Blog Post

7 Essential steps for SMB digital transformation

Yvonne Conway

Senior Field Marketing Manager at Cornerstone

Undertaking a transformation project can seem daunting, especially when it involves every member of your organisation. However, this is an exciting opportunity to make positive changes that can benefit everyone. It may require buy-in from multiple departments and leadership support, but with careful planning and execution, it can be a transformative experience. Even in smaller organisations where resources are limited and daily operations continue, making meaningful progress is possible. This brief article explores seven key areas for SMBs to focus on as they embark on this exciting journey. We're confident that with the right mindset, enthusiasm and dedication, your transformation project will be a resounding success!

1. Start with clear objectives: Define your talent transformation goals. Clearly articulate what success looks like for your organisation. Your 'why' is the driving force behind the project and the thing you will come back to time and again as you manage project drift and competing priorities. Ensure your project stakeholders are clear on the goal and bringing them along on your journey will be easier.

2. Secure leadership buy-in: Gain support from key stakeholders and leaders from the start. Their endorsement is crucial for driving adoption and sustaining momentum throughout the transformation process. We suggest including at least one leadership team member on your project team. This gives you a voice at the 'board level' and can help you to manage expectations and dissenters as the project progresses.

3. Take a snapshot of where you are at the outset: Understand your current state, include data points, technologies, vendors and compare these against where you want to be. Look at your organisation and asses its people strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. This starting point evaluation sets the foundation for targeted transformation efforts and will help you showcase how far you have come throughout the project and after implementation.

4. Develop a Comprehensive Strategy: Craft a detailed plan outlining how to achieve your talent transformation goals. Consider factors such as timescales, key data points, action owners, budget management, communication plans, and a strategy to manage project drift, such as implementing a phased approach when priorities get tangled. It would help if you asked for support from your technology partners when creating this plan as they will have a lot of experience in this area and should be able to support you with realistic timelines and areas you may not have considered.

5. Select a technology partner that's right for you: You need a partner that understands your business, has experience working with your size and type of organisation and has the right HR technology solution for your needs. Choosing the right partner here will be key to the project's success. Think back to your end goal - why are you doing this? Don't get distracted by shiny graphics and redundant but 'cool' features – they often hide technology limitations. When interviewing vendors, ensure you get what you need from the technology.

6. Implement a pilot programme: Test your talent transformation strategies on a smaller scale before rolling them out organisation-wide. Pilot programmes allow you to identify and address any challenges or gaps in your approach. You will also get valuable feedback from the 'field' on what is working and what is not, allowing you to correct the course at different points in the project. We caution that not all opinions are valid, and often, the loudest voices are the least experienced or the furthest removed from the project's end goal. Choose your testers carefully and ensure they understand what you are aiming to achieve.

7. Continuously monitor and adapt: We spoke earlier in this article about the importance of taking a snapshot of your starting point. This was to enable you to show how far you have come. Talent transformation projects can be expensive for an organisation in terms of time effort and cash investment, being able to present your return on investment means you can continue to get more investment for future phases or projects.

The way you calculate ROI is as individual as the people and organisations going through the transformation. This means you must look at it from your point of view. Some similarities will cross over between industries, but your organisation will have its own culture and identity that should translate into your project. Some areas you may want to consider monitoring are listed below:

  • Start with time – will this new technology save time across the organisation? Will it help you streamline people processes and reduce administration burden?
  • Look at who it will help – HR, line managers, people on the ground. Where will time be saved and how can you translate that into a data point?
  • By consolidating your vendors, do you make savings? This is a great example of a real, understandable data point; consolidating vendors reduces vendor management time and increases your economies of scale, getting better pricing with one vendor across more services.
  • If a new self-directed learning programme is introduced, will you increase employee retention? Will this improve engagement across the organisation?
  • Can you look at skill development over time? Is the new technology helping to keep employees skilled in their current areas of expertise or supporting people to upskill into other areas, keeping your organisation's skills pool up-to-date and future-proof?
  • By working with an experienced vendor, will you have access to more examples of best practices from which you can learn?
  • Will you save on external vendors by allowing internal subject matter experts to create their own content? Will this help to keep vital knowledge in the organisation?

You can go hard into the numbers or look at it with a softer 'change for the better' focus. Work with your technology vendor to design a business case for your talent transformation project to ensure you can show a return on investment from a business and finance perspective and your people values.

By following these seven steps, SMB organisations can navigate the complexities of talent transformation and position themselves for sustainable growth and success.

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