Digital Transformation and the Employee-Owned Mindset

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By: Daniel Newman|

Photo credit: sprintally.com Flickr via Compfight cc

More and more enterprises are undergoing digital transformation—the process of not just adapting, but fundamentally altering, your company’s processes and models to take maximum advantage of the newest developments in digital technologies. This isn’t anything new; technological advances have been changing the way we do business for more than a century. As technology changes ever more quickly, businesses are racing faster than ever to stay on top of the latest digital disruptions and keep pace with the competition.

Digital transformation is helpful and important, but in my opinion, it’s not the process itself but the mindset of the leadership heading the charge that shapes your organization’s long-term success with incorporating new technologies. In other words, it’s about attitude, not just adaptation.

Understand: Transformation Is Disruption

There’s a reason we use the terms “digital transformation” and “digital disruption” in a somewhat interchangeable manner. Altering your company’s established activities and processes to incorporate something new is disruptive. New technologies—these digital disruptors—can pose challenges, even as they offer exciting opportunities for efficiency and expansion. Buy-in from employees charged with carrying out new processes and working with new technologies upon implementation is critical. Without it, what seems like exciting new advancements can become far more disruptive than transformative.

Build an Employee-Owned Mindset

Given all this, for a digital transformation to be successful, it needs to start with a positive mindset from within the organization. Company leadership needs to provide internal stakeholders with a plethora of information on the front end of a major change, such as informational seminars, workshops, etc. Management also needs to offer clear rationale and arguments for how the shift will benefit employees in their work. This will make it more likely that employees will get on board with the changes. You want to make certain your employees feel ownership of the changes and are proud to shift their way of working. I call this an employee-owned mindset.

One important way to build an ownership mindset among your employees is to show them first-hand how the new initiatives or innovations will benefit their work environment, clients or customers, and other external stakeholders. Let them see how your competition is taking advantage of the new technology. In my opinion, there’s not much that builds buy-in faster than feeling as though you may lose business to a competitor.

Give Employees Control

In general, I’ve found that people tend to be supportive of systems and processes that they’ve actively helped to construct. As a business leader planning to introduce a digital disruptor into your enterprise, make sure you give as many people as much control as possible over the roll-out. For example, C-suite leadership can take new initiatives to department leadership for feedback, and those mid-level leaders can actively participate in the decision-making process for systems implementation. This gives employees a feeling of ownership over the initiative, and they’ll be able to promote it enthusiastically within their individual teams.

Create a Culture of Communication

If your company’s new initiatives around digital transformation haven’t succeeded in the past, you may want to consider how the culture of communication and engagement at all levels looks within your organization. Is there a small, central leadership team making all the decisions and then passing them on to the rest of company from “on high?” If so, it’s more likely than not that lower-level employees will resist changes.

It’s important to build an organizational culture in which senior leadership engages with employees at every level on a regular basis—not just when change is on the horizon. Put communication systems in place that allow you to regularly hear from employees and take their feedback and opinions into account. This ensures that when you do want to introduce a digital disruptor into your operations, they’re more likely to feel a sense of ownership in the decision-making process and get on board. Along the same lines, it’s important to ensure that employees feel their work is valued—that everyone is working together for the same goals and outcomes.

It’s not difficult to build an employee-owned mindset around digital transformation, but it does take some thought and reflection from senior leadership. The bottom line is that if you’re investing and valuing your internal stakeholders at every level and step of the decision-making process, digital disruption will yield the positive digital transformation for which every executive hopes.

Additional Resource on this Topic:

Gartner CIO Survey: Digital Transformation Spending on the Rise

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About The Author

Daniel Newman

Founder and President, Broadsuite, Inc.

After 12 years of running technology companies including a CEO appointment at the age of 28, I traded the corner office for a chance to drive the discussion on how the digital economy is going to forever change the way business is done. I'm an MBA, adjunct business professor and 4x author of best-selling business books including "The Millennial CEO" and "The New Rules of Customer Engagement." Pianist, soccer fan, husband and father, not in that order. Oh and for work...I'm the co-founder of V3B [Broadsuite], a marketing firm specializing in the digital space, helping companies be found, seen and heard in a cluttered digital world.

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