Digital transformation is a phrase that has dominated the business landscape for more than a decade. We now find ourselves amid an evolution where new technology is enabling organisations – of every size and across every sector – to fundamentally reimagine the way that they work. Whether it's through improving internal processes, managing workloads more efficiently, or interacting with customers and clients differently, there's no denying the obvious impact digital transformation has had on companies large and small.
In our technology-driven era, embracing a digitally-led approach is no longer optional. Businesses that fall behind will lose revenue to more agile, forward-thinking competitors. And, with recent research revealing that one in 10 UK businesses plan on spending more than £100k on digital transformation in the next two years alone, it's clear that this a topic that won't be falling off the boardroom agenda anytime soon.
However, whilst modern technologies have the power to relieve administrative pressures, improve working processes, and increase productivity, for employees the thought of having to adapt to a new way of working and get to grips with new digital processes can be daunting.
This is where HR departments come in. When implementing new technologies, they must be accepted by all members of staff. But how can businesses make change a source of inspiration, rather than a cause for concern?
A natural reaction
We've all heard the saying 'there's no progress without change.' And it's true; change is necessary sometimes - especially in the business landscape. But that doesn't make it easy.
In fact, the challenge with managing change goes beyond the technical aspects of a transition and is rooted in the complexity of human nature. Rather than a symptom of an inflexible attitude, change resistance at its core is a neurological phenomenon. As humans, we're hardwired to feel nervous when it comes to change. For example, when we think things in our environment altering, it triggers the fight or flight response in our brains - a natural reaction.
So, it's unsurprising that employees aren't always immediately comfortable with new technologies. Any new process, system or tool can cause feelings of unease. The challenge for HR departments is to overcome this and make change a positive, rather than something that creates resistance and disruption across an organisation.
During transition periods, businesses must remember that each individual person is likely to respond to change differently and ensure they compensate for this. After all, employees have the power to make or break a business. You can invest all the money in the world into modern technologies and digital transformation strategies, but without the right people behind them, they will never reach their potential.
With change being inevitable, businesses need to manage the process at a personal level in order to protect their staff and ensure that each person is able to work with confidence. All digital-first strategies should include an employee-first approach.
When it comes to change, in order to anticipate the needs and concerns of each individual employee, organisations first need to identify different personality types. This will enable them to leverage the strengths of each character, and ensure that employees not only accept technological change but can thrive in their new environments in the way most suited to them.
There can be a whole host of different personality types inside one single team, let alone within the wider organisation. These could include:
The Eager Beaver
- Who? Eager Beavers require little, if any, guidance. They enthusiastically see the value of any new tool right away, continually asking for updates and pushing for everything to move into the new system as quickly as possible. Whilst enthusiasm is good, Eager Beavers can often give way to impulsiveness, not thinking about how their actions impact others.
- How to manage change? Businesses need to involve Eager Beavers from the start. Help them to understand precisely how the rollout of new technologies will impact them and allow them to see how each piece fits into the whole. This will get them onboard and enable you to use their enthusiasm to motivate others.
- Who? The least tech-savvy people around the office. They find comfort and stability in routines and patterns, so when new solutions replace that familiarity, technology becomes an enemy rather than a resource.
- How to manage change? Patience is critical when introducing new technologies to Technophobes. Slowly wean them off their notebooks and calendars. Allow them to keep their tools at first and duplicate their efforts. By setting minimum expectations and slowly raising them, they'll come to realise the benefits of the new application.
The "i" in team
- Who? These are the people who like to forge their own path. They move forward with their own ideas and often turn them into a reality. But can find it challenging to work within a larger team.
- How to manage change? Although it might not always be apparent, these characters do care about the thoughts and feelings of others. Use peer pressure to get them to see that the entire team has committed, and they alone are the holdout. It's essential not to enable their behaviour.
No one knows what new technologies are around the corner and with the landscape constantly evolving, and we're unlikely ever to have a complete view. The one thing that's for sure, however, is that change is inevitable and, rather than fighting against the tide, businesses need to embrace it.
But in order to effectively do this, all employees must be on board. By adopting a personalised approach, businesses can transform perceptions of 'change' - turning it from a negative, time consuming, and stressful concept into a positive step in the right direction. If employees feel heard and involved in the process, they are likely to develop a stronger tie to the company that they work for, encouraging loyalty and helping businesses to retain talent.
Trust is earned and confidence is built. By treating each employee as an individual and implementing an approach that encourages engagement, through open and honest conversation, businesses will be able to diminish the fear of change, transforming it into opportunity.
Megan Barbier, VP of Human Resources, Wrike