Employee Engagement in Digital Transformation


Competitive Challenge

Business has always been competitive.  Engaging employees in digital transformation increases competitiveness.

Reality Challenge

Research suggests 40%+ of jobs could be lost through digitalisation which makes failure to engage employees in digital transformation equivalent to burying your head in the sand.  Engaging employees in digital transformation is an essential reality check.  Engagement leaves nowhere to hide in developing a strategy for future success.

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) runs a digital workshop with the theme:

“Tell me what business you’re in and your greatest strength

and I’ll tell you how I’ll disrupt you.”

Some will be alarmed.  Others want to learn how – now!

Forewarned is forearmed. Having eyes ‘that do not see’ and ears ‘that do not hear’ is no excuse for a victim mentality or failure to invest in future success.

C-Suite Learning

The C-Suite experience is challenged when assumptions, based on that experience, are no longer hold valid. The consequences of C-Suite decision making impacts all staff hence the need for accurate and timely assumption.

The dual challenges of digital transformation and employee engagement make decision making in the C Suite tough but quitters never win and winners never quit.

Leveraging the benefits of digital transformation is an acquired skill.  A command and control management style is ‘old school’ and the willingness to learn with others is ‘new school’. 

Leveraging the benefits of digital transformation is increasingly vital skill for members of the C Suite.  It requires staff engagement and openness to learning.

Digital Transformation

Digital transformation leverages technology and automation to improve the customer experience by enhancing traditional business models

The result engages customers more effectively at every ‘moment of truth’ delivering a better customer experience.

Digital transformation re-architects, re-configures and creates synergy to develop innovative revenue sources and protect and grow margin.

Examples include increasing traditional revenue through digital channels, responding positively to the power of the empowered digital customer, a start-up quickly taking a large market share of a traditional market or improving return on investment by adding value along the customer journey and value stream.

Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is a measure of the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organisation and put discretionary effort into their work.  It is demonstrated in employee’s motivation, contribution and emotional commitment.

A manager recently expressed frustration at yet another restructure and the danger of losing the ‘true essence of who we are’.

Another manager was made redundant by the C Suite who lost sight of the customer in the speed to reduce cost despite ignoring margin while embracing growth over the past 24 months.

In both organisations, the C Suite espouse a commitment to employee engagement.  While employees may have contributed to operational problems, the C Suite failed to engage them in solutions to resolve them.

Employee’s insight would have been valuable. Yet, under stress, the C Suite ignored the reality of power relationships in a hierarchical organisation.  They demonstrated a lack of understanding of the benefit of common purpose.  Siloed rather than a cross functional approach undermined performance, confidence and customer relationships.

Engagement and Performance Improvement

Performance in a digitally transformed organisation is more transparent through readily available business intelligence.

Employee engagement is driven by:

  • Organisational engagement (confidence in leadership, trust, respect and belief in fairness)
  • Management engagement (staff feeling valued by direct supervisors, being listened to and respected).

High performers want challenge.  They challenge the status quo, accept challenge, embrace change and accept responsibility.

In contrast, low performing employees often cling to the status quo, avoid challenge and resist change to escape responsibility.

Transforming the Workforce

Peter Drucker said

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” 

The reality of digitalisation, innovation and automation will inevitably render some roles redundant.  They should no longer be done at all. Equally they will be the catalyst to evolving roles in a reshaped work force. 

It is time reshape thinking on employee engagement.  If 40%+ of jobs are to become redundant, employee engagement, without integrity is a failure of leadership. In the absence of leadership fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) reign and invite change resistance and slow progress.

Transformation requires change readiness to embrace essential organisational and individual capability. The evolving nature of work requires individuals, organisations and communities to building job skills for life while accepting jobs may be in different places, in different forms and for a different duration. 

C Suite responsibility, supported by management, is to embrace the reality of digital transformation by engaging and supporting employees to embrace opportunity and control their own destiny by developing their capability and job skills for life.  Tough empathy may be required.

Ongoing Transformation – Disrupting the Disruptors

Transformation is never easy but it’s not new. The need for work and to support a family are ongoing.

My great grandparents left Tipperary, Ireland and moved to Victoria Australia for work to support their family. In the next generation, my grandfather was forced off the farm in Colbinabbin, Victoria because there were too many older brothers for the farm to support. Timothy Patrick became a blacksmith initially then later a Hotelier when demand for blacksmiths waned and he needed employment to support his family. 

Short term workplace decisions which ignore competitive reality have long term implications. Informed decisions using the benefit of digitalisation, innovation and automation invest in short and long future success. 

Jack Welch said 

“control your own destiny or someone else will”.

This is equally true for organisations as individuals. 

In innovative times, digital transformation creates real opportunity for those who recognise it.  The ‘opportunity cost’ is significant for those who fail to manage the risk or choose not to recognise or address that risk.

C Suite members are encouraged to rethink staff engagement in light of research on the future of work and the inevitably of digital transformation. 

We better equip C Suite members to engage employees in digital transformation with integrity using a unified approach to a common challenge and opportunity.

Our work is to assist clients to engage employees and get it right.  To learn how we can add value and assist you to develop your digital strategy, contact John Cleary on +61 411 522 521 or send an email to roi1@costms.com.au







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