Digital Transformation: why HR execs need to embrace it or risk becoming obsolete?

A company’s digital transformation is accompanied by profound changes in organization, culture and even business models. Therefore, change management is essential. You have to prepare the change, anticipate roadblocks and support employees who have to deal with and adapt to this change.

Digital transformation: a cultural and organizational revolution

No matter the extent of a transformation, it always implies going from a state A to a state B. Eighty percent of the time, a digital transformation includes changes in organization, culture and business models (e.g. going from a model based on the sale of products to the sale of services, going from B2B to B2C or B2B2C, going from mono- or bi-channel models to omnichannel, etc.). A digital transformation also changes work methods, including tools for communication and collaboration, horizontal organization, changes in company culture, and a redefinition of time and distance. Adapting to new ways of operating does not necessarily come easily to everyone. In terms of technology, not all employees (and generations) are equal in terms of using digital tools. In terms of organization, faster life cycles, collaborative operations and shifts in the balance of power can often cause employees to worry.

(Source: HR digital transformation using SAP technology — Accenture)

The Director of Human Resources: the keystone of a successful transformation

As with any change, a company’s digitalization causes similar employee behavioral patterns: 10% are pioneers, 20% resist change and 70% are ready to follow if they understand why the change is happening. Without going into the details of change management, we can simply highlight that the key mission is to accompany the 70% to adopt new work habits, behaviors and approaches. However, in most cases, operational managers and IT departments are the leaders of a company’s digital transformation. Human resources are often left out of the process until too late. Yet, apart from top management, the HR department is the only part of the company that has a transversal perspective on the company, its strategy and culture. The Director of Human Resources is the best person to fully comprehend the HR risks and challenges tied to a digital transformation. He or she can evaluate employees’ desire for change and take initiatives to support their evolution.

(Source: HR Reimagined — Microsoft’s HR Transformation Journey)

Implementing change on an individual level

While this change is transverse, a digital transformation cannot be carried out only in terms of the group. You have to take the individual into account. The Director of Human Resources must be able to analyze and anticipate how these changes will impact individual employees (their job, work environment, hierarchy, salary, etc.). This individual level approach is not as complicated or expensive as you would think and it plays a fundamental role in successfully implementing change. When employees feel as if their individual needs are being considered, they are more receptive to a global change. To consider the individual, you have to involve employees from the start all the way through training and into their new daily life in a digital work environment. As a result, it is essential to mobilize middle management. They have to be reassured about the change in order to provide employees with a positive mindset and facilitate each step of the change. In conclusion, planning a digital transformation simply means planning a change. It is the opportunity for a company to reinvent itself, to create new collaborations and to change risks into opportunities. Only a transversal approach to change management and a focus on individuals will maximize your chances for success. The new digital era only works when built on trust and collaborative communication.

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