Leadership mindset change to adopt digitisation

JULY 24 — Despite digitisation, most enterprises still hold strongly with the traditional prescriptive methods which include a visible hierarchy of structure, command, functions, appropriate controls, and standardised processes. Digital technologies continue to change the way we work as well as reshape industries and companies. The reason is not farfetched from its benefits to make organisations keep up with, if not soar above, competitors.

Digitising organisation’s operating model will profoundly transform corporate organisations. The lack of sophisticated technologies such as advanced neural machine-learning techniques, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things has created larger leadership gaps within organisations across the globe. Therefore, ensuring your organisation complies with the digital age requires you to address your organisation’s culture. Employees will have no better choice than to adopt these technologies as well as integrate them into processes. Thus, leaders now require different skills than in past generations. Having the right, digital-savvy leaders can help, in this regard, to:

  • build competencies for the workforce;
  • empower people to work in a new way;
  • provide a digital upgrade to day-to-day tools; and
  • communicate through traditional and digital methods frequently.

For instance, RPA is a fast-growing technology which automates rule-based tasks like data processing. Change in terms of talent and capabilities occurs at every level during digital transformation. An alternative of new leaders familiar with digital technologies joining the management team is the change of mindset by the existing leaders to become digital-savvy. It is undoubtedly that such leadership are key to transformation success. Reports have indicated that organisations that have digital-savvy leaders in place have more likelihood to record a successful digital transformation than organisations who lack the same.

Consider your employees first

One approach to ensuring and reinforcing change in any organisation is by engaging stakeholders. Employees, particularly, have to be encouraged to challenge old ways of working and thinking and experiment with new ideas as well as inspired for effective participation in the change process. Leaders, in the digital environment, need to engage their workforces in managing work. When starting a new initiative or idea, leaders are expected to know what they intend to achieve and also ask their employees of their views on the proposed outcome. The inspiration comes into play when employees feel secure and integrated into any mission. Then, the leader determines the nature as well as the volume of employees work and get them committed to it.

Build capabilities for workforce

Because digitisation requires new modes of working and change in an organisation’s overall culture, individuals’ roles and responsibilities have to be redefined to have them aligned with the transformation goals. Make employees technology-driven to bridge the potential gaps between the conventional and digital aspects of business. In other words, leaders’ experience of business and technology will make them connect the traditional as well as digital aspects of the business effectively. For more effective and stress-free processes, organisations can run innovative recruiting campaigns (as an aspect of the recruiting process) that involve locating hidden messages in source code or hosting technology conferences. An alternative process is to reinforce new behaviours and modes of working through formal mechanisms. There should be open work or continuous learning environments with the employees given the opportunity to generate their ideas about where the business might be supported by digitisation.

Develop trust and continuous collaboration

Digital transformations require cultural as well as behavioural changes such as customer centricity, calculated risk-taking, and increased collaboration. Collaboration, an integral aspect of success in digitalisation, entails shared purpose, engagement, and commitment – both individual and collective. Collaboration comes in two aspects – attitude and action. When employees are encouraged to develop the right attitude, they get willing to collaborate with their team members before on specific goals and objectives. Therefore, the leader is expected to encourage as well as coach employees both individually and collectively to make them in a more collaborative direction.

Change communication model

Good communication is essential for a successful transformation. The traditional channels that only support one-way communication cannot sustain an organisation towards digitisation. Rather, more interactive platforms that give way for open dialogues across the organisation will prove to be more digitisation-compliant. During the communication process, be sure to make messages more concise and tailored to the people in the organisation. A blend of remote and digital communications in conveying such transformation message is more effective than traditional or in-person channels.

Share roles accordingly

An effective collaborative environment requires contextual, role-based leadership. The digital leader utilises other people as leaders in certain situations and circumstances. Rather than assuming leadership in every role, he delimitates leadership roles. This will encourage competency-based and self-organised leadership. Though the CHRO will be the overall leader, team leaders, as well as domain experts, also play critical leadership roles. As such, senior leaders have to foster a sense of urgency within their units to get the desired transformation or change.

Thus, leadership is crucial for any business development as well as a successful digital transformation. In fact, the increasingly digitised economy has left company leaders with no better choice than to adopt a new mindset that supports technology and digital assets. This is only achievable through culture change among both leadership and employees. In other words, culture is the best enabler of digital transformation as tools won’t make any difference without people. However, developing a digital culture takes time but the sooner a company acts, the faster it will be able to contend in today’s fast-paced, digitised world.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

* Dr Roy Prasad is the Dean of the School of Business Accounting and Management at Genovasi University College.

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