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Digital Transformation Will Stall if You Don't Prepare Your Employees

7 minute read
Jocelyn Hayes avatar
Embrace a strategy of organizational change management to ensure that digital transformation succeeds.

Many companies are investing a great deal of time and money in new technologies and processes to achieve their digital transformation goals.

Those investments are warranted at a time when so much emerging and potentially game-changing technology is available. But sometimes businesses focus so heavily on adopting new technologies that they disregard the need to invest in their employees to make sure they, and the company, get the most out of the new tools at their disposal. 

Investing in people is the linchpin to making sure a digital transformation initiative succeeds. If you don’t, it’s like buying new tires for your car but failing to fill them with air.

One way businesses can help ensure their employees will be able to use the new technologies and are prepared for the process changes the new technologies will bring is to embrace a strategy of organizational change management (OCM), a discipline that combines stakeholder support, targeted communications and training to help ensure teams are ready to maximize the benefits of transformation projects. In particular, OCM involves continuous learning and training to ensure an enterprise gets the full return on its investment.

Two principles are especially critical for empowering your employees during times of change:

  • Use the 70-20-10 model for learning and development. This means that most learning — 70 percent — comes from hands-on experience while employees are actually doing their jobs. Another 20 percent comes from informal learning, such as coaching and collaborating with peers, while just 10 percent comes from formal training workshops and similar educational events. Understanding the 70-20-10 model and creating a blended learning approach that takes it into account will work to your advantage.
  • Make sure users can access training and support materials while they are doing tasks. This goes hand in hand with the 70 percent figure above. You need to make sure your employees can easily access training materials and other relevant information while they are in the flow of work on the job.

Here are three ways companies can put those principles into practice to prepare for change: Train employees for streamlined processes, prepare global IT users for the new system, and adopt a new learning strategy and training program. Let’s take a look at each of those.

1. Train for Streamlined Processes

If a company needs to prepare its workers for, say, a new ERP system and the streamlined processes that go with it, leaders should consider embracing an organizational change management approach to guiding employees through the changes, thereby increasing user adoption, employee engagement and program success.

An OCM training team could identify the business impacts of the coming change and create a network of “change champions” and super users to help bring peers up to speed. An OCM learning enablement initiative should also include designing process- and role-specific training courses supplemented with hands-on exercises and business-transaction simulations. The OCM learning team could also offer train-the-trainer courses based on actual roles and scenarios that employees will have in the new systems. 

The company would then have new custom training materials for both the current project and for teaching future employees to use the new systems. Ideally, the courses and simulations would be mapped to specific tasks employees would handle with the new systems, so users would be able to access training materials while they’re actually working on a task and need a refresher on a process or a specific transaction in the system.

Related Article: Digital Proficiency: Literacy, Fluency and Mastery

2. Prepare Global IT Users for a New System

Most enterprise IT groups are tasked with rapidly and aggressively transforming their organizations’ systems through massive, worldwide digital overhauls and migrations to the cloud.

To prepare thousands of technical users across multiple continents for big changes to everyday IT service management processes and systems, an organization should put an OCM team in place to address the risks associated with user adoption. Big IT overhauls often involve moving from disparate legacy systems, each of which may support localized processes, to one standardized system and new roles.

Before the project gets underway, the OCM team should perform extensive discovery, complete a detailed stakeholder analysis, hold workshops focused on the impact of the change and the risks associated with it, and build a multilevel “change network.” The OCM team should also identify and train a team of global super users. 

An extensive communication plan, including road-show events, train-the-trainer sessions, a user-friendly project intranet site and an online social collaboration community, can help. 

Learning Opportunities

Shortly after launch, super users could help their colleagues who need answers to questions about the project by pointing them to self-service tools like online lists of answers to frequently asked questions and easily accessible “help” documentation. That approach enables on-the-job learning and fosters the development of a social community in which employees collaborate and informally learn from their peers — a more cost-effective model than one that involves repeated calls to the help desk.

Related Article: 4 Key Elements of an Impactful Workplace Digital Literacy Program

3. Enact a Learning Strategy and Training Program

Companies that are deploying new workplace software may find that effectively training and enabling the workforce involves educating even employees who won’t directly touch the new software. In many cases, employees who won’t be using the new tools still need to understand the new processes that are being put into place, including functions that are being automated.

An OCM training team could conduct interviews with the company’s subject matter experts to make sure they have the right information for the design, development and implementation of customized tools for learning, and to understand who needs to know what. For the users who will be directly affected, the OCM team can build courseware and simulations for a blended learning approach that includes both instructor-led training and e-learning modules that employees can use on the job and through contextual online help.

The goal is to give users easy access to newly created learning materials, including e-books, simulations and printable job aids outlining the new processes, all through a content-collaboration website. Then, broader communications, as well as postings related to the new materials, can be used to educate the rest of the affected workforce.

Related Article: Digital Literacy Initiatives Must Evolve With the Workplace: 4 Potential Directions

Creative Methods Help Employees Succeed

No matter how big a company is or what industry it’s in, the reality of today’s workplace is that employees need to learn quickly while they are on the job. Rapid content-development platforms help create materials to use for the 10 percent of learning that’s still formalized. Social collaboration platforms create a powerful form of crowdsourcing that can help with the 20 percent of learning that happens informally among co-workers. For the remaining 70 percent — the hands-on learning that takes place while employees are engaged in their jobs — advances in technology can help employees learn via video, contextual help buttons they can click while they’re working on tasks, and other innovative, collaborative tools that enable them to receive information the way they do in their everyday lives.

The pace of change today requires employers to embrace a combination of creative methods to engage workers and quickly get them up to speed. That way, an organization can hit the goals it hoped to achieve when it invested in the newly implemented technology, whether it hoped to save money, improve productivity, increase operational and budgetary transparency, create more stable services, or improve its ability to adapt to future needs.

By taking an OCM approach to training employees on new technologies and preparing them for process changes, companies will find that their digital transformation initiatives achieve greater levels of adoption, user engagement and success.

About the author

Jocelyn Hayes

As an Organizational Change Management (OCM) and User Enablement Practice Lead at Information Services Group (ISG), Jocelyn Hayes successfully leads clients and teams utilizing her deep experience. She provides thought leadership, hands-on delivery and management of OCM and User Enablement Training programs which drives change and sustainable knowledge transfer.

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