When it comes to digital transformation, success is not easy. It’s a complex topic and there are many variables that affect the outcome. The technology, infrastructure and value of each step forward matters greatly.
But by far, the biggest factor to digital transformation success is your people!
Digital Transformation is Not Smooth
The digitization of the factory is not a linear progression from one point to the next. In fact, digital transformation has often been dubbed “an evolution, not a revolution”. There are going to missteps and setbacks along the way, but that’s okay. What matters most is understanding and belief amongst the organization. Are you able to answer these questions?
- Do your people understand WHY you are moving toward digitization?
- Do they believe in what you’re doing?
- Can they see the result of the current path?
- Will it make their lives easier?
- Are they being replaced?
Look, it’s natural to focus on the shiny new tool and its effects on the business. I’ve done this myself many times. But at any step, the digital transformation can be halted cold in its tracks by your people. (I’ve also seen this happen, unfortunately.)
Your Most Important Asset
We have probably all heard how people are the most important assets at the company. There is a reason that this mantra is repeated all over.
For a true culture of continuous improvement and operational excellence, this is where the rubber hits the road. Sustained greatness comes from the people doing the work.
Many front line employees are going to be skeptical of new digital tools. They may find them intrusive and unnecessary; perhaps another version of surveillance. Or they may fear that they are being replaced. This is a hurdle you will need to clear for true success.
Where I’ve seen digital tools work best is where the front line employees see the benefit to them, and buy in to the technology. They start to contribute ideas of their own to make the tools more valuable. With this attitude, digitization becomes accelerated and spreads organically.
Making Your Employees Feel Valued
I’m sure when most people hear the phrase “people are the most important asset”, they quickly agree. But you have to walk the walk, and show your people that they are valued at your company. What does that mean?
Obviously this is a massive topic and cannot be wholly solved within this short article. However, with respect to digitization and Industry 4.0, it boils down to a few core themes.
With respect to transparency, everyone needs to understand the reasons for the change, and what the goals are. Bring affected employees into the process as early as possible so that they know what is coming and can provide their input. One great tactic is to provide them with an immediate “win” off the bat. This will help with acceptance.
Digital tools can help tremendously with transparency – and this topic is one of our main aims with Circle View. We hope that it provides an excellent platform for transparency for every employee, with easily viewable goals and tasks, so that everyone knows exactly what is expected of them.
The other theme is employee empowerment. I think this comes across in a few ways with digital transformation.
First, think about employee development. Do you have a proper training and development program for your staff? When these new tools and processes are deployed, who is going to maintain them? Who is keeping up with all of the new technologies coming to market and how they may help your operation?
Next, are you trusting your staff to make critical decisions for the business? Where appropriate, your employees should be experts in their area, and thus their expertise should be leveraged on behalf on the organization.
Empowerment comes down to hiring the right people, giving them the appropriate tools for their job, and letting them do their best. It sounds simple, but it’s very hard to execute.
Again, this a huge topic! I hope at the very least, this initiates some thoughts on these topics.
Simply put, the most important ingredient for digital transformation success is the people at your organization. Do they see the vision for the future, or is this just another change that they can ignore until management switches to the next flavor of the day? Will they embrace the new paradigm, or cling to their old processes? If your people don’t get on board with the digital transformation, it will fail.