Culture and human resources in digital transformation

An organisation’s culture plays a vital role in the digital transformation of a business. It can accentuate or alleviate the digital friction experienced during organisational change. Successful digital transformation is not just about adopting digital technologies or replacing traditional ways of doing business, it means changing the way people work. People will find the pace of change challenging and will be required to adjust their behaviour to match a fundamental shift in customer expectations.

Building an organisational culture for a successful adoption of digital technologies, requires everyone in the organisation, from leaders to frontline staff, to be prepared to work in an open and transparent way. It’s hard for an organisation to undergo digital transformation if the culture is one built around silos. In cases like these, cultural change would need to be addressed before the transformation process could begin.

The first step that an organisation can take to change its culture is to understand the impact digital technologies will have on its people. Establishing a base position will help to identify the action needed to ensure everyone is equipped to embrace the new direction. The organisation will need to promote an environment that encourages collaboration and streamlined communication. With management regularly communicating the value gained from digital transformation, as well as clearly identifying the role each person will play. Effective communication will help employees adopt and integrate changes into their role, and make them feel included and valued by the business. An organisation undergoing digital transformation will want to include the current staff in the process and avoid the cost and time required to find and train a new workforce.

Skills for Digital Transformation

As digital technologies become the driving force in the economy in the decades to come, it would be disastrous if a business lacked the necessary skills and resources to participate in the digital economy. Brought about by the evolution of new digital technologies, such as connected media, predictive analytics, social media, and cloud mobility, businesses will need to develop, buy-in or acquire the skills necessary to implement and manage a growing number of digital channels.

IT Infrastructure: In a report published by Gartner, it was revealed that there will be more than 25 billion connected devices owned by individuals by the year 2020. The report also predicted that they will be able to sense, communicate and understand the customers behaviour. But to facilitate this incredible future, the new digital enterprise will need to have a robust IT framework in place to manage the emerging digital technologies. This would include:

  • Enterprise storage that will help companies capture, store and retrieve data,
  • enterprise computing that will help companies accumulate and compute data from a vast number of connected devices,
  • networking technologies that will enhance companies’ networking capabilities, or have the ability to receive and process large amounts of data in real time,
  • security systems that not just identify, classify and remove threats but also maintain the integrity of the information and data.

Digital Talent: There is no doubt that people are the most valuable assets in almost every business. However, it’s essential a business acquires the right digital talent. In fact, people with the right digital skillset are more important than having cheap and accessible technology. With the right digital talent, businesses can make better use of cutting-edge technology. The right digital skills are required to:

  1. collect and sort through vast amounts of information,
  2. appropriately analyse and make sense of the collected information,
  3. accurately predict customer preference and demand,
  4. advise how to turn those insights into business strategy!

Soft skill-sets will play a huge role in the digital transformation process. The ability to accept change, adapt to the change and continuously learn are going to be some of the mandatory skills people will need. When addressing this, it is important companies start to deploy dynamic and innovative HR strategies to help attract and keep the right employees.

Managers and business leaders need to consider how technology will affect current employee sentiment. There is a need to conduct the necessary internal research to monitor how people are dealing with change. The organisation needs to promote and nurture open conversations, whether they be online or in person so that everyone has an opportunity to be part of the solution and consider themselves valued partners in the digital transformation process.

Digital transformation is changing the role of human resources

People with the necessary digital skills are under considerable pressure to perform. Human resource professionals need to get their heads around digital, and understand the challenges faced by each and every employee. They need to implement collaborative change management methods and systems to monitor employee health and well-being, before and after each digital transformation milestone.

With digital transformation, comes significant change to traditional processes and this means re-skilling. One of the key challenges human resources will face is understanding what skill sets are going to be relevant, and how these new roles will be filled with the limited supply of digital talent.

The first choice and the most cost effective is to up skill employees and make the most of the existing talent pool. Organisations can initiate training programs on digital tools, look for innovative recruitment methods, and can even carry out targeted acquisitions by perusing partnerships with technology companies to accelerate knowledge transfer.

There are several successful examples of companies that have partnered with other companies to foster innovation and cross-pollination of digital skills. One such example is that of Proctor & Gamble (P&G). To increase its Internet marketing initiatives and to scale up the digital skills of its employees, the company started an employee exchange programme with tech-giant Google. As a part of the plan, employees from both these companies took part in each other’s training programs and attended meetings. The result was that P&G gained expertise in digital and search marketing, which helped it market and sell its products on the Internet.

There is no doubt that people management will be both challenging and critical in a new digital economy. With an ageing and limited skilled workforce, it will require both innovation and time to see the transformation through.