While technology is shaping our world, it’s humanity that remains our greatest asset.
By this I don’t mean the humanity and ethical challenges of artificial intelligence – that’s a whole other discussion. What I am talking about is humans working collaboratively with other humans in business environments to realise the potential of technology as a catalyst for business transformation and growth.
Learning from the youth and respecting the past
I recently chaired the DX2019 event in Auckland, New Zealand. And while there were some key discussions around digital, something that stood out to me was that although technology is available, and business models doable, it is people and organisations that remain the greatest challenge when it comes to moving things forward at scale.
It reminded me that building relationships, learning from the youth, respecting the past and fostering innovation have never been more important.
We know that skills like communication and collaboration sit at the heart of successful digital enterprises. So, how are some organisations getting this right, and others missing the mark?
Good communication and collaboration comes back to several basic human traits:
trust, honesty, respect and empathy.
Why is it hard?
Trust is a core value that most people can relate to. As a verb it means to believe in the reliability, truth, or ability of.
Yet in the world of technology, it’s not unusual to find trust lacking. That’s because when we embark on a digital enablement or innovation, it more often than not comes with a lot of uncertainty. The innovation may be based on assumptions, expected outcomes may not always be reliable and absolute truth is hard to achieve.
Unfortunately, not all humans are well equipped to deal with this uncertainty and ambiguity, meaning that this core value system is challenged. These people become worried that they may lose their jobs, and therefore fearful of being completely honest about their own capabilities. They may also lose respect from others because of this reaction to the uncertainty, or through applying bias from experiences they closely associate with.
Embracing the rapidly changing environment of any transformation – digital or personal – is about navigating through this uncertainty. For me personally, through my own experience leading digital transformations, I’ve come to understand that there needs to be an unwavering foundation grounded in your values.
Acknowledging our human needs early and anchoring your digital transformation around core business values is a foundation for digital maturity. Most organisations have values – although many will need to dust them off and modernise. Ensuring these are more than just posters on a wall and are actually embraced to become an intrinsic part of your organisation’s culture before a transformation is the best way to unite your workforce and instil positive behaviours.
Because once you are clear on your values, then it’s easier to take a stand on what kind of business or brand you’ll be. Yes, there is a journey to get there, but if you start acting like your future state from day one you will start attracting the right sort of talent and interest that will support you. Whether you feel it or not, show confidence and remain steadfast to these values.
As a leader, speak openly about these values. Demonstrate empathy and understanding around the impact that change might be having on your workforce by causing them to feel distrustful. Doing so will inspire a more unified commitment to the digital transformation.
Invest in your people
Embrace skills diversification – invest in your talent to develop new ways of working, thinking and applying their skills to the business. Changing the way we think of people and their skills more broadly is an exciting way to harness talent.
By this I mean avoid boxing people based on their job title and qualifications. Instead, understand their functional skills. Take, for example, a traditional truck driver. Today we would say she has a driving license, a heavy vehicle license or HG qualifications. However, with future-focused thinking, she has skills related to concentration, and ability to focus for long periods of time or great spatial awareness.
It’s important to remember that a values-led culture is not HR’s job. We must all take responsibility for nurturing people – CEO’s, boards, people leaders and every individual across a business all have a part to play.
Finally, we must communicate early and often. The old saying ‘no news is good news’ is advice you don’t want to take. That approach will only exacerbate feelings of mistrust. Do right by your people, keeping honesty, openness and respect at the core of your communication and you’ll see transformation successfully embraced by your workforce, business-wide.
I would be delighted to help you with your digital growth, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to start taking action, not just promoting a vision.