Digital transformation – a new mind-set required

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Written by Lisa Barrett on 19 December 2016 in Opinion

Lisa Barrett argues that L&D professionals are at the heart of nuturing digital skills for their organisations 

Digital transformation is perhaps the most daunting challenge facing most enterprises today, and is often seen as a problem for the C-Suite (and the CIO in particular). Yet a successful strategy recognises that digital transformation goes far beyond data and devices – it is about giving people the skills they need to exploit new technologies.

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The real revolution, then, needs to happen in the head; which is why learning and development (L&D) professionals have such a critical part to play. By following the right roadmap, you’ll be able to lead your business in this revolution.

Define objectives

Without a clear objective, ‘digital transformation’ is merely the business buzzword du jour.  Businesses not only need to define what ‘digital’ means for their organisation; they also need a clear understanding of what success looks like – what is the end goal?

This is where L&D professionals can bring enormous value. By providing a framework for what skills need to be fostered in the workplace, they can help shape the overall strategy of the transformation exercise. According to our latest Digiskills Report1, organisations are far more likely to be digitally capable when their L&D function takes responsibility for defining the digital skills that their organisation needs.

Cultural evolution, not revolution

One risk of digital transformation is that organisations discard the great things about their business that have brought them success in the past. Of course, it’s vital that you adapt your culture for the digital age, but success depends on building on your business’ existing strengths – not discarding them.

It’s the responsibility of L&D leaders to identify how to evolve existing processes to take advantage of new technologies and ways of working – such as communication and collaboration tools, or online training. This is particularly important to secure buy-in from existing employees, who may resist changes to long-cherished aspects of the corporate culture.

Keep staff on-side

In the rush to go digital, it’s easy to forget employees; yet these are the people most affected by any changes. Remember, this isn’t just a back-office revolution: it requires changes to workers’ mind-set as well as the acquisition of new skills.

People understand that they need to develop their skills to stay relevant in the modern workplace, and will be frustrated if they feel left behind in the great technological transformation of their business. That is why it is so important for L&D to develop a range of courses, incorporating social and collaborative experiential learning, to equip them with the skills they need for the new digital era.

Harness the power of data

Fundamentally, all digital transformation initiatives are changing the way that we use data. It’s no surprise that many job roles, from sales to marketing, IT to HR, use tools such as data analytics to inform their decision-making.

While this obviously requires a business to have the right tools to crunch the numbers and visualise the results in a meaningful way, it also requires a shift in corporate culture where information is prized and available to everyone.

Changing the model

A successfully digitally-transformed business will replace the outdated hierarchical model and instead foster a culture where ideas and insight can come from anywhere in the organisation. Again, this is an area where the L&D department should be leading, and fighting for employees to be given the skills that will enable them to shoulder this responsibility.

At its core, digital transformation is about changing minds as much as it is about replacing technologies. That’s why L&D is vital in making these initiatives a success.




AVADO in partnership with the CIPD was winner of the gold award for Best Training Partnership at the TJ Awards 2016


About the author

Lisa Barrett is the managing director at AVADO Digital. 


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