The key to digital transformation? People

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The key to digital transformation? People

2020 has delivered challenges too numerous to count, but one of the biggest things to come out of such a turbulent year is the opportunities businesses have had to rethink their propositions and position themselves towards a more digital future.

When it comes to digital transformation, contrary to popular belief, it isn’t all about the technology. The people element of digital transformation is as important, if not more important than the technologies, processes and infrastructure involved.

Businesses are taking their products and services online; staff are reskilling and upskilling, so they are better equipped to deal with any future uncertainties and changes to their businesses. They are closing the gap between talent supply and demand to future-proof theirs and others’ potential.

The biggest obstacles to the successful adoption of new technologies are often workplace competencies (the skills, knowledge and employee beliefs) and behaviours (how managers, employees and leaders work and interact on a daily basis).

So as a business, how can you drive the ‘people’ part of digital transformation?


Put your People First

Technology is about doing more with less, yet that only works if the technology is paired with the right human skills. In essence, you can have the most brilliant technology around, but if your team are not skilled enough to use it effectively, it’s useless.

When thinking about investing in new technologies for your business, the main consideration needs to be your staff and investing in the people who can make that technology useful.

Reskilling and upskilling of employees is necessary to ensure that they can adapt to future innovations. Likewise, as digital technologies continue to evolve, the skills that are needed to harness these evolutions needed to be boosted on a continuous basis through regular learning.

Changing your employees’ mindset and empowering those using the technologies can help progress the transformation as it enables them to see how it impacts the success of the business.

Research by McKinsey & Company found that companies that fail to engage line managers and frontline employees in their digital transformation reported only 3% success, compared to success rates of 26% and 28% when both groups are engaged.


Focus on Soft Skills

Soft skills are so important in the adoption of new technologies and are fast becoming the go-to skill set that hiring managers look for in future team members. Just as digital transformation is more about people rather than technology, the key skills involved are soft skills rather than hard skills.

Employees now need to perform tasks, manage information, share knowledge and work alongside others in a digital and remote way. As such, people that are adaptable, curious, and have a desire for constant learning and development are an asset to any business.

Since no one knows what technical, hard skills of the future will be, having people in your business who display the right soft skills, workforce competencies and behaviours is essential for enabling successful digital adoption and transformation.


Drive change from the top down

Having the right leaders in place at all levels during a digital transformation is so important, especially when it comes to talent and capabilities. According to McKinsey’s research, nearly 70% said their leadership teams changed during transformation – most commonly when new leaders familiar with the technologies joined the team.

Indeed, having a committed management team is crucial. In the context of digital transformations, you cannot expect big changes or upgrades to your business if you don’t have the right leaders in place.

Communicating a clear and effective ‘change story’, which helps employees understand where the business is headed, why it’s changing and why change is important needs to be at the forefront of your leadership’s minds.

When people are more involved in the transformation than they have previously been in other tasks, success is more likely. Again, this goes back to empowering the teams and giving them the responsibility to make changes happen.



As the future of the workplace continues to evolve, and businesses increasingly adopt a ‘digital-first’ approach to working practices, there is plenty to think about to achieve a successful digital transformation.

Through investing in your employees’ skills and workplace capabilities, reimagining the way your business operates through a shift in mindset, and installing an effective leadership team that empower the wider business will no doubt increase your chance of success.