Partner and Brand Strategy Leader at Historic, co-author of “Culture Built My Brand”.
Technological advancement is outpacing people’s capacity to learn and adopt new tools and systems. This global trend presents major challenges to employee training and development as our dependency on technology only increases.
A 2019 PwC Global Survey found that 79% of CEOs are “extremely and/or somewhat concerned” about their employees having the essential skills necessary to do their job—a 27% increase over 2012. Even the specialists paid to help organizations manage their technology are struggling to keep up. According to Udemy’s 2019/2020 Global Skills Gap Report, 63%-87% of IT professionals across five countries believe the hard skills necessary for their jobs will significantly change within five years.
Technology helps us accomplish more with less. However, contrary to popular opinion, the systems and tools driving digital transformation are less about technology and more about the people empowered to choose, use and manage it.
That means the most cutting-edge tools you invest in will be rendered useless if those paid to leverage them are unable, unwilling or uninterested in learning to use them.
With our growing dependence on technology, it’s more important than ever for your organization to seamlessly integrate your business strategy, your people and your systems (i.e., the tools and tech your people rely on).
With this in mind, here are three critical principles for maximizing ROI on your technology upgrades:
Clarify your strategy.
Strategy is how your organization keeps the main thing the main thing. Ensure your strategy cascades through your organizational structure from top to bottom. Without that clarity of strategy, your investments in systems and people will have an underwhelming impact.
Don’t blame your people, systems or technology if the real point of failure is a blurry, inconsistent strategy resulting in unfocused and unproductive company culture. No amount of brilliant technology will ever be able to compensate for a lack of clear strategic direction.
Before investing significant resources in new technology, make sure you have the strategic essentials in place, such as:
• A clear, consistent and compelling mission.
• Guiding principles that shape behavior and accountability.
• A measurable 36-month vision outlining and articulating success.
• 12-to-18-month objectives that align with your mission and principles.
• A shared KPI dashboard giving everyone insight into organizational successes and struggles.
As you integrate new tech, use it to increase internal awareness of that strategy and to strengthen your organizational culture.
Build a multifaceted, agile staff.
In the past, leaders often hired employees because they had a specific skill that matched a specific need in the organization. Hard skills mattered more than soft skills. But given today’s accelerated pace of change and disruption, your organization needs multifaceted, agile people who can quickly shift their mindset and role.
Hiring, developing and cultivating these soft skills creates more agile workforces—teams that can adapt faster than crews of single-skill experts who lack the ability or willingness to learn new ways to approach their work.
Hire people with a proven ability to change and adapt. Resumes marked by long tenures and promotions are great, but so is a wide-ranging, versatile job history. Someone under 35 who has worked in several different organizations may bring more to the table than conventional wisdom suggests.
Cutting-edge tech has its place. But building a team of people who can adapt to your organization’s changing needs will always be a more valuable asset.
Elevate the employee experience.
In today’s decentralized work environment, digital transformation should be as focused on the employee experience as it is on the customer experience.
Given the growing challenges that come with a remote distributed workforce, technology needs to support and enhance communication, collaboration and human connection. Because when employees feel their technology supports them at work, they are 230% more engaged and 85% more likely to stay beyond three years.
Here are a few questions to help you identify and navigate the potential gaps in your own employee experience:
1. In which of the following areas is our company culture struggling the most?
• Extending trust, familiarity and/or goodwill to others.
• Holding healthy debate/discussion before making decisions.
• Staying committed and accountable to decisions.
• Communicating and/or collaborating internally.
• Measuring organizational success.
2. How can we use technology to improve our employee experience?
• Increase communication.
• Improve project management.
• Increase insights into organizational metrics.
3. Do our people have the right tools and tech to do their job?
Remember, the “right tool” isn’t always the best one. The best tool is the one you use.
Don’t forget to get feedback.
Because technology changes so rapidly, it’s important your employees have the chance to share honest feedback. Why? So you can understand how your people are engaging with the tech and where to make necessary changes.
As you integrate new tools, build in a process that actively encourages your people to share feedback. As you follow through on their input, you’ll create a compelling employee experience that offers value beyond the paycheck and improves recruiting and retention. Moreover, you model consistent care toward your people that helps your organization stand out from the rest.