You know that feeling you get when you upgrade your four-year old phone to the latest model?
Everything’s suddenly smoother and faster than before. Things just work nicely. And you remember that using technology can actually be quite fun.
What if you could have that feeling at work - alongside everyone else in the team?
The process of digital transformation is when you bring in new tech systems to solve problems or improve processes. It’s something most modern businesses do at some point, but it’s not always seen as something to celebrate.
Rather than a complex, technical operation full of corporate jargon and information overload, we like to think bringing new systems into a business can be a joyous affair. After all, the objective is to save time, energy and money - which should, in theory, make people happy.
Digital transformation enables those ‘yesss!’ moments where you realise how much time you’ve saved. So here are a few ways to make the process a bit more enjoyable.
Make it a creative experiment
There’s a tendency in larger companies for management to make decisions, then filter them down to employees who have no say in the matter. Leadership is essential, of course, when complex systems are being brought in. But positioning a new system as a trial, experiment or test can make it much more acceptable to most members of the workforce.
Rather than announce it as a non-optional change, make everyone aware it’s a creative experiment. “We want to see if there’s a better way of doing things for you” is a good tone to take. The best way to find out the answer is with ongoing feedback, so make sure everyone knows their voice will be heard.
If it works - which you should be fairly confident it will - your team should be happy to accept the change.
Chances are, if it’s going to save everyone time normally spent interacting with out-of-date systems with loads of manual input, there won’t be much pushback.
If it doesn’t seem a popular change, it’s time to rethink why it’s being introduced in the first place. If it’s simply a cost-cutting measure, is it really worth the long-term change if the team isn’t happy with it? In some cases, you might think it's worth powering through - but beware the costs to your company culture.
Embrace new opportunities within the company
New digital tools can bring new ways of solving problems, but also new ways for employees to communicate. And that means interesting conversations can bubble up.
Implementing new communication platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams or Sharepoint gives people the opportunity to share projects and build a bit of a ‘personal brand’ - highlighting their work and abilities in a way that might not have been possible before. You’ll find workers asking for help, sharing inspiration and starting intra-departmental partnerships that just don’t happen in a canteen or breakout area.
Things like this provide new opportunities for proactive workers to shine in ways they couldn’t before, giving themselves more visibility throughout the organisation, and so more chances to be invited to work on new projects.
Distributing opportunity in this way can be a really positive experience for those at the fringes of certain groups. And if they’re enthusiastic about the new system, they can also work as an ‘evangelist’ or teacher, persuading colleagues of the benefits they might not see otherwise.
Excite them with the benefits
Rather than introduce a new system as something everyone has to cope with, present it as a happy occasion. An opportunity for employees to wave goodbye to fiddly, outdated systems and move merrily into the future.
As any good copywriter will tell you, you have to lead with the benefits.
So you might want to consider working with your marketing department to produce some internal marketing. Marketers have a knack for bringing out the positives in new things by focusing on the benefits they bring to people’s lives. A nifty phrase explaining the merits of your new system can be the difference between enthusiastic uptake and grudging acceptance.
Alongside general communication about the change, make sure that the messaging is consistent.
Don’t be patronising - you are working with adults, remember - but consistency will make the change process much easier and will help employees trust the process more.
So rather than introducing a ’new digital solution for organising annual leave requests' you might just say “book holidays without paper or spreadsheets”. Simple.
Making things ‘fun’ at work can be a bit of an art. Get it right, and you’ve got a happy, engaged team. Get it wrong and your employees will feel infantilised, and they’ll be (rightly) rinsing you during after-work pub conversations.
But fun does have its place in the workplace. Even if the extent of it depends on your company culture.
When introducing a new system, you can ‘gamify’ it by offering prizes for early adopters, educators and power users.
You can offer tangible prizes like vouchers and gifts, or internal rewards like longer lunch breaks, extra holidays, and recognition on leaderboards. If you think your team will appreciate this kind of thing, it’s certainly worth trying.