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5 Ways Good Leaders Can Digitally Disrupt Transforming employee attitudes and behavior is often the missing ingredient.

By Phil Geldart

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Henrik Sorensen | Getty Images

While there's no crystal ball to tell the digital future, one thing is for certain: Digital disruption is only accelerating. Some industries have changed seemingly overnight with the introduction of new technological advances that are putting pressure on organizations to become more innovative, nimble and agile in their approach to doing business.

When organizations explore ways to digitally innovate, it is easy to jump straight to high-tech digital tools and the latest processes. However, there is one critical factor that is often an afterthought, and that is the people and their willingness to change. After years working with clients and leading my own organization, I can tell you firsthand that transforming employee attitudes and behavior is often the missing ingredient required for a successful digital transformation. In fact, in a joint study conducted by MIT and Deloitte, it was found that the key differentiator between companies that achieve successful digital transformation and those who don't is a strategy to build an organizational culture where leaders and employees embrace change.

Related: How to Effectively Communicate to Your Organization in Turbulent Times

To lead your organization through digital transformation and create a culture of this nature, it's important to take steps that address the people that make up a company's culture. They are as follows.

1. Start with your digital vision

Developing a vision for a digitally transformed organization requires examining the current state of the organization, defining where it should be and then identifying the behaviors, processes, and tools needed to achieve the end goal. A well-communicated vision for change has the power to motivate and engage employees, reassuring them that senior leaders have their best interests at heart.

2. Define the new normal

Once people see and understand the vision for change, they need to know what's required to be successful. The more clearly leaders define how the digital transformation will impact each employee and function, the better the organization will be able to overcome obstacles such as skepticism, worries about job loss and performance anxiety.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Throughout the entire transformation process, organizational leaders will need to address employees' questions and concerns with thorough and frequent communication. When encountering major organizational change, individuals often benefit from hearing important messages repeatedly and in different contexts — in one-on-meetings, team discussions and town hall meetings, for example.

4. Optimize impact

Digital transformation is more likely to stick when leaders work together with employees to determine which aspects of their work need to change. Direct supervisors help to optimize the impact of digital transformation by identifying opportunities for individuals to build skills through training, deepen their knowledge of new systems and test new ways of performing certain tasks.

5. Sustain energy

From the moment you communicate the vision for change until the organization realizes a full transformation, acknowledging and rewarding progress keeps the momentum going and energy up and lets employees know that the change initiative won't be abandoned.

Related: The Importance of Seeing the Big Picture

Digital transformation requires more than an investment in new digital tools and processes; it also requires a deliberate focus on changing the mindset and behavior of employees at every level of the organization. When employees understand the vision for change and have support from leaders and opportunities for learning new behaviors, you can develop a culture and organization poised to succeed in the digital age.

Phil Geldart

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Phil Geldart, founder and CEO at Eagle’s Flight, is a recognized authority in the areas of transforming organizational culture and leadership development. He is an author of seven books and has another set to publish in early 2020 on Customer Centricity.

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