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The importance of cultural change in digital transformation

Channel 3's Dr Emma Garland outlines the importance of putting people at the heart of digital transformation to maximise your chances of success.

You may be familiar with the statistic that around 70% of digital transformation projects fail to meet their stated goals. This means that despite the investment, time and energy poured into the new product or system, it still hasn’t achieved the results the organisation was aiming for. Whilst there are several reasons why this could be the case, a common factor is that often too much emphasis is placed on the process, technology and implementation plan at the expense of addressing the people side of change, ie cultural change. The technology itself might be fantastic but if team members won’t – or don’t know how – to use it, you can’t reap the benefits. Individual attitudes and behaviours can play a vital role in affecting how successfully new technology is implemented, so organisations must provide the right culture, leadership and environment to ensure staff are fully supported to adopt new ways of working.

Taking a people-first and needs-led approach is not just about providing training, it’s about creating an adaptable culture in which staff at all levels are encouraged to try new things and have a growth mentality.

Leaders need to engage with staff early and make a compelling case for change

The case for change should then be filtered down through all levels of the organisation. There must be a convincing “why?” as for many people, just saying ‘we need to change’ isn’t sufficient motivation. Leaders must help staff understand why the change is needed and what difference it will make to them, the organisation and the people they support. Being able to answer the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) question can help you understand the needs, motivations and expectations of staff and tailor communication accordingly to encourage them to get on board with the new ways of working and enable effective cultural change. For example, through the work we’ve done with social care providers over the past 18 months to implement digital care records, a key motivation for staff has been the increased time they will have to spend delivering person-centred care rather than filling in paperwork.

Read more: Social care workforce: How can digital help address the challenges we face across the sector?

Owners, managers and team leaders are all important in role-modelling new behaviours and ways of working

This means creating a culture where front-line staff are encouraged to try new things, learn from mistakes and adapt. Central to this is cultivating open communication, where leaders are positive about the change whilst addressing worries or uncertainties. Staff may have been working this way for a long time and like it ‘just the way they’ve always done it’, they may lack confidence or the skills to use new technology or they may be worried they’re going to lose their jobs or be replaced. Each person’s change journey is different, so it’s important to recognise where they are on that change curve, give reassurance that support will be provided and reiterate how the technology will benefit them and the people they support.  

Engage front-line staff in decision-making and make them your advocates for cultural change

This approach can often hold more sway with team members than corporate messaging. Search out and identify staff excited by the change (the early adopters) and harness that enthusiasm, giving them a sense of ownership and influence over the changes and wider cultural change. Many social care providers we’ve worked with have involved front-line staff in the demos and testing of new solutions for example. By doing this staff felt they could shape the new ways of working, rather than just being told ‘this is what you are doing’. We also take a similar approach on the various local authority projects we deliver, working with front-line social care practitioners to co-design new processes to ensure the technology and new approach meet their needs. These staff can also act as your ‘super-users’ and support other staff through the change when the technology is rolled out more widely.

Maintain communication and keep staff updated

They must know what is happening and when – there’s nothing worse than hearing a new system is going to be implemented only to find it all goes quiet for two years whilst the procurement is being completed. Having a sense of timelines can reduce feelings of uncertainty. Additionally, take time to understand their support needs – actively engage with staff so you can tailor your approach. Some staff may need basic digital skills training first, some may learn better through doing rather than group training, whereas others might just want an online manual. Staff must have access to a range of materials for training, 121 support, quick reference guides (QRGs) and online videos that support their individual needs. Providing active support and being visible during the change can also go a long way, not just in getting staff on board with the change, but also in sustaining the new ways of working after the initial implementation. We have found this is particularly important when introducing acoustic monitoring for falls detection technology into residential care homes, for example. We’ve also seen Directors of Transformation actively attend training sessions and be on-site through the night during deployment to offer support and troubleshoot any issues.

Be patient but targeted

This is a cultural organisation shift but focus on targeted quick wins to build confidence. If you have more than one home or branch, then start with one and then build up over time. Or if you’re looking to digitise several different elements of care delivery, start with where staff/residents will see an impact. You might not get it right the first time and that’s ok, the main thing is to understand how you need to change your approach. You must be prepared to invest as you cannot expect staff to deliver change effectively in the margins of the day job. The additional resource has to be proportionate to the level of change you’re looking to implement, but you may need to consider bringing in outside support such as dedicated change or project management expertise. Alternatively, use internal staff but ringfence some of their time so they can focus on this.

Evaluate impact to provide proof of concept to date

You must show staff that the new ways of working are better. You can do this by sharing case studies, celebrating the achievements of team members and having a clear evaluation plan (but you don’t need to over-engineer this). However, at the same time don’t be afraid to change things if they’re not working – you’ll only maximise the benefits if you continue to support staff and look at ways to optimise the use of your new system/technology.  

Concluding thoughts on cultural change in digital transformation

Digital transformation significantly influences organisational culture, extending well beyond just the technological changes. Organisations must undergo a cultural shift to embrace innovation, empowerment, collaboration, adaptation and flexibility. Identifying and addressing the impact of digital transformation on organisational culture enables stakeholders from across the organisation to navigate challenges and seize opportunities in the digital era. Employing effective change management techniques, engaging employees and investing in digital skills development are key elements in establishing a supportive culture for successful digital transformation.

Dr Emma Garland

Get in touch to find out more about how we can help your organisation capture and realise your digital vision.

Call 0203 866 4838 or email info@channel3consulting.co.uk

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