Blog | Placing people at the forefront of digital transformation

Placing people at the forefront of digital transformation

Digital Transformation is a very misleading term. It is simply a common term used for the implementation of technology and whilst implementing technology is nothing without the people, most clients we work with only establish this when it’s too late. They come to us when the technology has been implemented, and they wonder why it’s not been adopted or used as it should.

Digital Transformation is more about people transformation. We need to help people understand the context of why they should use technology and why will it benefit them. Only then will they begin to use it and in the way it was intended.

What would happen if we removed the HR function from your organisation? I’m less interested in what you think, but more interested in what the people outside of HR think. I bet you’d be disappointed with the result, you’re likely to hear a very selfish view of what individuals get from it:

“I wouldn’t get paid”

“I wouldn’t get any perks”

“I wouldn’t get my holiday days sorted”

Whilst we know HR does much more than this, what is its actual value to any given business? How much do you demonstrate the value HR is adding, not just saving? HR can be seen as a commercial differentiator to any business, not just the easiest function to lose headcount when times get tough. Marketing, finance, commercial. Remove these departments from a business and it won’t make as much money, they have a proven track record of demonstrating a commercial benefit and HR needs to be the same.

The great news is, it’s not difficult. Most things HR does for a business adds value, it’s just very rare that anyone is asked to demonstrate it in a way that presents a commercial benefit rather than just a people one.

Digital Transformation provides HR with a great opportunity for us to prove and demonstrate the commercial impact people can have. And of course, HR should be at the heart of that. Digital Transformation is a key workstream in many organisations, of course if it’s not, they’ve probably gone bust by now. For example, retail is littered with companies who haven’t embraced digital; from Woolworths to House of Fraser to Maplin, they all stood still in a rapidly changing world.

But calling it Digital Transformation is very misleading, it is simply a common term used for the implementation of technology. Whilst implementing technology is nothing without the people, most clients we work with only establish this when it’s too late. They come to us when the technology has been implemented, and they wonder why it’s not been adopted or being used as it should. Digital Transformation is more about people transformation. We need to help people understand the context of why they should use technology and why will it benefit them. Only then will they begin to use it in the way it was intended.

People don’t like change, we need to help them through the process. Just launching a new app, subscription or device to a workforce rarely changes how they work. They just adapt their current way of working to the new technology, if they decide to use it at all.

So what do people need as part of Digital Transformation? Well they need digital skills, and this is true of almost every person in every role, but they also need the skills to be successful in a digital world. These skills extend beyond a knowledge of a technology to having a the right mindset to apply the skills and in turn demonstrate behaviour. Often dubbed a ‘Digital Mindset’.

One frequently asked for attribute of a ‘Digital Mindset’ is collaboration. Having been in several organisations where Office 365 has been launched, I have seen varying levels of collaboration going on, despite it being one of the key reason Office 365 is adopted. Early adopters really are keen to use it, but put them in a team or a group that doesn’t use it this keenness can soon fizzle out.

“If you have a mindset that the point of your initial contributions is to get better and get feedback, and you’re framing your work as contributions, then you’ll be more likely to avoid the fate of most people who start contributing and give up.”

This quote from John Stepper’s book ‘Working Out Loud: For a better career and life’ is a great example of what we need to achieve as part of a digital transformation programme. We need to change people’s mindset to be more collaborative and work out loud for the benefit of everyone.

That’s what we do.

Our Experian style tool for your ‘work self’ provides individuals with a digital mindset score allowing you and them to see where they are in preparation for a digital workplace. Our measurement tool uses self efficacy to enable people to see where they are, but more importantly how they are changing over time. This is not a Myers Brigg test for a digital age. This is a way of giving your people the ability to see where they need to improve and where they have improved over time.

We know through platforms such as Experian, Noom and Thread for Men that people love giving their data to receive a personalised experience. And that’s what our technology does, it provides insight into oneself and how ready they are for the future of work making recommendations and providing support to get to where they need to be.

We approach this in a very methodical way. For every programme, we use control groups and we link our people data to business metrics. It may sounds simple, but is something often overlooked in HR. Having worked in a few large corporate HR functions I’ve been luckily enough to work with some amazing Data Analysts, unfortunately they don’t stay around for long as they are charged with ‘cleaning up’ the people data for an organisation. Taking data from various different platforms and combining it, only to find that the data is very ‘dirty’ and almost unusable. All this takes time and effort, in an area an analyst doesn’t really want to work in. Sure, employ some to clean your data, but make sure it doesn’t get mixed in with the analysis of said data.

The really cool thing is when we take this data and combine it with business metrics, and compare it with a control group, we can show businesses what it could mean to them if they don’t consider people transformation as part of their digital transformation programme. We use our data to help HR have conversations with the rest of the business about how much value they could add and have added.

Our Digital Drag Calculator takes the data from our recent client projects and can be used as a tool to work out where the pains and gains are for the people part of digital transformation.

This is just an example, but how powerful would this conversation be with your stakeholders?

If you take this approach to everything HR does. It becomes an indispensable part of a business because of what it does for its people and the commercial impact it has. So if I were to ask you the question again in a year:

What would happen if we removed the HR function from your organisation?

I would hope that the conversation would be very different.

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