The human being in digitization poses considerable challenges for many organizations in practice. Sometimes you have to convince skeptics or deal with resistance.
The human in digitization
From your point of view, what are the major problems that should be considered in the context of digitization?
There are two main challenges when we talk about digitization. Depending on their personal experience and level of knowledge, people have very different ideas about digitization. In my experience, a purely technical or product-related view sometimes tends to lead to a negative attitude. Because we have learned that new techniques are always accompanied by more effectiveness and efficiency. And then people in digitalization naturally ask themselves questions like: What is it doing to me? How does this help me? What consequences does this have for me and my work?
Processes of change such as digitization can certainly be compared to the introduction of the steam locomotive or electrification. Many say: “Finally!” and are open to the changes that come with it. But of course, not all people are open to change. In order not to let resistance arise in the first place, it is important to understand the respective roles of the individual and their point of view and also to talk about them directly.
What can already be said today: During digitization processes, direct discussions are often criminally neglected. Or it is replaced by depersonalized communication such as e-mails, newsletters, the intranet or employee newspapers. We humans are social beings and tend to view this type of communication negatively. The personal conversation prevents misinterpretations and misunderstandings. And it is a key success factor for digitization to succeed.
Digitization through good communication
How can leaders face these impacts?
There is no equipment for the digital change, not “the” tool box and certainly not the ultimate one-day seminar. This topic is far too complex for that. Rather, it requires healthy self-reflection, authenticity, empathy and openness. It doesn’t always have to be the complete reinvention of the organization; small, well-communicated steps are often enough to make a big difference in the end. Admittedly, this requires patience and a certain degree of sustainability in action.
Do you have a few specific tips or practices that you’ve found particularly helpful?
The saying “If the organization knew what it knows” is apt at this point. From an entrepreneurial perspective, a recurring inventory makes sense. In many cases, the potential of the software and communication systems used is not at all clear to us. Or managers know far too little about the talents of their employees. The really conscious examination of the structures, people, roles and expectations suggests enormous economic potential in many companies. This requires a certain amount of time investment, the return on which should be all the higher.
Digitization through own networks and empowerment
Many institutes and associations rely on empowerment to prepare employees for the challenges of digital work. How do you go about it?
Actionism in digitization is primarily based on the tangible and above all on issues such as data protection, data security, handling software A or B or similar, for which there are training courses. These things are relatively easy to learn, easy to convey and not too expensive in terms of costs. In my opinion, however, the core lies in social and personal skills. Teaching these skills is more complex, takes longer and is also more expensive. Therefore, small and medium-sized companies also shy away from it. Sometimes it might make sense to think about your own and existing networks. For example, why shouldn’t a Generation Z trainee be a digital mentor for his colleagues? Can the burdens of adjustment processes be shared among several shoulders? How much digitization does my customer really need?
Correctly assessing human potential in digitalization
How is it possible, under certain circumstances, to convince older or less flexible employees within an organization and to get them on their way?
This question is closely linked to the meaningfulness of the action, but also to the process of learning. Changes, regardless of whether they involve new software or processes, require meaningful and target group-oriented communication. Generalizing approaches run the risk of losing precisely these groups of people. Unsuitable formats, media or simply not enough study time can make the difference between success and failure.
Good methodical-didactical planning and implementation primarily requires an intensive discussion with the employees of a company. Activation, whether young or old, only works well if we know the experiences and potential of these people. When people are allowed to use their experience and skills, they experience appreciation, are motivated and are happy to pass on their knowledge to their colleagues. In view of the fact that we cannot find enough “new” employees due to demographic change, I think it would be almost criminal to think in stereotypes and leave these resources unused.