI only if companies have the right employee culture to embrace digital transformation. More importantly, digital transformation is a process of the evolution of culture in a company and can only be sustained with operational excellence both internally and externally.

While there are different types of trends in the digital age, only some of them are inevitable. Companies have to continuously innovate to adapt to changing demands of the customer. There must be a feedback loop and data sharing through which companies can gain more insight into customers’ needs.

The bottom line is to always create an awesome digital experience focused on customers but keeping employees in the center of your corporate equilibrium.