Why The Human Aspect is Fundamental to Digital Transformation

August 24, 2020

The recent pandemic has laid bare the ever-increasing need for a more human-focused approach to the ongoing digital transformation in business. Steadily, organizations are becoming more aware of how important workplace culture and employee well-being is to ensure productivity and results.

Unfortunately, many companies still fail to realize the gravity of this critical component. Even worse, many who understand its importance do not have the experience or ability to execute improvements in this area.

Going forward, how well an organization responds to these human needs will be directly tied to its organizational outcomes.

Digital Solutions For Human Problems

A key concept about technology that often gets lost in the day-to-day is that it is supposed to allow people to do more with less. Having worked with digital business solutions for a long time, I have seen this play out countless times.

Organizations have a habit of failing to consider how digital transformation will impact their entire workforce. In effect, they are allowing the tools they are acquiring to use them instead of the other way around.

Moreover, specific employee needs are treated as an afterthought rather than the driving force of the transformation. Even if most employees are on board to adopt new technology, there will always be laggards and unless you address their needs, you will create an ever-bigger gap between the two groups.

Another recurring problem is companies that see digital transformation as a one-time process with a fixed start and end date that will produce easily measured results. This almost assures failure.

At this point in the world of business and beyond, digital transformation is an existential imperative for any organization that aims to be competitive on the world stage. Automating a single procedure or channel not only does little to improve performance, but it also contributes to a false sense that the organization is keeping up with technological transformation.

This fallacy can lead and has led to numerous failed implementations, bad customer experiences, and stalled projects.

The Failed Promise – Challenges to Effective Digital Transformation

The premise of digital transformation, roughly, states that the more digital solutions a business implements, the more efficient it will be. At least, that is what many business leaders seem to think.

In reality, unless the knowledge and motivation to use those solutions are packaged into the deal, there is no benefit to their supposed implementation. Put another way, if you are missing the human perspective, no amount of technology solutions will help you.

This is the most common area where organizations need guidance, and it is no surprise. The challenges to successfully integrate and enable the human element are many.

1. Speed

From regulation to customer use patterns, everything about the environment your business operates in is changing fast. Keeping up with those changes, and staying ahead of those who cannot, becomes an overriding mission for many companies. But your people can only adapt so quickly, and in the rush to keep up, you risk leaving behind the very people who have gotten you this far.

Some organizations lull themselves into a false sense of accomplishment by investing in a digital course or training here and there. As noted before, this approach is not only insufficient, it’s detrimental to long-term growth. The only way to truly align your workforce with the need to adapt at a breakneck pace is through continuous and cohesive development and training with a human-focused approach.

2. Employee Pushback

It is worth reiterating that people are the drivers of your organization – not technology. However, while people should direct your decisions and goals, they can often be the reason those goals fail.

For any digital transformation project (and indeed any project in general) to be successful, it needs to have employee buy-in. With digital transformation, in particular, you will have to deal with employees who feel threatened by the changes. Effectively dealing with this pushback is going to directly relate to how well you manage to implement a transformative change.

3. Company Culture

A lot of the time, you will find yourself trying to implement transformative changes that do not align with your company’s established culture. As a trivial example, even something as simple as going from cash-only to using a point-of-sale system can have a ripple effect on a small business if the culture revolves around the personal interaction with customers.

Making sure you adopt a culture of continuous change and transformation will help you avoid this obstacle in the future. Ask yourself if the company’s vision aligns with its goals now and how those goals will evolve in the future.

The Role of Leadership in Human-Focused Digital Transformation

While it is a wonderful vision to imagine change happening in an organization from the bottom up with employee buy-in at every stage of the journey, the reality is quite different. Most organizational change is a top-down process and the most important participants in that change are corporate leaders.

Almost as a rule, people like to have a clear view of where they are headed and a predictable path to get there. It is a leader’s primary directive to ensure a team has a common direction and clearly understands what that direction is. And there are many ways to achieve that:

1. Communication

It became acutely apparent during the recent crisis how poor communication has the potential to dismantle an entire project. Leaders should be trained to facilitate clear and effective communication. A common problem that many organizations face is the illusion of communication without any real exchange happening, and leaders should be able to address that.

2. Training

As established, continuous training is a linchpin of human-focused digital transformation. Without it, an organization runs the risk of piling one bad implementation on top of another without any real results. Leaders carry the responsibility of introducing employees to best practices, fomenting good work-life balance, and training their teams to work better both with each other and individually. 

3. Personal Development

In addition to training in hard skills, one of the most important investments that any organization can make is in developing soft skills in their employees. It would be remiss of leaders to expect team members to self-educate without providing the guidance and support necessary to achieve that. Availing your team with the tools necessary to develop and rise to new challenges is one of the most important investments leaders can make.

Key Takeaways

Adopting a human-focused approach to digital transformation is a mandatory element in today’s business environment.

To do so effectively, organizations need to develop and implement strategies to deal with the most pressing challenges to this approach. Namely, the speed with which they are expected to change; dealing with employee pushback; and ensuring a future-oriented company culture.

Business leaders carry the largest onus in this paradigm shift, and it is with them that the real work resides.

What are you doing to address the human aspect in your organization’s digital transformation?

Contact us at Henrico Digital – we are happy to help you when you want to embrace digital future with higher employee involvement and achieve better performance by delivering real customer-centricity in your digital transformation process.

Anne Riihimäki

Anne Riihimäki is an enthusiastic and highly experienced Senior Consultant at Henrico, a Nordic Digital Business Agency, with over 20 years of experience across strategic and operational roles in Sales, Marketing and Business Development.

Holding a master’s degree in Economics, she has worked with strong, international brands in a variety of industries, including Accenture, Reader’s Digest, Telia Company and European Dynamics S.A. Anne has broad experience in digital business and ICT & telecoms and has a passion for inspiring and motivating businesses on how to leverage human approach in digital transformation. Anne firmly believes that human approach and customer orientation – though many times overlooked and misunderstood – are integral to achieving lasting commercial success in every business sector, especially in digital transformation processes.



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