Editor's Note: We would never dream of trying to predict the future—that's why we left it up to the futurists. In this series, we interview experts in HR, recruiting and the future of work to get their take on what's next.
When organizations talk about digital transformation, they tend to focus on the obvious—the technology. And they think of their workforce as a secondary factor when, in reality, an organization's people are what determine whether a company's digital journey is propelled or stalled.
A recent global survey by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte found that 69 percent companies haven't yet reached digital maturity, which includes effectively preparing their workforce for a primarily digital future.
"Technology is pretty straightforward—it's the people that are complex and that potentially slow down transformation," says Cheryl Cran, future of work expert, founder of NextMapping and author of the upcoming book NextMapping: Anticipate, Navigate and Create The Future of Work. "We underestimate the psychological part of people wanting to change for the purpose of creating the future of work."
For organizations that haven't yet put people at the center of their digital transformation, it's challenging to change the mindset. We spoke with Cran to understand what it means to prepare a workforce for transformation, and identify how human resources professionals can play a crucial role in helping companies achieve their digital transformation goals.
Adopting A People-First Approach
Cran argues that while the majority of companies are in the midst of digital transformation and are actively preparing for the future of work, most aren't thinking enough about their people in the process.
Digital transformation leaders have been implementing new technology without involving key stakeholders on the front lines of company operations. They aren't asking questions like: How will this make your work better? How can we do this better? How can we roll it out better?
"Underestimating human behavior is going to be the biggest risk to business as we move forward," Cran says.
For example, employees crave technology that enables them to easily perform certain tasks on the go and outside the office, so focusing on introducing new in-office technology is a missed opportunity from a digital transformation perspective.
How HR Can Help Leaders Excel at the Intersection of People and Technology
As organizations buckle down to meet their digital transformation goals, it's the ideal time for HR departments to stop operating in a silo and become more integrated into the overall company.
"Everyone looks to HR people for recruiting, retention and solving all of the people problems in an organization, but in the future, I see HR as a company-side skill set—not a departmental skill set," Cran says.
Employee relations are among the top priorities for HR pros, which makes them hyper-aware of the changing dynamic or attitude of the workforce. Because they're often among the first to notice shifting employee behavior, HR teams have the capability to anticipate changes and equip leaders with the skills they need to guide their workforce through digital transformation. Cran says three of the most important skills to this end are agility, creativity and adaptability,
Adaptability comes into play with remote workers, for example. Some leaders work best when they have their team around them in the office, but when employees are given the technology and flexibility to work remotely, those leaders start to struggle. Remote and on-demand workers will become a larger part of the workforce in the future, so it's imperative that leaders adapt to the trend rather than become withdrawn from these employees.
"Is HR giving their leaders the best tools to help retain and inspire their employees? That's the future of work—it's much more than a singular focus on technology," Cran says. "HR has the opportunity to expand an organization's perspective of what is included in the future of work."
The first step forward for HR departments to extend their reach beyond traditional HR operations and establish themselves as a digital transformation liason between a company and its people is to find an influencer within every department. Each influencer should then be tasked with examining the digital transformation initiatives within their department, and should work closely with HR to ensure that these initiatives are being well-received and effectively implemented.
As HR practices become more ingrained in each department, human resources will be on its way to preparing their organization for the future of work.
Photo: Creative Commons
Want to keep learning? Explore our products, customer stories, and the latest industry insights.
The Modern Workforce Favors Flexibility and Digital Collaboration
This is the third in a series of articles we’re doing around our annual State of Workplace Productivity survey. Read a summary of the full survey here . And for our findings on extreme workloads, click here. The always-on, always-working mindset has caught on, largely due to the rise of technology and the demand for more flexible workplaces. While initially introduced to boost employee satisfaction, flexible policies and technology use actually have a greater impact on productivity, and ultimately business performance. The environment in which people work affects how productive they are. Nearly two in three employees think a flexible and remote work schedule increases productivity, according to a recent survey by Cornerstone OnDemand. The most productive work environment is an enclosed office, followed by partitioned cubicles, open desk layout and working remotely, accordingly. While working in an enclosed office is the most promising for productivity, a good chunk of employees — 19 percent — say working remotely is the most productive environment, likely due to the fact that they can control the distractions around them. Forty-three percent of employees say impromptu visits by colleagues are distracting, according to the survey. Digital Communication Enables Remote Workers Even though some employees prefer work from home policies, only one in five are allowed to work remotely. True, employees can’t communicate with colleagues in-person, but the majority of workplace communication happens digitally anyway. Nearly two in five employees believe emails and instant messages allow them to be more productive than having in-person or phone conversations. The percentage of employees that prefer in-person collaboration compared to digital collaboration is decreasing — 63 percent this year compared to 71 percent last year. But there’s a fine balance for using online communication to boost or destroy productivity. Some employees find emails, social media alerts and instant messages to be distracting, so be sure that employees know what kind of communication their colleagues prefer. The key to high productivity and flexible work schedules is arming employees with the right technology. Almost two out of three employees agree that given the right technology, in-person meeting can be replaced completely. Digital natives are demanding a more flexible workplace, and companies are listening and changing accordingly, but more need to put their employees first and do so faster. To read more findings from The State of Workplace Productivity Report, click here. And take a look at our infographic on how workspace matters:
Preparing Your Workforce for Digital Transformation
Make talent development a priority in the age of digital disruption Ready or not – digital transformation is here. With technology developing more rapidly than ever, the way we do business is changing and it affects everything from customer acquisition and our product offerings, to our tools and processes, to our workforce and work environments. To succeed in a rapidly changing market, organizations must adapt their talent management practices to reflect new digital innovations and processes. Constellation Research discovered that industry-leading companies' ability to adapt to digital disruption was a key factor in their long-term success. As many organizations begin to radically reimagine how they leverage technology and processes, a need for a new talent development strategy arises. No organization wants to be left behind because they failed to adapt well enough or fast enough to the changing digital landscape. So, how can organizations disrupt their talent development strategies to help succeed in the age of digital transformation? How to futureproof your organization in the age of digital transformation It's a sobering fact: Talent development strategies that worked in the past may no longer work in the near future. Human Resources (HR) and Learning and Development (L&D) teams must become true business partners and create a continuous, hyper-connected development experience for people that aligns to the ever-shifting goals of the business. This eBook offers research-backed strategies that will show you how to create a digitally centered, learning-focused talent development environment that will help your organization keep its competitive edge in the era of digital transformation. You'll gain insights into: Determining your organization’s level of digital transformation preparedness Coaching strategies to prep your workforce for digital transformation How to champion a culture of learning to enable ongoing employee skill development Download our eBook to discover the talent development best practices you – and your people – need in order to futureproof your organization while putting your people in the driver’s seat of their own experience.
5 Tips for Crisis Management in the Digital Age
Crisis management is a tool many leaders keep in their toolkit, but secretly hope they never need to use on a grand scale. While minor situations arise regularly in the course of business, larger scale issues can end careers and destroy entire corporate profiles if handled incorrectly. We need only look to Equifax and their epic data breach, which called for the release of their CEO and launched a Department of Justice investigation, to see the sweeping impact of poorly handled crises. Many of us might say what we "would" do if we were in such a situation, but until it happens, we really have no idea. This is where crisis communications becomes incredibly important, and HR plays a pivotal role. It's been said failure to plan is planning to fail, and never is this old adage more true than ensuring a strategy to handle a large-scale public relations disaster. As we now live in a time now where cloud-based technology is more prevalent, the digital realm is the new marketplace, and crises of this magnitude and type will happen more frequently, leadership must be prepared in advance to manage crisis in the digital age. Establish Personalities in Advance of the Crisis One of the benefits of social media and the 24/7 news cycle is that it provides opportunity to raise the public profile of anyone and everyone. While it's not necessary that all corporate leadership be incredibly active on social media from a personal perspective, it is extremely important that the company be proactive in building trust from the beginning. Get your leadership in front of your customers and communicate frequently across traditional and social media. It creates a personal connection with your company and shows there are people behind the issues. Gather Around the Message Immediately When the world of communication works on a 24/7 cycle, so must your leadership team. Have emergency communication protocols in place and ensure that they're followed. Your team must get on board with a strategic, unified message immediately and follow your crisis communication plan, which should be in place and reviewed every 3-6 months. Communicate with Employees Your best course of action is to communicate immediately and to arm all those involved with everything they need to communicate that not only are you on top of the matter, but that it won't happen again. This not only encompasses conversations with external media, but also includes conversations with your employees to ensure they can pivot with the leadership team and remain connected to your overall vision. Deploy Your Leadership Brand An established leadership brand is one of the greatest corporate assets during times of corporate strife. Your leadership brand usually emanates from your CEO, but it's more about what your leaders are known for in your organization, and it informs how your employees should act at all times. It also means that individuals at all levels instinctively know how to conduct themselves in a crisis because it's ingrained in the corporate culture and everything they do. They put the customer first, they protect the corporate identity and they remain focused on the cause. Practice Humility Finally, one of the greatest assets in our leadership arsenal is also the oldest in the book: be humble. In this fast-paced world, mistakes are bound to happen. Admitting fault and owning up to one's mistakes quickly is something that separates great leaders from those who inevitably fail. Photo: Creative Commons