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Why successful digital transformation puts people first

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When we think of digital transformation, technologies like AI or IoT immediately come to mind.

In practice, however, as organizations continue to realize that digital transformation is necessary — and that it isn’t too late to start — it’s people that need to be at the center of the journey. 

For DevOps.com, Margaret Dawson detailed six human factors that, when addressed during the process, work to the benefit of digital transformation (DX):

1) Shifting the organizational culture: For DX to work, organizations need complete buy-in from everyone involved. The result is an empowered workforce across the organization, all contributing to decision-making.

People need to connect to the change and feel they can have an impact,” explains Dawson.

2) Understanding the destination: Once buy-in takes places, an understanding of (and agreement with) the digital transformation vision is needed across the board. 

Simply put, when you start, make sure the end is in mind. 

Dawson cites research from Gartner showing that 50 percent of organizations “have no digital transformation metric or way to measure progress for digital transformation.” Clear metrics of success make the DX journey measurable. 

3) De-silo your teams: Collaboration and digital transformation go hand in hand. When teams remain within their silos, the necessary data, analytics, and processes can’t seamlessly flow.

Laddering back up to the previous two points, “without a culture of trust and a shared agreement on the end goal from across the organization, you won’t be able to break down these silos,” Dawson explains. 

4) Investing in reskilling: You have the buy-in. You have the trust and collaborative environment. But what about the technology that keeps changing and advancing?

Skill gaps are a challenge throughout the business and IT worlds, but what if instead of replacing the loyal talent who fit into — and believe in — the culture and vision that has been created, you invest in reskilling?  

5) Giving UX design a front seat: When User Experience (UX) design goes bad, costs can soar, as The UX School found out

By starting with the user,” writes Dawson, “projects are more likely to give users the feeling they are interfacing with a human being rather than a digital thing—and ultimately, will succeed because of it.” 

Case in point: Ikea’s augmented reality app lets you see your home with a new couch or dresser…but doesn’t not link you to an e-commerce option.

6) Don’t rely on digital-only connections: When was the last time you had a face-to-face meeting instead of a phone or Skype or some variety of digital communication? 

When a major project such as digital transformation is underway, trust in leadership is incredibly important. Face-time — talking to, and shaking the hands of, employees, partners, customers, and users — builds this trust. 

When it comes to digital transformation, despite plenty of swings, many efforts end up missing the mark. It’s up to organizational leadership to empower and enable their employees, giving them the tools and environment they need to see DX to success.

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What talent factors matter the most in a digital transformation?

Revisiting 30+ digital transformations, McKinsey found several core themes when it comes to talent and their success.

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Digital transformations (DX) can be as simple as the creation of an internal digital and advanced-analytics (DnA) system or as complex as an enterprise-wide technological shift. While these shifts have changed the way organizations operate, they’ve also had a big effect on how they plan to do so in the future. At the end of the day, the success of DX efforts largely comes down to people.

With this reality in mind, researchers at McKinsey Digital recently undertook a review of 30 large-scale digital transformations to better understand the dynamics at play behind the process, and ultimately what talent and tech decisions have the biggest impact on DX success. 

Through this research, several key insights emerged.

Fill senior roles with the right digital leaders

One of the most glaring points McKinsey made in its review was the need for organizations to prioritize their hiring of digital-minded leaders. The high performance of a transformation project often rests on the shoulders of these individuals, even more so than on the technologies they use.

In fact, the research found that up to 50% of a given group or unit’s performance variability could be attributed to the individual leaders driving the transformation. Therefore, it’s important for organizations to invest in hiring and nurturing these data scientists, digital strategists, engineers, and other digital-focused leaders for their digital transformations to be successful.

But in that same vein, McKinsey notes that companies should be wary of rushing into hiring in  these roles. It explains that organizations risk the overall reputation and viability of their programs if they attempt to take shortcuts with early hiring, sometimes delaying progress by a year or more.

Invest in digital learning and development programs

Another key area of impact researchers highlighted was learning and development, and how investments in such programs for DnA rollouts could improve the success of digital transformations. The McKinsey team noted that both on-the-job training and structured learning programs can often do more to improve the success of a transformation than just hiring in new talent.

Furthermore, the review indicated that companies who reward higher skill levels with better compensation were much more likely to be successful in their digital transformations than those who did not. It cited data gathered from leading organizations who comparatively rewarded higher skill levels with better compensation (67%), greater benefits (64%) and more responsibility (78%) than laggard companies who only managed 41%, 23% and 58% respectively.

Similarly, McKinsey emphasized one important fact: digital talent can often be tapped within the organization. Since not all digital products are going to require expert-level skills, upskilling non-digital talent, they found, could potentially cover up to 70% of an organization’s digital needs. Just make sure that you’re being realistic about who can be upskilled and the time commitment. 

And while upskilling is important, organizations need to balance immediate results with long-term capability. Contractors can help fill gaps in the early days of a digital transformation, but need to come with a strong transition plan. 

Take another look at value propositions

McKinsey also discussed the topic of organizational value propositions and their power to influence the quality of talent businesses bring in. It noted that organizations, especially those undergoing digital transformations, should consider the value they offer beyond traditional total-pay packages when it comes to attracting top digital talent.

Including things such as forward-thinking culture, career growth opportunities, and attractive work environments can go a long way in luring the best and brightest digital minds. McKinsey highlighted that companies who have thought hard about their organizational culture and value proposition enjoy a distinct advantage over those who do not, as the quality of digital professionals populating these companies is often much higher.

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U.S. proposes redefining when gig workers are employees

U.S. labor officials proposed a rule change that could make it easier for gig workers to be entitled to benefits.

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A rule change proposed by US labor officials that could make it easier for contract workers to be reclassified as employees shook investor confidence in the future of "gig economy" firms such as Uber and Lyft
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United States labor officials proposed a rule change Tuesday that could make it easier for gig workers such as Uber drivers to be reclassified as employees entitled to benefits.

The move by President Joe Biden’s Labor Department would lower a bar set by his predecessor regarding when someone is considered an employee instead of a contract worker.

It also comes as “gig economy” companies from rideshare platforms to food delivery services strive to maintain the status quo.

The new formula includes factors such as how long a person works for a company and the degree of control over the worker, as well as whether what they do is “integral” to a business, according to the proposed rule.

“We believe the proposed regulation would better protect workers from misclassification while at the same time providing a consistent approach for those businesses that engage or wish to engage with independent contractors,” Jessica Looman of the US Department of Labor said at a press briefing.

Being classified as employees would entitle workers to sick leave, overtime, medical coverage and other benefits, driving up costs for companies such as Uber, Lyft and DoorDash that rely on gig workers.

The proposed rule change is subject to a 45-day public comment period, meaning there is no immediate impact, but share prices took a hit on the news.

Uber and Lyft shares ended the formal day down more than 10 percent, while DoorDash was down nearly six percent.

“It’s a clear blow to the gig economy and a near-term concern for the likes of Uber and Lyft,” despite uncertainty about how the new rule might be interpreted across the country, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a note to investors.

“With ride sharing and other gig economy players depending on the contractor business model, a classification to employees would essentially throw the business model upside down and cause some major structural changes if this holds.”

Uber and Lyft have consistently argued that their drivers want independence, provided benefits are added to the mix.

In California, the cradle of the gig economy, voters in late 2020 approved a referendum backed by firms such as Uber that preserved keeping drivers classified as independent contractors.

The measure effectively overturned a state law that would require the ride-hailing firms and others to reclassify their drivers and provide employee benefits.

The vote came after a contentious campaign with labor groups claiming the initiative would erode worker rights and benefits, and with backers arguing for a new, flexible economic model.

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How can organizations attract and retain IT talent?

Gartner has outlined three ways

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One of the biggest stories in digital transformation right now? Attracting and retaining IT talent. 

According to Gartner, the labor market has tightened in the last two years. They report that:

  • 60% of HR leaders are “significantly concerned” about employee turnover.
  • 62% of candidates have explored a career change in the last year.
  • Nearly three-quarters of candidates who receive a job offer have at least one other offer on the table.

Amid stories from the ‘Great Resignation,’ workers in all industries are pushing for higher compensation, better benefits, and increased flexibility — and IT talent is no exception. In fact, Gartner’s Global Labor Market Survey found that compensation is the top driver for IT talent attraction and retention. According to a recent Gartner IT Compensation Increase Poll, 50% of organizations reported increasing the salaries of key employees after they received a separate job offer — all in a bid to retain this talent.

How can organizations effectively attract talent and, most importantly, retain these employees? Gartner has outlined three ways.

Make monitoring and raising pay competitiveness a priority

As Gartner explains, “In order to pinpoint where additional funding will be necessary to address pay gaps in the short term, work with your HR team to identify IT roles and skills areas facing higher attrition risk and recruitment challenges due to noncompetitive compensation.”

Limited resources? Prioritize roles in high-risk areas, they explain.

Build flexibility into IT compensation through variable pay programs

“One way to minimize locking in compensation adjustments as long-term fixed costs,” explains  Lily Mok, Gartner VP Analyst, “is to use variable pay components that can be adjusted or removed as talent needs and market conditions evolve.”

Examples of these include skills-based premium pay, a signing bonus (lump sum or split up), and retention bonuses (eg. during a major period of transition).

Make sure managers can have successful pay-related conversations

According to Gartner, there are three important elements needed to make sure these conversations are effective. 

First, never forget empathy — especially since finances are a very personal topic and can be a sensitive issue.

Second, make sure the compensation package’s value is clearly outlined and understood. This includes pay, bonuses, benefits, etc.

Finally, be transparent about the organization’s pay structure, and how pay rates are set. After all, there are many sites out there (eg. Glassdoor) that features self-reported public pay data. 

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