Why People Are The Key Ingredient For A Workplace Transformation
By Sandeep Kishore, CEO and MD, Zensar TechnologiesAs appearing in Forbes
29 July, 2019
News | 29 Jul 2019
Delivering on change and continuous transformation are mission-critical objectives for today’s businesses. Digital-native companies have created massive disruption in every industry, forcing traditional enterprises to become more agile, effective and market-relevant. As part of the change and transformation phenomenon, adopting the latest digital tools has become accepted orthodoxy.
However, transformation initiatives show distinct differences when it comes to planning, implementation and, ultimately, success. If one considers that the “traditional” approach to transformation revolves around embracing the implementation of technology as the first and only step, then one can also understand why many of these transformation efforts can fail to deliver. This is because transformation is about far more than technology adoption -- it is about enterprise culture and how organizations view and enable their people to adopt change.
Real success in any transformation comes through aligning an organization to become more culturally effective, agile, sensitive, transparent and ownership-driven. In this sort of workplace environment, technology and digital platforms become enablers of end-to-end, enterprise-wide transformation, because the first question is, invariably, “What problem are we trying to solve?” versus “What technology can we throw at the problem?” While it might seem obvious that transformation is less about technology than it is about tackling business problems, many companies are still stuck keeping technology at the core, rather than having their people be the focus.
Whether fixing a supply chain issue, building a new customer-facing platform or working on any other project, if a company’s human capital is not invested in the solution and outcome, any positive impacts will be short-lived. A technology-first approach to change and transformation means that people just own the transaction and not the overarching and fundamental aspect of change. We need to make it our people’s dream and inspire them to “own” transformation.
I would argue that transformation in any industry -- whether in a traditional manufacturing environment or a new-age digital company -- is truly about people and their experience. With a people-based approach, companies can eliminate constrained thinking by making the entire team accountable for transformation while empowering them to build the future together. This enabling process begins with facilitating new ways of thinking, focusing on business imperatives first and then building success through the digital tools and capabilities required to drive change. In short, if you let people own the change, they work together to make it happen, and technology then facilitates the solution but doesn’t serve as its prime mover.
Part of this empowerment process is also about revisiting traditional definitions. For example, in our company, we use “associate” and not “employee.” This is because we believe that this semantic change is part of enabling a thinking-led, entrepreneurial atmosphere for our associates, our talent and our people. The organization’s goal is to create an environment in which people feel enabled to succeed, with a platform that focuses on discussing and debating the “why” of change and not just the “what” and “how.”
The real sense of ownership and accountability is always driven through shared success and an immense sense of pride and honor. People want to be creative and successful. They want to live healthy, joy-filled lives and, most importantly, they desire a sense of purpose.
What this means in real-world terms is that companies can and should embrace a new, people-based approach to digital transformation. When companies begin a massive change journey -- and, frankly, when the survival of the culture and the organization itself is at the center of the journey -- the best approach is to always have people at the core rather than technology. By doing so, clear thinking can take root and rapidly grow solution-centric success that begets more success. And as success creates the desire for more success, an attitude of “we can do it” and “we can create change” soon takes hold. When that happens, the pace of change will increase, and fully empowered teams will drive change at a pace that works for the organization and for themselves.
What this phenomenon actually means in an organizational context is that one successful digital platform that makes people say, “Wow! This is great!” usually results in them saying, “I want to launch several more, and here are the business reasons why.” This humanistic approach to change and transformation drives a new kind of self-sustaining progress -- and even if some of these digital platforms do not succeed, this momentum will facilitate the learning and development that become the foundation for successful longer-term transformation across the enterprise.
What’s more, the ability for people to express themselves through the work of transformation gives a phenomenal boost to their sense of purpose and pride. Team members can feel the impact of their work and understand that the company is aligned with their own goals. The feeling of “I want to build this” and “I’m allowed to build it” provides meaningful reinforcement around a common sense of purpose.
This kind of validation is rooted in the same basic human values that we have all shared in the 10,000 years since the nomads settled and people began living together as a society. In many ways, the only real difference between caveman times and now is that today’s technology enables faster change. Hundreds and thousands of years ago, very limited tools were available, and people made do with rocks and fire to “transform,” while today we have machine learning, artificial intelligence and the cloud. But all of these technologies are just a means to an end.
No matter the company or the era, when people are aligned with a common sense of purpose and truly empowered to solve problems using the latest tools at their disposal, the true work of transformation can begin. As long as people-centered values are used as guiding principles and technology is the enabler, not the solution for its own sake, organizations can create an environment where the magic of transformation will happen. By taking a new perspective, it happened in our company, and it can happen in yours.