Who is responsible for attracting top talent to your organization? Who creates your marketing campaigns and strategies for sales? Who interacts with customers on a daily basis? Your employees do. Employees are the lifeblood of business and yet we tend to forget what it would be like without them. We forget that even though we have technology for every task, nothing can replace the human touch and spirit. And for this reason, people drive digital transformation.
Last month I shared my Six Pillars of Digital Transformation, and while I’ve said that no pillar is more important than the next, understanding and developing the people pillar in your business is required if you want to develop the others. I will say once again that leaders must put employees first because at the end of the day, people drive digital transformation. Sure, technology is an important element to meaningful digital change, but without the human element, you will quickly realize how technology is merely an enabler and not the core purpose of digital transformation.
Beyond the idea that you cannot run your business without people, it is important to reiterate that you cannot operate technology without people. Even with new technology such as AI and VR, a human implementing changes, installing updates on machines or training others on how to properly use the tools will still be required for the foreseeable future. Even AI as we know it is entirely dependent on humans training the machines, hence the people drive digital transformation.
People Drive Digital Transformation: The Importance of People in Your Business
People are required for many aspects of your business.
- People can connect on a deeper level. Humans will always connect deeper with other humans, instead of machines. When it comes to your user experience for your customers, people make the difference. They have emotions, the ability to think and empathize. You cannot entirely replace human nature with any form of technology. The future will be comprised of Human-Machine partnerships. Human is first for a reason.
- People can think critically and creatively. Your business requires talent for thought-jobs now more than ever. Titles such as analyst and strategist all require a human element to be successful. They require critical thinking and creative skills that technology simply does not possess—at least not yet. Again, machines will increase the volume of data that can be processed, but it will require collaboration with humans to maximize the power of AI and Computing.
- People possess talent. Not to sound like an after school special, but people are all unique and therefore possess unique talents that your business needs to succeed. Who is going to fix that tech problem that occurs inside of your new productivity tool? Who is going to make suggestions based on the usability of your website? People will.
Throughout the process of digital transformation, change will need to be made and accepted and this ability to adapt comes from people buying into the strategy, vision and culture of your organization. Furthermore, employees will need to feel valued in order to perform to the best of their ability. Companies that invest in their people and commit to their development will build loyal employees. Both anecdotal and quantitative research has shown that people are a critical component for digital transformation in organizations. People that are invested in an organization want to see it thrive. They want to see it succeed. They will help it change.
People to People Connection
I really don’t need to remind you that has we progress through digital transformation technology will reach new heights—we are seeing it everywhere. AI, VR and AR are beginning to make their way into our day-today businesses. But as exciting as it is, it is critical to remember that this technology should be used as a catalyst for meaningful experiences, not to replace who we are. Technology can create better experiences for both employees and customers, while still connecting people to people.
There are literally millions of ways to use the people to people connection approach within your business. Whether it is using analytics to speed up the customer service, while still allowing your customers to speak to a human, or creating a seamless online presence using VR for accessibility, always keep the people to people connection in the front of your mind, since people drive digital transformation.
How to Put People First
Although we think we understand why employees are our most valuable resource, we need to take a look at our priorities. As part of your digital transformation process, it is critical to analyze your current employee rules, processes and strategies. Are your employees first? Do you value them over profits or customers? If you really want to see how people drive digital transformation in your organization, putting employees first is where to start. Let’s take a look at some steps you can take:
- Trust your employees with more control. I know this is a tough one and has long been a challenge across the leadership spectrum. However, employees that feel empowered to make their own decisions are empowered to deliver. This can be realized through increased workplace flexibility as well as making them part of the process of implementing new technologies into the organization. This isn’t just a digital initiative, it’s really the way to shape change in an organization because when employees feel part of the change, they are more likely to embrace it and even evangelize it to other employees that may still be on the fence. Give your employees more control and you’ll see results.
- Keep an open-door policy. Your employees want to feel heard and understood. Keeping an open door and an open line of communication will deliver on that desire. Listen to their concerns. Answer their questions. React to and utilize their suggestions. Do whatever it takes to show that what they say matters. New high-tech communication channels often become a replacement for more personal interactions, but not everyone can read a memo and just “Get it.” Sometimes they have questions or concerns and they need the ability to address them.
- Know your mission and share it. Employees want more than your benefits and their paycheck. They want to know that all of their hard work is for a reason. Share your mission. Explain how their work fits into the major company goals. If you want employees to be invested, you have to educate them and explain why. Would you be invested in a company that didn’t explain why your work was important? Likely not. So don’t let your employees suffer the same fate.
Your employees are a critical component to business success and when it comes to a successful digital transformation. I always say digital transformation is technology enabled, but people led. In short, people drive digital transformation. By giving them more control, communicating with them often, sharing your mission and placing importance on the people to people connection, the changes to come will be simpler, faster and welcomed with open arms.
The original version of this post first published on Forbes.