7 – Five steps to digital onboarding
In the previous Biz 4.0 post, we explored the steps to take to start your organisation’s digital journey. In this post we are going to cover the digital onboarding process for your people. Please note that the term, digital onboarding, is more associated with moving customers to an online service. I believe the term is equally valid as an expression for describing the process of migrating your people from your industrial era operating model to one that is robust enough to handle the increasingly stormy environment so characteristic of the digital age.
Earn your stripes
Firstly, we must understand that leadership is something that is earned in the digital age. It is not something that is bestowed by higher management. In fact, it is your people who will decide whether you are a leader or not. A simple test. From time to time, ‘turn around’ without warning. If there is nobody following you, you are, by definition, not a leader.
So, it is paramount that you keep this in mind when you set about your organisation’s transformation journey. It may well be that you and the c-suite team have a crystal-clear idea of how you are going to do this, and it is now simply a case of assigning responsibilities to the management and checking progress from time to time. The reality is that you are attempting to lead your people into uncharted territory. I practice an activity called parkour. It meets both my human need for excitement, whilst tuning my capacity for managing fear. For me, the excitement to fear (E2F) ratio is perfect. Now if I were to suggest to an innocent bystander that they follow me as I traverse various obstacles of varying heights, they may well decline because they have a different preferred E2F ratio, and what I am proposing sits outside their comfort zone in this respect.
If I had influence over them, I might suggest in a more assertive manner that they follow me; strongly implying that their job is at stake or that the new puppy is going back to its original owner. At a certain point they would comply. They would resent it of course, but worse still they might damage themselves in the process.
AI will destroy jobs?
So, if we return to the world of business. You might well be fired up to thrive in the digital age. Despite your natural urge to maintain the status quo, perfectly natural given that there is risk of loss on this journey, your E2F ratio is pretty high. We cannot assume the same is true for your people. They have no doubt already started their ‘grazing media diet’ comprising messages such as, ‘The robots are coming’ and ‘AI will destroy jobs’. So, it is quite likely that their E2F ratio is already low. You announcing that the future is now, and that things are going to change around here will simply induce panic. But at least you now know why.
As leaders we need to acknowledge this reality. Here are five broad pointers as to how you cultivate what might be called digital followers, a key pre-requisite for digital leadership.
1 – Improve digital awareness
This is less about learning how to configure a virtual assistant and more about understanding the macroeconomic forces that are giving rise to this transition from the industrial age. This has implications for business models, talent management and leadership, as well as for culture and risk management.
As well as these ‘problem definitions’, you would be wise to ensure your people also understand how organisations are addressing these issues / opportunities.
Most importantly, you are encouraged to ensure your leadership understands what is happening and the implications for them and the organisation if they fail to adapt.
2 – Clarify vision and goals
With a competent executive team, you are in a better position to craft a transformation intention for the digital age. If setting up a new mobile-responsive website or accepting cryptocurrencies in your showrooms rank high, then please return to step 1.
‘For profit’ organisations, in particular, need to create a vision that extends beyond making the shareholders even more rich. Corporate social responsibility is no longer just a webpage. Your people increasingly want to feel part of something that has genuine societal purpose.
3 – Address capabilities
We are moving into unknown territory where your business model, and increasingly business models, will be transient. Therefore, traditional organograms with well defined job specifications and career paths will become obsolete. So, there will be the tactical requirement in respect of what do your people need by way of skill to achieve the current goals, along with what do they need to develop greater resilience and adaptability as their role changes with market demands.
4 – Turn up the excitement
You can start the process of revving up your people in parallel with addressing capabilities. And even in parallel with clarifying vision and goals, because your people may be in a better position than you think to help in this respect.
As I have addressed elsewhere in this blog, the digital age is a return to our true human nature. And those of us who are prepared to give up the learned-helplessness of industrial era work, and take on the responsibility of genuinely turning our cognitive capacity into business value, will enjoy both professional success and personal liberation.
5 – Dampen the fear
We cannot ‘candy coat’ what lies ahead. The party is over. The age of certainty has ended. We all must work smarter to stay in play. And by smarter, I mean smarter than a robot or an algorithm. Positioning emerging technologies as an augmentation to our capability, rather than the impending cause of our economic irrelevance, is the smart way to position it. I am not suggesting this because the more we can eliminate fear, the more likely we will keep our people operating at full tilt until the day the robots turn up at reception for their first day at work. The smart reason is that each person in your organisation has significant cognitive capacity, which is in many cases underutilised (poor asset management). What is more you, have invested significantly in acquiring and developing each person, plus they have organisational wisdom, which it would be foolish to waste. Despite the fantasies of some futurists, I believe the next decade at least will require humans to be at the centre of the organisation. So, you need to start thinking now how you will salvage your investment in ‘no’, ‘white’ and ‘blue’ collar workers.
Amazon not a threat?
It is my experience that most leaders recognise that they need to transform their business. If you don’t think Amazon is a threat to your business, then you likely work for Amazon. But even Amazon is prey in the eyes of other global players. If you currently sit at the top of your industry’s food chain be prepared for both new challengers and the dissolution or reinvention of your industry.
The challenge as I see it is that most business leaders are frozen by what might lie ahead. It’s time to reset your E2F ratio to better align with the new realities, and to then as proposed in this post conduct a similar (digital onboarding) exercise with your people.