Employees and leaders at all levels were forced to get used to a digital way of working – something discussed in theory as a ‘future of work’, but rarely applied in full as organizations saw pushback from leaders or resistance from staff.
Leaders were especially forced to adopt flexible ways of working and accept the fact that workers can still be productive if allowed to work remotely.
There were setbacks of course since not all jobs can be done online or remotely, but 2020 forced leaders to become more empathetic and creative when handling such situations. You would have to figure out for instance, how to help frontline employees use their skills in other parts of the organization?
The past year also led to plenty of workforce planning, such as identifying what is ‘essential work’ at the company? What personnel or skills gaps do you need to fill to make the business better? The crisis has thus given plenty of opportunities for companies to rethink their priorities, values as well as direction. It would be a waste if we went back to pre-COVID times.
How to create and sustain a digital workplace
Organizations believe that they have a head-start because the crisis has proven that “everybody is tech-savvy”. The myth that some individuals were not able to adapt to working digitally has been ceremoniously debunked.
That is not to say that employees did not struggle. Some likely had a hard time during the transition due to inexperience with dealing with a digital way of working. So, if you would like to sustain the transformation, leaders should prioritize staff support, be it IT or HR, and make help accessible.
Then, it is about managing people’s fear about technology and data – how it is stored as well as how it is accessed. Data and information used at work can be highly sensitive, so some individuals may fear storing it in a cloud, for example. Not everyone understands how that works and it is a marked change from grabbing a binder from a shelf at work.
The first thing is making sure people understand and get over the fear of not having the data in your drawer.
Also, while everyone is comfortable with depending on their phones to sort out their lives, from setting alarms to wake up in the morning, to help manage their social schedules and everything in between, there remains a resistance around using your personal device for work. This, even if it means a faster and more efficient way of working when you can communicate or get work done using the ‘mini-computers’ you hold in your hands for most of the day.
The second thing is getting comfortable with the evolution of technology and the use of data. We should be very comfortable using our phones to get the data in.
Professionals also need to get used to the fact that having data on hand can help you identify the challenges being faced by the business and thereby, allow you to build a stronger organization.
As for how to start or make progress on your transformation journey, reaching out to leaders who are much further along than you are. Ask about their learnings, experiences, and ideas to understand how to get going yourself and your organization going.
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