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3 Critical Steps To People-First Digital Transformation

Important Principles To Secure A People-First Approach When Implementing Technological Change

2020 will be remembered as the year the coronavirus pandemic forced many companies' hand, making it impossible to stall any longer on digital transformation. According to a recent study, over three quarters of C-suite leaders surveyed said they fast-tracked at least some digital transformation programs in 2020. 

Across industries, businesses have turned to solutions like e-commerce, conversational AI, workflow automation and more to solve challenges brought on or exacerbated by the pandemic. By moving more activities into the digital space, companies have the potential to dramatically enhance customer experience (CX) design and management. 

At the same time, rapidly pushing new tech carries some risk, particularly for businesses that don’t fully consider the human side of digital transformation. For C-suite leaders who sped up digital transformation this year, almost half agreed they’re worried about employee burnout.

And only 34% were able to say that having the right technologies enabled them to successfully accelerate their growth strategies in 2020.

The human factor

Particularly during times of crisis, implementing a new solution as quickly as possible can feel like a win in and of itself. But the rush to digitize, automate and transform operations all too often leaves out the important role of people in making digital tools work. That oversight can have negative effects on your employees, customers and business.

If you’re undergoing digital transformation, there’s a lot to consider. Here are three important principles to keep in mind to make sure you take a people-first approach to implementing technological change across your organization.

1. Set the right pace

In response to the pandemic, many companies had to pivot quickly, whether to bring experiences online or to offer new methods of fulfillment. That agility was and continues to be crucial to keeping customers happy and business flowing. 

But great customer experiences aren’t created by digital solutions alone. They’re also created by people. That’s why, when managing change and introducing new technologies, it’s important to think about how the employee experience factors into whatever goals you’ve set. Recent research from Gartner confirms the importance of taking a measured approach to pandemic recovery for the sake of employee wellbeing.

33% of business leaders are planning a “cautious restart” with 58% saying the health of their workforce is a significant concern.

Based on those findings, Gartner suggests that businesses need to be as empathetic about their team’s needs as their customers’ when planning any kind of post-pandemic restart.

The takeaway: Before you rush to deploy the next great technology, take a temperature check internally to identify pain points and frustrations so you can understand where the employee experience might be falling short. Consulting with your people may even expose friction or hurdles that are keeping your team from making the most of the tools they already have.

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2. Level up the learning

While most organizations know better than to simply throw new technologies at their employees and hope for the best, some may underestimate the degree of skills development their team will require.

Organizations that do choose to go all-in on employee training see noticeably stronger results. In PWC’s most recent Digital IQ research, the top-performing firms in the survey – a group it calls “the Transcenders” – invest significantly more in skills development than others.

In fact, 63% of Transcenders say they “upended” their training processes and, as a result, 89% don’t get push-back when they want to deploy new digital technologies.

If you’re planning to introduce new digital tools to your employees, consider this question: Do you invest as much in teaching your team how to navigate technological change as you do onboarding new customers? If not, you may want to consider making this an area of greater focus in 2021. It’s worth adding that 91% of Transcenders say they encourage idea generation from all staff levels, compared to 72% of other firms.

Just as CX improves when you gather feedback from a wider customer base, input from within your organization always leads to a better strategy.

digital transformation

3. Extend the people-first approach

When you do a better job of empowering your team, valuing their contributions and treating them with empathy, they tend to pay those positive feelings forward to your customers. 

In the coming year and beyond, those interactions will be conducted predominantly online. As you plan new digital tools to adapt and enhance your customer and employee experiences, you’ll want to consider how you can facilitate more authentic human connections, even through digital channels.

Accenture made this a theme of its annual Tech Trends report, noting that 76% of executives surveyed say organizations need to “dramatically reengineer the experiences that bring technology and people together in a more human-centric manner.” 

Take the example of chatbots, provided in the report. They can be great for improving availability and responsiveness when customers reach out, but may need humans working behind the scenes to recognize a customer’s underlying needs. Enabling human-bot collaboration and ensuring your people remain an important part of customer touchpoints will protect the quality of your customer experience.

Overall, in the case of both employee and customer-oriented processes, pay attention to the consequences—intended or not—of new technological tools and workflows entering the picture. Or, as Accenture put it, always remember to keep the “I” in “experience.”

Plan your next steps

Rather than seeing digital transformation as a complete answer, think about tech as an enabler of change. Its role is to make processes faster, smarter and stronger by empowering people — whether customers, employees or both — to accomplish your business goals.

Maintaining the human element in your employee and customer experience strategies is critical to successful digital transformation. And it’s just part of what you need to plan for the next year. Contact us to learn more.


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