Skip to main content

All-aboard: putting employees at the heart of the digital transformation journey

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Wichy)

Having found the right people for the right jobs, most businesses understand the importance of keeping employees engaged to help ensure they remain motivated and productive.

Productivity and profitability go hand-in-hand, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that employee engagement surveys consistently show a direct correlation. Research shows that the most highly-engaged teams generate as much as 21 per cent more profitability.

However, as well as considering salary and benefits, it is equally important that organisations don’t overlook the other key components essential to job satisfaction – namely, the environment they create and the tools that their employees use to do their work.

This is especially true when it comes to the growing number of organisations embarking on digital transformation projects.

Many see digital transformation as a promise of shiny new technology. But it is much more than this. As the cost of supporting legacy IT structures escalates, transformation should be about more than updating technology; it should be about future-proofing the business. This could mean moving systems to the cloud, updating end-user devices, increasing automation, or all three, but whatever technology is implemented, it should contribute to improving agility within the business.

As appetite grows across industries for fresh digital business models offering the potential to improve efficiency, flexibility and customer experience, a worrying trend is emerging. This trend highlights that, when it comes to selecting and implementing these technology tools, the needs of the end user are often being overlooked.

The resulting lack of employee buy-in often means limited success for the project and – in some cases – digital transformation journeys coming to a premature end. 

Barriers to success

In a recent research project exploring digital transformation projects, almost all (96 per cent) respondents agreed that the needs of users were an important consideration in new technology investment. The research polled IT and finance decision makers across the retail, legal and financial services industries in the UK.

However, over one quarter (26 per cent) of organisations that had already embarked on a digital business transformation project reported that it had failed. This was due to a number of reasons, including lack of technology understanding in the business (51 per cent); choosing a solution that wasn’t fit for purpose (39 per cent); a lack of skills in the business (31 per cent) and budget constraints (23 per cent). Interestingly, one in 10 respondents also said the reason their project failed was because users didn’t embrace the technology. This finding highlights the importance of getting employee buy-in and support prior to digital transformation projects getting underway.

Getting employee buy-in

When it comes to the process of change, particularly in the digital arena, there are three key elements that organisations need to consider — people, processes and technology. Technology transformation isn’t just about the technology itself. Rather, it has an impact on the entire business, all of which needs to be considered when embarking on a transformation project.

So, while it’s tempting to merely focus on the technology that has the potential to deliver benefits to the business, it is the employees at the coalface that need to be considered from the outset. This is true regardless of what they do; from analysing data and processing information, to interacting with devices, applications and systems.

If the tools employees are using slow them down or stop them from carrying out the work they need to do, morale, as well as productivity, will suffer.

Success then depends largely on the users and ensuring the business can create a culture that will accept and support this change. 

Taking the journey together

With almost all business stakeholders in the research acknowledging the needs of user as important, it is not surprising that, when investing in new technology, 37 per cent of respondents were worried that staff wouldn’t use it. In addition, 41 per cent had concerns about making the wrong choice when it came to the actual technology and solutions.

There is a definite requirement for organisations to consult users from the very beginning of a project and consider them at every milestone along the way. This will be critical in the success of the project, from defining requirements, to formulating a roadmap for digital business transformation.

But these findings also highlight the need for organisations to work with the right technology partner that can support them throughout the entire journey. This includes providing consultancy and assistance around selecting the best products and solutions, meeting the requirements of users, and factoring in longer-term goals. The right partner can also play a pivotal role in the investment side of digital transformation; suggesting alternative potential funding models, such as subscription or as-a-service models, to help mitigate budget challenges.

As Richard Branson famously said; “Happy employees equal happy customers,” and this is certainly true when it comes to digital business transformation, with employee engagement and customer experience both serving as key indicators of a successful change.

Chris Labrey, MD, Econocom UK & Ireland