Digital Transformation and Your Employees — 5 Facts to Know

Digital transformation, the steady process of taking long-established business practices and rendering them more efficient and cost-effective through the implementation of digital technology, is arguably still in its infancy — as shocking a notion as that may be.

While it may feel as though the internet and advanced computers have been around forever, the entire period so far constitutes a very short chapter in human history. This goes some way to explain why there are still plenty of companies out there with no digital strategies underpinning their efforts.

But if you run a business, you must commit to digital transformation, making it a fundamental priority. It isn’t something to be pursued in isolation, though. It must be shared with your employees — in fact, it should revolve around them. Why, you might ask? Here are 5 facts that should shed some light on the matter:

Even the best employees need direction, and if their leaders fail to steer them accordingly, much of their potential will go to waste. While ~20% isn’t such a great proportion, think about all those surveyed who simply weren’t comfortable with openly speaking out against their leaders. How likely is it that the actual percentage is significantly higher than this one?

Your responsibility to your employees, then, is to have a clear idea of what you expect from all of them. Understand their needs, and their strengths and weaknesses, then use that information to create action plans that they can all reasonably follow. Additionally, share your vision for the future. If you plan to overhaul the company within five years, let your employees know so they can adjust their workloads and commitments accordingly.

Digital maturity isn’t about the changes you’ve made, or even how your business operates: it’s about your business being positioned to change with the times, adapting to shifts in the digital landscape and embracing new methods and technologies (consider the rise of the paperless office). Flexibility is arguably more important than capability at this point in time: who knows how differently the average business will function just a decade from now?

That only 28% of surveyed companies planned to invest in structure and people to improve in this area is a great indictment of the general level of awareness in the importance of digital adaptation. On the other hand, it also presents a golden opportunity to the forward-thinking employer: if you start investing in digital maturity right now, you can soon build an advantage over 70% of your competitors.

The downside of operating a business at great size is that you inevitably move more slowly than a comparable startup. There are two main reasons for this: every decision will need to be vetted and approved by more people, creating a major operational lag, and there will be less of a practical need to innovate, ensuring that employees are given less creative freedom.

But moving slowly doesn’t mean you need to plan slowly, so it’s a mistake for enterprise businesses to delay devising digital strategies — yet they clearly do, with 17% more startups than enterprises being prepared for the future. Whether your business is a startup or an established business, prioritize bringing your team together to outline a clear digital strategy to get you through the coming years.

The field of big data analysis continues to rise in performance for the broader business world. Complexity keeps scaling up, and there’s far too much information being gathered for people to sort and analyze it manually — you need to be using smart data analysis solutions, with skilled professionals providing the necessary oversight and configuration.

Though it may seem like a low percentage, 27% of surveyed companies citing skill gaps as significant obstacles seems about right to me, because plenty of companies have yet to consider pursuing data initiatives, let alone attempt it. When you truly commit to implementing big data methods, you quickly discover that there’s no beginner-friendly approach: you need workers with high-level digital skills to make the most of them.

Consider setting aside a few days every so often to run impromptu training camps. Gather all your employees around, and push them in useful directions that suit their roles. A member of a sales team would benefit from learning how CRMs work, getting to grips with popular ecommerce platform and experimenting with advanced Google Analytics. A content marketer, on the other hand, would learn a lot from trying social media software and picking up graphic design tools like Stencil or Pablo. And remember the importance of knowledge transfer: the steady sharing of knowledge and skills between your employees using bridge teams to transfer knowledge.

In principle, one of the central benefits of digital transformation is that it can bring fundamental efficiency improvements, but you don’t need to accept it on that basis — you can look to testimony from organizations that have invested in digital transformation, because 32% of surveyed organizations noted that their efforts gave rise to greater efficiency.

Assuming you recognize that your company could be more efficient, you have every reason to believe that making digital transformation a part of your culture — through investing in training courses, project management tools, and new hardware — is the key to improvement.

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