Digital Transformation: How to Get Buy-In For Change Initiatives

Organisations of all industries are in the midst of digital transformation (if they aren’t, they probably won’t be around much longer). Like a car taken in for an overhauling, back-end operations and customer-facing strategies are being improved and innovated through the use of modern technologies.

What successful digital transformation needs is the support of crucial resources (i.e. people’s commitment, funding, etc) as well as buy-in from all levels of the organisation. However, digital transformation is not just about updating systems and forms of communication with stakeholders. The way that employees embrace new systems and approach customers are key aspects of the transformation.

Getting employees’ buy-in for this transformation can be a challenge. People tend to hold on to what is familiar and comfortable. However, change throws one into an unknown state, requiring all affected to be emotionally agile and have an adaptive behavioural response. Large-scale change that comes with digital transformation has, to some degree, the effect of discomfort, unease, anxiety, stress, fear, pain or denial on the majority of employees. This poses a significant challenge for leaders.

In this series of articles on change management, we will be looking at the Real Change Framework authored by Dr Lily Cheng, which serves as a guideline for going through digital transformation. There are 9 enablers that facilitate the successful implementation of change initiatives. This article focuses on the content enablers “Perceived Gaps”, “Desired State” and “Consistency of the Change Message”.

Perceived Gaps

One of the most impactful ways of getting employees' buy-in for change initiatives involves making sure that everyone understands what changes are about to take place and why these are necessary. In other words, employees need a strong reason for the change.

While there are many highly publicised digital transformation efforts currently being made around the world, company boards and directors still require proof of value for major decisions. Important statistics and topics that should be covered when presenting a digital transformation strategy include: 

  • An outline of your digital strategy phases and a realistic timeline for implementation.
  • Examples of current company projects or competitor projects that demonstrate the benefits of transformation.
  • Dependable data analytics that illustrates cost savings, profits, customer retention and more.
  • Well-researched predictions concerning how the plan will change business operations and customer experience.
  • A plan for measuring how the strategy impacts the business.

 It is helpful to place your company’s potential transformation in the context of the larger marketplace, including showing how your changes can help reposition and improve standings with regards to competitors and target audiences. This includes measuring the results of digital transformation efforts to show that the successes or shortcomings of the strategy will be fully understood after buy-in and approval. 

Desired State

An increased sense of urgency among a critical mass of employees around a shared vision that is both ideal and ennobling is crucial. It is human nature for employees to reject change that is “thrown” at them. When people do not see the need for change or understand the compelling business case, they often fear or resent change. In the worst case, they may deliberately sabotage or derail change efforts.

Often senior leaders identify a new opportunity, goal or strategy that is designed to forward the organisation to the next level. Leaders must be crystal clear about this opportunity along with the compelling business case in order to articulate it in a comprehensive way to all constituents.

The next step mid-level managers and supervisors need to take is turning the change vision into reality. They need to implement strategies to progress toward the desired changed outcomes.

Consistency of Change Message

Furthermore, getting employees to embrace digital transformation requires communicating the message of change consistently.

A successful and timely digital transformation within a company requires every tier of leadership to be invested in change, including board members, C-suite, upper-level management and mid-lower level management. There has to be a clear alignment of voices from those leading the change initiative at the highest level.

This implies that one can ask any member of the management team about the ongoing transformation and there will be no discrepancies in what is being communicated. A good way of sharing information about the changes with staff is using internal media that reaches everyone. The more communication that flows through these internal channels, the fewer questions arise for leaders to respond to, decreasing the chances of sending inconsistent messages about the changes.

Ground-level changes within organisations send most business leaders on a stressful, nail-biting journey. Overhauling a company’s performance through new digital platforms requires vision, expertise and credibility - the most critical factor though is employee buy-in.

Digital transformation isn't optional for most organisations. It's a foundational shift that's making the business world more competitive. The risks of struggling in the move to digital are too high. It's time to invest in a cultural shift.

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