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Organisational change can make or break your digital journey

Recently, a joint study between Microsoft and IDC revealed digital transformation could add as much as $45 billion to Australia’s gross domestic product by 2021. With businesses in various sectors embracing new technologies such as artificial intelligence, the blockchain, or predictive analytics, it’s easy to see the ongoing and significant impact this digital spend will have on not just customers, but the economy overall.

When it comes to digital change, many organisations will choose to focus on external factors, like the positive ramifications on the industry, customers, or the economy. Organisations will also measure their digital success through business objectives such as the customer experience, or new revenue streams.

However, when it comes to digital transformation, the internal changes are just as crucial for the initiative to succeed. Internal changes should also be the focus of the positive impact of digital transformation.

Equipping a workforce with brand new skill sets, developing new employee behaviours, or rethinking the traditional organisational hierarchy and culture —these are essential ingredients to a company selling its digital transformation, not just to the wider industry and its customers, but to its people as well.

An organisational-wide onboarding

Digitally-native organisations, such as Amazon or Netflix, can make digital change look easy because this defined their very origins. They were able to redesign according to the changes in the digital realm and build from the ground up. It is traditional and long-established organisations that struggle to realise their digital transformation goals. Indeed, Forbes predicts that some 50 per cent of digital transformation journeys in the Forbes Global 2000 do not meet expectations.

This is where organisational change management for the digital era makes a huge difference. Digital transformation affects the entire business – it is not a ‘lift and shift’ approach to cloud or automation, for example. It impacts culture at a much deeper level.

In the onboarding process, it is vital to think beyond the C-Suite and take a more holistic approach to change management. Understanding that initiatives should be pioneered from the top-down is one thing, but implementing engagement and training processes for all employees, or leveraging internal collaboration tools such as Slack or Yammer, will ensure the best resources are allocated to help everyone feel involved.

Such activities will not only assist leaders in better understanding digital channels, but they will encourage an open and transparent culture, where everyone can feel they are a part of the digital change adoption.

Build digital talent from within

When approaching a change management initiative for digital, it is important to reassure and motivate employees about the role they can play. Not only is this important to encourage collaboration but this will also serve a however purpose: to reassure them of their future. With apocalyptic warnings about job losses due to automation and AI abounding, it is only natural that some employees could approach the digital pivot with scepticism or fear

The best way to combat fears of job losses due to AI is to grow digital talent from within the organisation, coupled with leveraging external support as needed. Incentivising the growth of digital skills, and providing engaging training regimes will motivate people through any uncertainties. Organisational leaders should seek to set clear digital goals and appraise, recognise, and reward employees who prove they are seeking to achieve these goals.

Implementing a digital culture at the outset will aid at growing digital talent internally. If people have the correct training, tools, and leadership to set the example, engagement levels will be well on the way to embracing a new digital style of working.

Bring the HR team in from the outset

The HR team will invariably play a crucial role in managing change during digital transformation. Not only will they be integral in seeking the additional talent needed to keep digital afloat, such as data scientists and design thinkers, but they will be a huge ally for shifting corporate values.

This is especially important because digital is not defined by any one department, meaning digital talent filters in at all sections across the organisation. Such a change in mentality can be overcome through empowering cross-department learning and resourcefulness, ultimately bringing together sectors of the business that should have always been aligned: sales, marketing, and product teams, each with unique digital capabilities. 

Forward-thinking HR executives will proactively champion digital change, as any competitive advantage to the business will also mean a new frontier in attracting great talent.

Organisational change will make or break digital success. Without the support of your most important assets – your employees – companies will find themselves one of the many who fails on their journey to digital change.

Article by Gaurav Sharma, Head of Industries ANZ, Cognizant