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Dec 03, 2019

Approx. 11 min. read

Digital Transformation (DX): How to Get Your Employees Ready?

Digital transformation initiatives are now widely adopted across the world. Therefore, we can find articles and research covering the benefits,...

digital-transformation-in-the-workplace (2)

Digital transformation initiatives are now widely adopted across the world. Therefore, we can find articles and research covering the benefits, advantages and best DX practices.

However, not many of them focus on the employees’ side of digital transformation. This is true even though organizations admit that employees are crucial stakeholders for driving change within organizations. Still, there are not many advice and best practices on how to prepare your employees for these big changes.

If you are undergoing a digital transformation process, follow our advice for setting up your employees for success.  

🔔Communication plays a critical role in times of change. Join our upcoming webinar "6½ M&A Secrets: A Chat With Internal Comms" where Jason Anthoine will share his communication best practices for making a merger or acquisition a success! 

Employees’ Role in Digital Transformation

71% of employers say that their workforce is either very or extremely important in supporting their digital transformation strategy. 

However, while 90% of C-suite executives say their company pays attention to people’s needs when introducing new technology, only 53%
of staff say the same.

digital-transformation-statistics

Successful DX is not just about technology; it’s about transforming the way you do business from the ground up. 

You can’t do that without your workforce. Enterprises now need to think about how to go beyond the C-suite, down to the workers who will be incorporating new technology and processes into their daily tasks. Also, they need to think about the impact digital transformation will have on workers at every level.

Even though most employers are aware of these new needs, very few are addressing the role of employee communication for DX success

As you will see in this blog, internal communications departments need to bring their strategy to a whole new level and become one of the main stakeholders for driving digital transformation. 

12 Tips to Prepare Your Employees for Digital Transformation

Most organizations, when implementing digital transformation, focus on processes, logistics and outcomes, and not so much on their employees. 

As your employees are the biggest drivers for DX success, we now need to treat them as they are the crucial ingredient to the successful digital transformation recipe. 

Communication is extremely important here as you will understand from the following tips. 

1. Close the skill gap (reskill and upskill)

One of the biggest concerns organizations have when implementing digital transformation is the lack of digital skills in their workplace. 

Moreover, in the future, 9 out of 10 jobs will require digital skills. On the other side, 44% of Europeans between 16 and 74 years do not have basic digital skills.

From basic digital abilities to the most advanced AI skills, digital knowledge should be easily accessible by employees and encouraged by employers.

Before going into a DX project, employers need to be aware of this gap and communicate it openly to the employees. 

With honest and open communication, it is much easier to have your employees work with you to close that gap. 

2. Revisit your company culture

According to research, the biggest challenge when it comes to digital transformation is driving cultural change. 

Moreover, 97% of companies believe that cultural change is important for digital transformation - 63% say it’s very important and 34% say it is somewhat important. 

digital-transformation-culture

However, driving cultural change is not easy to achieve, especially within  organizations with poor internal communication strategy.

Internal communications play a crucial role for driving that cultural change that supports business transformation and eases change management

3. Consider appointing a Chief Innovation Officer (CIO)

Appointing the right leader during digital transformation makes the process more successful and streamlined. 

Therefore, the role of Chief Innovation Officer as executive sponsors of digital transformation is on the rise, swelling by 64% since last year. 

The same research shows that Chief Innovation Officers and Chief Digital Officers own digital transformation at 11% of reporting companies. This indicates that these roles are combining over time as digital becomes the new norm and as innovation becomes a priority in business transformation.

When appointing a CIO, make sure to assign a person with good leadership skills. Their ability to openly and frequently communicate with employees will be as important as their knowledge around implementing change and innovation. 

3. Communicate the benefits of DX to eliminate fear

Spreading positivity in the workplace is important during digital transformation. 

Most people are resistant to change. Whenever changes happen within your organization, people may not understand the real benefits of that change

This is especially true with digital transformation as your employees may think that technology could replace their work. 

Therefore, employers should transparently communicate all the benefits of digitalization. Moreover, they should explain that digital transformation doesn’t eliminate jobs, but creates new career opportunities and enables employees to develop new, highly demanded skills.

According to research, 67.8% of companies report that technology disruption has had a neutral-to-positive impact on job creation. 37.3% report a net increase in job creation because of it. 

digital-transformation-job-creation

4. Align employees with your business goals

To drive culture of innovation, the whole workplace needs to be aligned with your strategy and business goals. However, it can be extremely hard to embed new behaviors and values within organizations.

Here, leaders and internal communications should work together towards driving those behaviors through efficient communication with employees.

It is shocking to me that only 47% of employees agree that their employer does a good job communicating about the importance of digital skills for the success of the company. 

digital-transformation-1Remember, without having employees aligned with your company’s goals, DX can never work. On the other side, we can not expect from our employees to be engaged and collaboratively work towards those goals if we don’t communicate with them regularly.

5. Bring your Internal Communications on board

Clear, transparent and frequent communication is critical before, during and after digital transformation. 

For that reason, organizations should now consider internal communications department as one of their most important business partners for driving change

IC professionals, especially during transformation efforts, should strive towards more employee engagement. 

Not only that informed employees have a higher level of engagement, but there are many other benefits such as higher productivity, increased happiness at work, and lower employee turnover.

Employees need to understand where the organization is headed, why it is changing, and why the changes are important. At organizations that follow these practices, successful transformation is more than three times more likely.

digital-transformation-employee-communication-1

6. Ensure timely and relevant information flow 

You think your employees feel informed?

According to research, only 49% of employees agreed with the statement:


 “I feel well-informed about important decisions at my company.”


Keeping employees in the dark is actually a sure-fire way to disengage your people and create an atmosphere of doubt and mistrust.

Making sure that the right information reaches the right employees at the right time is not an easy task to do. 

However, it is what makes some DX projects more successful than the others. Many organizations are now turning to new employee communication channels that enable them to ensure their employees are always on track with important company updates. 

7. Encourage ongoing two-way conversations

A lot of DX projects fail after the implementation phase. Therefore, continuous employee engagement in the post-implementations phase is as important as during the implementation phase.

For that reason, internal communication efforts should not stop once digital transformation projects get implemented. 

Since 39% of Executives expect the value out of digital initiatives in 3 to 5 years, it is extremely important to keep tracking how employees are adopting to the new work environment even after the implementation. 

Internal communications departments should, therefore, encourage continuous two-way employee conversations

8. Make information easily accessible

As mentioned earlier, IC departments are one of the most important stakeholders when it comes to digital transformation. It is their and the leaders’ duty to keep employees informed and make information available to employees at all times during digital transformation projects.  

The change itself may cause gear and frustration within your organization. Extensive information search can only make the situation worse. 

Did you know that an average employee spends 2.5 hours a day searching for information, and employees are often missing out on important content?

communications-director-challenges-information-searchOften times, this is what causes low engagement rates among employees, making poor internal communications one of the main reasons for employee frustrations and push-backs. 

9. Don’t forget about your remote employees

Remote work requires a completely different mindset than working in traditional offices. In fact, 20% of remote employees say that they lack a sense of belonging and sometimes feel lonely

remote-employees-communicationIn order to have these employees aligned with your DX goals, you need to make sure to eliminate these feelings by improving communication with them. 

I am sure that most of you reading this blog have at least a few full-time or part-time remote employees or simply have employees who spend most of their time on the field.  

  • How do you make sure to engage them in the whole DX project?
  • How do you ensure that they stay in the loop?
  • How do you enable them to join the conversation from wherever they are?

Employee communication solutions like Smarp are fully optimized for mobile and designed to help companies better connect with their remote teams

10. Ease cross-departmental collaboration

51% of companies have steering committees that have earned executive support and resource allocation for digital transformation. 

These committees include cross-functional and interdepartmental members, and they are essential for driving meaningful change across the enterprise. 

Therefore, DX isn’t a job for one department or executive. Guidance and expertise need to come from several areas of focus, including human resources, IT, internal communications and other departments. These teams should always be able to communicate properly across departments

However, 95% of employers see cooperation between departments and team silos as challenges facing digital transformation.

digital-transformation-challenges-1Even though each of these teams may focus on different objectives, leaders should work together and with employees from across the enterprise to create a cohesive strategy and consistent experience.

This cross-departmental collaboration, however, can’t be achieved without a well-set internal communication strategy and the implementation of proper internal communications tools

11. Connect all of your communication channels

When conversations and documentation sharing are streamlined, centralized and accessible on demand, tasks are accomplished in less time with fewer errors. 

Today, enterprise companies use multiple communication channels such as intranets, emails, messaging software, document sharing software, employee newsletter...but they don’t have a way to connect them all into a centralized employee communication solution

As a consequence, employees get confused about the primary communication channel. 

This is why we have developed Smarp, an employee communication solution that connects various IC channels and gives employees a centralized place with all the important information. 

12. Be careful about information overload

Too much information has a negative effect on employee engagement. Inboxes full with unimportant or irrelevant information cause frustration and drop in employee productivity. 

digital-transformation-communicationSo how do you prevent this information overload?

Think about this for a second...

There are three specific types of information that are controlled by management and that should flow through to employees at any level: 

  • What employees need to know
  • What employees should know
  • What employees want to know

Do you have a way to filter and segment your internal content so that it reaches only employees to whom the information is important and relevant?

With Smarp, you can create personalized news feeds to ensure more employee engagement with the internal communications content. 

Improve Employee Communication for more Successful DX 

In this blog, we saw that employee engagement and communication are some of the most important prerequisites for successful digital transformation

Preparing your employees for change helps them better understand the change, accept it and align with your company’s DX goals. 

Therefore, organizations now must consider implementing new communication technologies that enable leaders and internal comms departments reach every employee with relevant information. 

With Smarp, it is much easier to connect and engage with your employees, keep them informed, and encourage them to collaborate, especially when your organization is undergoing changes such as digital transformation. 

To see how Smarp can help you optimize your change management and digital transformation efforts, schedule a demo today!

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Written by

Kristina Martic

Kristina Martic

Digital Marketing and Employer Branding

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