Communication is the key to effective digital transformation

True digital transformation effects every part of a business. From how it engages with it’s customers, to how staff approach projects, apply for leave, run their annual reviews or even claim expenses. But getting an organisation aligned can be an overwhelming task. Without employee buy-in, even those who are investing in digital will struggle to reap the rewards. Effective communication is the key.

According to a Willis Towers Watson study carried out in 2009, companies that effectively communicated their value proposition to their staff, were generating 47% higher total returns to shareholders compared to organisations that hadn’t made internal engagement a priority.

As humans, most of us don’t like change. We work well with routine. Hit the alarm. Stumble into the kitchen, boil the kettle and pull out the mug our Mum got us 10 years ago. Two teaspoons of instant coffee, one of sugar and a splash of milk. Nice.

But change is coming. In fact, change has already arrived. It’s on your doorstep introducing itself, “Howdy neighbour, I’m Digital”. Unlike a vampire however, digital doesn’t need to be invited in. If it’s not already doing so, digital will soon be going through your cupboards, throwing out all your favourite mugs and replacing them with a single cup that measures your calorie intake and hydration. Your kettle will have been replaced with a bluetooth, wi-fi enabled coffee machine. It will have precisely measured your preferred coffee to water ratio, freshly ground the coffee beans and poured it before you got out of bed. Of course, you’ll be able to use an app to help you make the most of the caffeine hit or tell you when to go to bed.

This is just the start. These solutions already exist. If you don’t work with digital, it’ll soon be throwing a dinner party with all your friends. Your locks will have been changed and you’ll be watching from the curb whilst it remodels your entire house based on crowdsourced designs and peer to peer lending.

A little abstract maybe. My point is that we don’t have the option of ignoring digital. Not if we want to run successful businesses. But digital isn’t the problem. Digital disruption is creating incredible opportunities and breaking down barriers every day. The problem that we have to face up to is our human tendency to revert to what we know. Our inability or unwillingness to adapt.

Ignoring digital led retail brands HMV and Tower Records to go into receivership. Embracing it has allowed established corporations like GE to not only secure their place within the market but to thrive. However, where your customers may be pushing for change, you’ll need to appeal to your employee’s sense of self interest.

Change can be unsettling. People need to know why they should change. Adapting to the digital economy means developing new skills and breaking down silos. Breaking down silos means giving up the status quo, it means sharing credit and even sharing blame. The key is to clearly articulate an authentic case for change and how it will benefit individuals on a personal level.

Digital User Personas for Staff

I’ve written before about the importance of customer experience, of putting people at the centre of your digital transformation process. This goes for employees just as much as it does your customers.

When we identify our customers needs, requirements and frustrations, we look at developing user personas, customer journey maps and running interviews. Employees are no different. Understanding who your staff are and what their goals and frustrations may be allows you to communicate how digital can help. How it can support them to meet these goals and overcome frustrations.

Unlike in 2009 when the Willis Towers Watson survey was carried out, there are now an incredible selection of platforms to help internal communication.

  • Email marketing systems can help you push your message and success stories out to staff
  • An internal blog updated with the ups and downs of the process can engage employees and provide insight into how the process can help their department
  • Setting up groups and message boards in Slack can support communication across departments
  • Creating quick polls and surveys can encourage feedback
  • Reviewing data and using analytics to learn what areas your co-workers are engaging with helps to continuously improve the process.

Approach your internal communications the same as your external marketing. Know your audience, reach out to them on the channels that they are using. Demonstrate the good and the bad, be authentic and open. After all, more than $26,000 per employee is lost each year due to communication misunderstandings, backlogs and barriers to collaboration.

Mark Warman - Founder & Digital Consultant Administrator

With a background in design, technology and user experience, I help businesses adapt. Adapt to the changing needs and expectations of their digital audiences.