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Change Overload: Are Your Employees on Board For Digital Transformation?


Your customers expect a great digital experience. You’ve seen the data that online commerce is up by 37%. You know that digital learning and remote work are on the rise. And you’ve seen the traffic to your website skyrocket, like one of our state government clients who has seen a 50% annual increase in visitors from 2019 to 2020.

While Covid-19 drove us to digital tools, that adoption is here to stay. Consumers using grocery delivery, online ordering, or government websites to access services are becoming accustomed to the ease at which they can access services or goods that they need. As our society transforms into one mediated by digital interaction, social service providers have a responsibility to meet people where they are – online.

If it has been a while since you’ve updated your website, application, or digital product, we don’t have to convince you that now is the time. You’re ready for digital transformation.

Help Your Employees Adapt to the Accelerated Digital Adoption Triggered by Covid-19

Under normal circumstances, enterprise-level digital transformations are complex. They are political and often met with internal resistance by those who will need to do their work differently to serve their end users. As you embark on your digital transformation journey, especially now, you may have team members saying:

  • “This change is going to result in a mutiny”
  • “That decision is above my pay grade”
  • “I’ve been voluntold to participate”

Fear, deflection, complacency, and low engagement are common symptoms of a digital transformation project that has not sufficiently motivated those who recognize they will be affected by it. Your team members need to know that the gain will be more than the pain.

Bring Your Employees Along

It is important to recognize that your team members, just like you, are facing an extraordinary work and life situation. A lot changed for us in the last year. More employees are teleworking than ever before and many are dealing with communication fatigue. Asking anyone to change under our incredibly anxious environment is a tall order. Lead with empathy and check in regularly about team members’ capacity to balance personal and professional commitments. They may very well know what to do and you may have provided them a clear plan what to do. It’s not about the mechanics, it’s how they feel about it.

A motivating vision statement is clear about what is changing and helps team members evaluate the consequences; it guides but does not restrict individual initiative. You will know your vision statement is working if about 75% of your management agrees that the status quo is unacceptable.

Break Your Digital Transformation Into Manageable Increments

Engage team members in the project in manageable increments so that they see consistent progress, providing motivation to keep working toward the larger vision. A milestone at least every 90 days is a good rule of thumb to follow.

Engineer simple opportunities for employees to try out the new way of working and talk about what it was like. To give employees an inkling of the bigger impact that is coming can act as a motivating proof point.

Remove Barriers as They Arise

We’ve found that in the context of this year, barriers often arise in the form of employees who are simply burnt out and have too much to do. How do you engage with this type of employee, and clear the path so the rest of your project team can move forward?

Position a coalition of project sponsors to act as servant leaders, responsible for addressing team-identified barriers to the project. Engage a member of the coalition to help prioritize and delegate work for the employee who needs the help to focus on supporting the project.

Focus Your Digital Transformation on Your Users

It is easy to get caught in a cycle of afflictive conflict when you are designing a digital product based on internal opinions and organizational departments or priorities. Rather than build a product based on internal hunches or opinions, center all the work around clearly defined end-users. User personas help the team align their work towards the unique needs of the people who will use the digital tools. When focusing on the end users’ needs conflict switches from being afflictive to constructive and you can have direct, productive conversations to solve for needs uncovered in user-research. Embracing user-centered design as the way you continually monitor and respond to customer needs can provide the staying power for your digital transformation.

Empower your team members to take an active part in meeting the demands of society’s “new normal” - one that more than ever relies on modern, efficient, and accessible digital tools.