Digital HRDigital TransformationIntegrating a workforce through digital disruption

Integrating a workforce through digital disruption

There are many challenges that lie ahead for leaders to successfully integrate employees who aren't as versatile to adapt to these digital changes. Linus Dahlander, Associate Professor of Strategy, ESMT Berlin discusses tackling these challenges.

As more businesses invest more time and resources into making their systems more tuned-in and versatile to adapt to digital disruption, these regular changes could have an impact on their workforce – especially for a multi-generational workforce, who struggle to understand and refine their skills to match these disruptions.  


Due to these challenges, it is becoming ever more important to develop skills and development within an organisation. This is becoming more apparent to companies as these digital development increase in stature. With Fuller’s the premium pub and hotel operator, being just one of the many organisations to invest a substantial amount of resources into launching a new learning and development program to provide an exceptional level of employee development.

First class recruitment and a clear focus on retention are key to our long-term success. This suite of development tools ensures that once we have attracted the best people we can help them grow with us” said David Hoyle, People Director, Fuller’s.

New training schemes are ever more important for businesses if workforces are to thrive in this new age, in addition to increasing productivity for companies, this would also further improve the development of staff and increase their wellbeing.

“Consultation with staff about the tools and technologies that they need to carry out their jobs more confidently and effectively may prove beneficial in helping smooth the transition to new, improved, ways of working,” added Mike Blake, Director of Health and Benefits, Willis Towers Watson.

However although digital technology and learning development schemes can positively impact a work environment, there are challenges that lie ahead if organisations are to successfully integrate digitalisation into their system. Linus Dahlander, an associate prof of strategy, ESMT Berlin commenced research into the main challenges that lie ahead integrating digital-savvy employees into the digital environment.

Integrating an accelerator or separate digital unit with the traditional part of the company

Many companies create accelerators or other separate units for boosting their digital capabilities. In fact, StoraEnso, the pulp and paper company founded in 1288 and widely regarded as the world’s oldest existing corporation, has a digital accelerator program. These are often located away from the companies in city centres and have different cultures, office spaces and management techniques to their parent companies.

One serious challenge that arises is how to integrate new talent into the core business when these people are working at a distance from the company. For example, they may not see how the code they produce interacts with the company’s core program and strategy. This is because there is often nobody in charge of integrating the accelerator with the parent company, with the task often being left to senior managers who don’t have the time.

Leveraging new digital skills across the workforce

Companies often rush to train internal staff in new kinds of digital and data science tools. One traditional Swedish steel company we worked with began training its younger generation of rolling mill operators in order to encourage a more digital mindset. This led to improved production efficiency, less variation in quality and faster onboarding of new operators. Yet despite these results, there was no framework in place for their training to ripple out across the broader organisation meaning that this digital initiative was only locally successful – a common error that companies must guard against.

Seeing bottom-up incentives like suggestion boxes or brainstorming sessions through

Some organisations aim to identify internal digital talent through bottom-up initiatives but in most cases, employees fail to engage. There is often a lack of awareness which can be tackled by managers explaining the importance of becoming digital, how to company plans to achieve this and how it will benefit people in the process. Without this communication, few employees will be motivated to engage.

Digital transformation is a deeply rooted managerial challenge which involves more than just the adoption of new technology. In order to succeed, companies need to go beyond attracting, training and retaining digital talent and integrate these people into the core business processes.

 

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