Tackling resistance to change - How to prepare your workforce for digital transformation
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Companies that do not digitalize will fast become obsolete. As the race is to overhaul digital capabilities is on, the fact remains that change is easier said than done. This is especially true for transformations that are bound to have a long-lasting impact on the employees. If undertaken as an adhoc exercise, with no proper strategy (digital, people and business), digital transformation can have detrimental effects such as loss of productivity, and people attrition.
Here’s a look at how to prepare one’s workforce to tackle and master any digital-led change.
Employee challenges in the wake of transformation: What is homeostasis?
HR digital transformation is a critical component of organizational digital transformation, one that directly impacts the lives of employees. The added element here is the human emotions involved, as roles and hierarchies get restructured, skills get upgraded and business needs change.
Humans, by nature are resistant to change, a characteristic called homeostasis. A key survival skill since ages, homeostasis ensured that humans stuck to the ‘tried and tested’, thereby bettering their survival chances in difficult circumstances. An organization-wide change that involves the whole organization will have a disruptive impact. It is, therefore, critical for HR to prepare people for disruptive change, on various levels.
Key imperatives for HR
- Communicating the change: It is critical for employees to be aware of the What, the Why, and How of digital transformation. Communicating a well-articulated strategy and vision helps build confidence in the change initiative, harnessing support across levels. Most importantly, HR and business managers must explain to employees how the change will impact them. Questions which may create anxiety are “How will my job change?”, “Do I have the skills to succeed in the revamped environment?”, and even “Will my job even exist?” HR leaders must address all the uncertainties that go hand-in-hand when people undergo change.
- Inspire change through leaders: Often, companies look up to leaders to steer through change. The HR and business organization must appoint change-leaders i.e. inspirational icons who motivate employees to embrace change. This is possible only when leaders are equipped with the skills to discuss and address employee concerns openly and transparently. Having the right “change scion” can greatly help change management through a digital transformation.
- Adequate Workforce Planning and Restructuring: HR must understand the impact on new roles, carving out new roles where ever required. HR must understand the impact of technologies on the talent pool, and integrate technology into the process workflows. Change also calls for new-age skills such as collaboration, agility, innovation etc, which need to be built or bought.
- Address employee development: Perhaps the single most important success factor for HR digital transformation is how you enable employees to adapt to the evolving digital reality. Supporting employees to upskill and reskill and enhance their “digital intelligence” is imperative. HR and business must work together to cultivate a learning culture which steers business in the right direction, integrating learning with day-to-day work. This means L&D has to get innovative with more hyper personalized learning offerings, AR and VR, innovative learning-collaborations, etc. If a certain critical skill is not available inhouse, for example digital skills, HR must not hesitate to bring in niche skills through recruitment. Much of employee development should revolve around understanding technologies, and understanding and adapting to the fluid, dynamic digital environment.
- Cultivate a continuous learning culture: For sustained positive digital transformation, a continuous learning culture is essential. Leaders must provide for the infrastructure, processes, platforms, tools and resources, so as to make learning an integral part of work and not a one-off event. Leaders must celebrate successes, and create success-examples which employees can aspire towards.
Focus on employee wellness: Not just for upskilling, but HR can work towards supporting wellness management. Wellness programs, counselling sessions, employee-sharing groups, etc. can help create a sense of bonding.
Perhaps, the turning point between digital transformation success and failure is how leaders implement the change. While process and people changes may happen in various HR domains the underlying glue that will bound each of these into a seamless digital outcome is trust in the process. This means involving employees as pioneers in every step of the change, and basing the digital HR transformation on engagement, openness and transparency.