The dark side of Digital Transformation

For many organisations both public and private Digital Transformation is hugely important.  In some cases it can mean the difference between surviving and failure in a very uncertain economic climate, or simply getting ahead of the competition.  However, whilst many organisation are embracing digital transformation and some even creating dedicated programs to support it there is a dark side to this initiative that can also threaten it’s progress and threaten the organisations that are implementing it.

What is Digital Transformation?

Depending on the environment you work in you may not have heard the term Digital Transformation before, that being the case here is a brief explanation.  Digital transformation is the process if applying digital technology to business processes to make them both more efficient and less costly, and some cases replacing business processes altogether digital automated processes.  An example of this being moving to a paperless office, in order to cut down on waste and costs of paper resources, amongst other benefits, or creating mobile apps to carry out previously manual processes, such as leave or expenses management.

To many people this seems like a natural progression in a world that is becoming more reliant on technology and mobile devices, and as such most employees are quite happy to embrace change.  This is great for many organisations as it makes the task of implementing such a change much easier, as take up happens quickly with little to no guidance on required.  In fact some organisations (my own included) now offer small videos instead of a full training course, as user interfaces have become much simpler to navigate and much more intuitive.   Meaning organisations can reap the financial benefits of digital transformation much quicker.

The dark side

As the title of this blog states there is a dark side to digital transformation and it’s this.   Within some organisations (particularity public sector ones), this is population of employees who for one reason or another are struggling with the changes digital transformation brings and organisations need to be able to manage it.

There will be some employees who’s roles have been public facing, but have never had to use technology in order to do their job, and if these employees are in an older generation they have probably never had to use technology outside of work either.  Such employees can include plumbers, health visitors, or market inspectors to name a few.   These employees can have a huge effect on take up new processes and even halt progress all together, because digital transformation has the opposite effect.

Having experienced this first hand I’ve seen cases where employees are getting family members to carry out tasks for them, even dug out old Christmas gifts that they’ve never used in order install new apps that are being rolled out.  I’ve even seen cases where employees have threatened to quit, because they feel they are incapable of embracing technological changes to their role.   To me this seems like an unacceptable consequence of digital transformation and the reason for the title of this blog.

Should employees who have previously been brilliant at the their jobs and in some cases handle pressures greater than any office worker on a day to basis, be allowed to leave because something that is meant to make their jobs easier?  To me the obvious answer is no.

How to counter act the consequences?

Digital transformation should be a force that allows organisations to change and strengthen itself and it’s employees, not something that makes people feel incapable of doing a job they were previously great at.   Whilst I accept that there will be a natural flow of staff during changes like this,  we need to be prepared to identify employees who are not confident using new technology and guide them through the changes, by spending a bit more time to support them.    Never leave a good man behind.

Here are some ideas of support mechanisms that can be implemented

  1. Optional drop-in sessions : So staff can be helped on a one-to-one basis, giving them the time and attention they require.
  2. Make sure staff are aware of line of communication if they are facing an problems
  3. Have digital support programs, that can offer staff training in the basics of modern technology.

I realise to many this seems like common sense, but to some people it may not.  We need to be aware that there are still many people out there that do not have the required skills to survive in technological  era, and the only thing that’s going to get them through it is time and patience to support them.

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