Digital Transformation Strategy Should Start With Employee Experience

Countless hours have gone into planning for digital transformation strategy, yet global organizations still stumble when it comes to execution. It isn’t the faster, more flexible, and more sophisticated technology getting in the way. Instead, it’s how these organizations approach digital transformation with their employees. A successful digital transformation, perhaps ironically, is less about the tech and more about the people. The term digital transformation can mean a lot of things to a lot of different stakeholders. But at the end of the day, it should always start with the employee experience.

Getting employees from top to bottom to adopt digital transformation strategies is critical to any plan, and it’s easily the most challenging part. It’s organization-wide. It strikes at the heart of a company’s culture. It requires a lot of people to change their relationships with technology. Getting employees to adjust to these changes — as any business leader knows — is very difficult.

How do you drive change and unite employees from diverse backgrounds? How do you create a culture that will embrace change and stimulate innovation while maintaining a positive employee experience?

Your digital transformation strategy should start with employee adoption and engagement.

Digital transformation already focuses on the customer experience, but the employee experience must be prioritized. Employees want to learn and work in an adaptive culture where new technology ideas can be encouraged and integrated.

Here are four ways to influence digital transformation from the ground up, starting with your most valuable business asset: employees.

Align Company Values to your Digital Transformation Strategy

Know how to communicate your company’s values and how a digital transformation strategy aligns with them. When you have a clear company vision speaking to your employees’ sense of values, you create an environment for a smooth transformation. This type of ideal alignment of values can increase productivity and spark innovation. Digital transformation necessitates both, especially when an organizational change is involved.

When employees feel they can get behind their company’s mission statement, they become invested in their work and want to do more. Often, being more invested in a position and the workplace means employees are more willing to overcome self-imposed barriers to change.

For example, employees may initially work for a company for free catered lunches, yearly stipends, or generous stock options (or all of the above), but what keeps them at a company are the values they have in common with their employer. Just as consumers prefer doing business with companies advocating for causes they care about, employees look for shared values. Respect for these mutual principles can encourage employees to feel more inclined to commit to the company’s digital transformation decisions.

Create a Narrative for Digital Transformation Adoption

Hollywood agents advocating new movie ideas always have an elevator pitch in mind. It’s a simple concept: a single sentence describing the movie. It’s clear and concise. Digital transformation can happen almost as fast as rumors through an organization. But, in the case of digital transformation, everyone in the organization must know and agree on the vision, goals, and roadmap for that change. So the elevator speech moves beyond just a checkpoint or hallway conversation. Instead, it becomes the internal brand narrative from start to finish — and, hopefully, it’ll spread like wildfire through word of mouth.

Embrace the Digital Transformation Journey

The journey to digital transformation is complicated. The technology initiatives alone can bore some employees to sleep. Couple potential disinterest with internal marketing plans, employee engagement programs, and other company-led initiatives, and you can be sure most employees will lose interest before you even get started.

Training will generate excitement and educate the organization about digital transformation. First, familiarize yourself with the makeup of your employees. Who are they? What do they care about? How do they prefer to learn? For example, millennials are likely to learn differently than other employees. Their desire to learn and grow professionally is a critical factor in retention. Training programs and consistent, ongoing communication are necessary to ensure that all employees feel challenged and supported.

Even the Small Things Count With Digital Transformation

The pressures of digital transformation are constant. Expectations and deadlines ramp up quickly. It’s natural to want to push ahead, tweak as the project unfolds, or cut corners. These can be costly mistakes. Consider how fast things are changing right now, even for your employees. Is it wise to overwork your team to complete a revised deadline only to discover the end goal has become outdated?

Challenge yourself as a leader. Put a plan together with measurable goals and hold yourself accountable. Make changes and revise purposefully. Avoid siloing conversations or projects among experience levels, job functions, or business units. Instead, inspire and welcome 360-degree feedback. Don’t be surprised if other departments take notice of your team’s fresh, cohesive thinking, collaboration, efficiency, and progress and begin replicating it.

Executing your Digital Transformation Strategy

As mentioned, ground-level organizational changes send most business leaders into a stressful, nail-biting frenzy. Overhauling your company’s performance through new digital platforms takes vision, patience, and technical expertise, but the most critical factor is employee buy-in.

Digital transformation is just one component of a B2B brand strategy. A digital transformation strategy isn’t optional for most organizations. It’s a foundational shift making the business world more competitive, agile, and — for those who don’t invest in their digital IQ — more vulnerable. The risks of struggling in the move to digital are too high. It’s time to invest in a cultural shift. Here are a few digital transformation influencers you can start to learn from.

Michael Brito

Michael Brito is a Digital OG. He’s been building brands online since Al Gore invented the Internet. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.