Maintaining human perspective in the age of Digital Darwinism

21 April 2020 SHIVENDRA KUMAR
3 min read
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The truth digital projects don’t hide.

More companies are transforming themselves through the digitisation process. In fact, the Harvard Business Review reports that US$1.3 trillion was spent on digital technology projects last year. In practice, the process is often defined as increasingly using new, fast and frequently changing technology to solve problems. Its goal is more or less similar from one company to another: to improve, increase efficiency and minimise unnecessary spending or steps.

This is, of course, a step to be appreciated.

So how do you ensure that your digital transformation attempt does not turn into a futile move, making a loss in investment, since the project did not make any significant improvement to your efficiency?

How do you not become the construction company that implemented cloud technology for their field staff without solving any of their day-to-day problems?

How do you not become the business that doesn’t use even half of the tools introduced as part of their multimillion-dollar digital transformation project?

And, how do you also not become the organisation where the digital transformation project is six months late because the business runs so well regardless?

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Maintaining human perspective with your employees during the digitisation process is the most important element of a digital project. And it presents itself evidently if not given correct importance. This is the truth your digital transformation project does not hide.

Let’s then look at how we can maintain the human perspective.

Engage Employees

Your employee’s perspective and their engagement with it – or in other words, the ‘human perspective’ – does matter within the steps of digital transformation. Without the human perspective, the employees won’t feel inclined to support the change for the long term. The employee who is being referred to throughout this piece actually means all of the employees you’ve got. That’s right: not only the IT team or the vendors that apply or build your system but all of the people who will, in the end, utilise it.

What we should know about transformation, or in this case specifically digital transformation, is that all of it is a process. Transformation means more than just the technology or the applications, it’s about changing the habits and customs of the employees to be more modern so they can be more productive. In short, you’re not just giving them tools but also teaching them how to use them properly.

As with other process or transition periods, it requires a strong commitment to making it through, successfully. If you’re a director of a company, you have to make sure that your vision and direction on ‘why should we jump on digitalisation’ clearly correlates with the needs of your employees: the people who are making your business happen day to day.

Without proper transmission between your vision and their daily situation, some people might feel that the company isn’t there for them. This will likely result in low morale and then a growing sense of detachment and finally: loss of ‘ownership’. This is how ultimately it costs the company great talent and resourceful people. It often starts when the company asks them to change from an in-house built application that has been built on a dependable software platform and has been used for a while now to something new, or conversely when the company won’t give employees the necessary progress update that they need to remain engaged.

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Talk to people directly

We can make sure that the people need the change, be it software update or new infrastructure, by talking to them directly. Before we announce an initiative or plan, we can talk to our employees during weekly update meetings or by speaking with the project managers and department heads to gather more information that may either support our ideas or inform us that such change is yet to be necessary. It doesn’t have to be with a large group of people, but your direct presence may give the impression of accessibility and openness to your team. That can be the spark that ignites the connection further: that spark and connection can give people a good sense of direction at work, which makes the implementation easier as people will understand why and how they act on it. This will also very likely reduce the chances of failure because they can give you feedback and information from their direct daily working process, and this data can be added to your plan and make it more detailed and prepared.

On the other hand, if you feel that the software change is important nonetheless, do your own research by forming a specific team to test possibilities on you pushing the transformation to happen. As a decision-making executive, you might persuade more by stating the fact that your long-term vision and the change it involves will cause disruption in the company and might in the industry as well, to prepare yourself for the impending responsibilities and decisions that will come in navigating your way.

Engage a neutral party

With all the information, I suggest processing the data with a third party. It might be a vendor or your acquaintance in the company that can process the information you have objectively. This is because, should we handle it ourselves, we may cherry-pick the feedback just to support our stance. By rechecking the data together, you can also see detailed perspectives on what situation you really face right now and on the possibility of a transformation plan being executed well.

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Final thought

Technology should not make us lose our humanity. Always remember to put the human perspective of your employees and colleagues first to maintain a sense of understanding between you, the decision-maker and the people who will be affected by your choices. Our business gets better when people perform better, and they will perform better when they feel better. The simplest way to make them feel better is to engage with them, put them in your plans, and give them a say in how the transformation process will impact them. By incorporating the human perspective, your company and also your human capital will experience a holistic transformation and become a future-fit and future-ready enterprise to face the challenges of tomorrow.

And if you don’t, it will show up quite easily.

To aid my passion of taking ideas from theory to practise, I share know-how and insights via blogs. Help me spread the word with a like, share or a comment. The original version of this blog was published here earlier.

Shivendra Kumar is the founder and director of Shivendra & Co, a business improvement consultancy that helps businesses resolve problems, remove inefficiencies, reduce complexity and digitalise – quickly. His blogs cover topics related to business improvement, strategy implementation and innovation. Visit www.shivendra.com for more content and information.