6 Ways to Gain Commitment for Your Digital Transformation Projects

In light of the global pandemic and its influence on how employees work and managers lead, digital transformation has added importance. In a recent survey from the Boston Consulting Group, 80% of business leaders say digital transformation is more urgent today than before. Digital transformation projects introduce significant change to the organization. Those changes hit employees the hardest. In a time with so much uncertainty, gaining commitment to change is more challenging than ever.

Why Transformation Is So Hard

Change threatens what’s familiar. The brain perceives change as a threat. It triggers the fight or flight response. It’s human. It’s unavoidable. However, reactions to change can, well, change.

Another reason transformation is so hard is that companies are awful at it. Poorly planned change efforts are all too common. Some research suggests that 70% of change efforts fail to yield the intended business results. The number has been debated. Whatever the number might be, companies have trained the workforce to groan when something new is rolled out.

The biggest culprit that prevents commitment to any change efforts is this: forcing the change on people. Nobody likes to be made to do something different. What’s worse, nobody wants to do something different and not understand why the change is considered necessary.

When executives fail to understand the human response to change, they introduce waste into the organization: money, time, and momentum.

Tips for Gaining Commitment to Digital Transformation Efforts

The adaptable company understands that change is possible by tapping into the human element. And with change linked to digital transformation, a human-centered approach is best. After all, AI, automation, and robots are believed to replace workers. Regardless of how true this may be for your company, the fear is real.

Human-centered change takes into account the basic needs that we all crave. Think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: safety, belonging, respect, recognition, purpose, for example. Leverage these needs to shape how your organization implements digital transformation projects.

Educate the workforce on the new technologies. The workforce most likely has misconceptions about digital transformation. So, hold information sessions to learn about what and how the new tech will be used. Be transparent about the implications for the workforce. If you don’t know, then say that. In the absence of accurate information, misinformation will dominate the rumor mill. This will undermine your momentum and adversely impact morale.

 Make people part of the change process. Early in your project, hold intimate conversations with departments that would be most impacted by the transformation. Share why the changes are necessary. Listen to their concerns. Be open to their ideas of success, too. Have the affected employees give input on how their jobs will look. Have these interactions throughout the change effort. Also, have employees help shape new processes that will be needed as a result of the automation.

Upskill your management ranks. From the c-suite down to middle-management, people leaders must learn how to lead change, be empathetic, collaborate, and listen for starters. These foundational skills will help managers effectively respond to the negative stigmas associated with AI, automation, and robots.

Upskill your employee workforce, too. For non-managers upskilling their foundational skillsets is equally as important. What’s more, companies need to hire and train employees to augment AI with human analytics. It is also essential to prepare the workforce to do more complicated project work that robots and automation cannot do.

Maintain transparent communication practices. Inevitably there will be difficult information to share. Don’t placate employees by glossing over the truth. When adults are treated like adults, they’ll surprise you in positive ways. Treat your employees with the respect they deserve. They’ll return it in kind.

Integrate the company’s purpose into the change narrative. Today’s workforce wants more than equitable pay and good benefits. They also want meaningful work. They want to be useful. It is in our nature to want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Purpose, or a company’s why, should be integrated into how executives talk about integrating technologies like AI or adding robots to do certain types of work. When conveyed authentically, a bigger picture shaped by a better future can motivate the workforce to want to be part of the transformation.

Digital transformation is a human effort. When done correctly, the change effectively integrates technology and the human element. To be specific, it is a delicate balance that will cause some to leave the company. However, digitally transforming how the company operates doesn’t need to be a company storyline misconstrued to be bad for the workforce and good for business.

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About the Author

Shawn Murphy
Shawn Murphy
Director of Organizational Behavior, Bluescape
Shawn is our Director of Organizational Behavior and Workplace Trends. His second book, Work Tribes is out now. Shawn's first book, The Optimistic Workplace is out now. Inc. has listed him twice as one of the top leadership speakers in America.

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