Academy Xi Blog

Digital Transformation. It’s as much about your people as it is your tech.

By Academy Xi

“By 2025, the average worker will need to learn 7 new digital skills.” (Source)

In terms of the way we work, the rate of change has undeniably sped up thanks to COVID. Where digital disruption was likely, it is now inevitable for most businesses. If 2020 gave us all a massive push toward digital transformation, 2021 is about continuing the forward momentum. 

The backdrop for learning and development has never been more dramatic. To capture the full potential of digital technologies, businesses are going to need to invest in the training and development of their people.

Keep reading for our take on:

  • How ‘digital imposter syndrome’ and a siloed workplace can hamper digital transformation efforts
  • Why incentivising ‘digital-first’ decision making will galvanise your digital transformation
  • What does successful digital upskilling and training look like
  • How to take your people on the digital transformation journey, step by step


Preparedness = people + tech

Most companies are now opting for a ‘digital-first’ mindset as they acknowledge the central role technology now plays to their success. What is a digital-first mindset? Simply put, it means recognising any new opportunity or problem is going to need to be solved as digitally as possible. When done right, it helps to increase efficiency, scale and find new ways to appeal to customers. However, these benefits fall flat when they are not paired with the right learning and development. As Forbes concisely stated, “digital-first business demands a people-first mindset”. Fostering a sustainable digital workforce trumps the implementation of any single technology.

A study from MIT concluded that businesses that invest in digital skills training for their people tend to outperform their competitors. They showed an average of 19% more growth and were 15% more profitable.

As core technologies become increasingly available, differentiation won’t come in the form of the technology itself. Instead, the key factor for success will be around the success of adoption. How well can your people adapt to take advantage of the new opportunities the technology affords. Unsurprisingly, this is all about upskilling for the individual within the broader context of learning and development for the organisation.


Taking your people on the Digital Transformation journey

As a leader, when you are planning for digital transformation, it is crucial to consider the people that are going to bring it to life. People make technology useful. If you have broad-scale, organisation-wide transformation in your plans, giving your people the right tools and mindsets to provide them with the confidence to enable its successful realisation.

  1. Demystify digital. It is often assumed that your people understand the people, systems and processes that make up your digital ecosystem. By laying out how the different parts of your digital business interrelate, you are training your people in an area that can provoke anxiety for many. 
  2. Help your people shed ‘digital imposter syndrome’. Like anything new, technology can be intimidating. To increase new technology adoption and confidence, it is going to take an investment in training and development. Without this, you run the risk of resistance and people finding workarounds. 
  3. Develop a shared language around digital. A shared, common language provides clarity around goals and ensures a common understanding. This is about laying a sound platform for your people to work and collaborate confidently in your ‘new normal’. This will also help drive new technology adoption and increase productivity.
  4. Encourage and incentivise ‘digital-first’ decision making. A digital-first company not only uses technology in innovative ways but also creates a culture, structure and processes to support broader digital uplift. Combine this with a culture of design-thinking and you’ve got a winning combination. Read how brands like Uber, AirBNB, Pepsi, and GE innovate using Design Thinking.
  5. Make tech not just the exclusive domain of your development and tech teams. What we’ve found is that when more people understand the why behind technological change, they are quicker to adopt it. Not everyone needs to be an expert. Even having a baseline level of knowledge can be helpful when needing to work with seemingly complex technology like software for example.
  6. Cultivate an agile talent pool. This is easier said than done but worthy of real, ongoing attention. The more agile your people are, the better your business can constantly reshape itself to address new market challenges, offer new products and services, and fend off competition. 
  7. Appreciate employee differences and provide support. Addressing employees’ differing workplace expectations based on their digital fluency can be extremely challenging. Gen Y and Baby Boomers are likely to find a ‘digital first’ mindset more of a stretch than Millennials and Gen Z. 
  8. Be prepared for a period of adjustment. When it comes to digital transformation, there is often a honeymoon period within organisations. Employees feel buoyed by the promise of a better way of doing things. This is often naturally followed by culture shock when people realize how much they don’t know, then adjustment, and then mastery. 

The benefits for those businesses that execute their digital transformation strategies are going to be profound. Namely, capture the potential of digital technologies and ensure their people are along for the journey. But to do this, continued interest and investment in training and development is required. To capitalize on the opportunity of digital, companies need to adopt a people-first approach to business.


Need help with digital transformation in your organisation?

Check out our suite of courses in disciplines such as Customer-Centricity, Data Capability, Digital Literacy and more. Download a course guide and contact us.

Need more proof that investing in your people is a strong strategy at any point along your digital transformation journey? Check out our latest blog “5 Reasons To Invest in Upskilling”.