Dec 21, 2022

Ten Commandments for Employees to Stay Relevant in a Digitally Disruptive Work Atmosphere By Dr. Gaurav Nagpal

In one of my earlier articles, I outlined how important it is for every business to have a digital strategy. Let us now explore how our workforce can prepare for this. As a professor in BITS Pilani‘s Work Integrating Learning Programs — which also offers an MBA in Digital Business – I offer my “Ten Commandments” for employees to survive and grow in a digitally disruptive environment.

First, it is important for the workforce to be tech-savvy. Irrespective of the role that they are in, they must appreciate the role of technology in the top and bottom line of businesses through the improvement of business processes, addition of customer value, improvement of the employee experience, etc.

Second, employees in the digital world also need to understand the role of factors other than technology in digital transformation initiatives. While technology is an important element in digital transformation, it is not the only factor. Employees should have sound knowledge of integrating technology and business to be able to appreciate where digital can work, and where it cannot. This will enable them to develop digital solutions and create business value using technology. The knowledge of digital business models is also very important for managers working in this disruptive world.

Third, it is very important for employees to be able to break the data into silos, analyse and interpret it, and generate insights from it. This will, in turn, enable them to make robust decisions. Digitization presents decision-makers with a wonderful opportunity to make choices backed by solid data.

Fourth, the people involved in digital transformation initiatives should have the financial acumen to compute the return on investment of the various digitalization projects, so that they take up only those initiatives that have the potential to create value for the shareholders and other important stakeholders such as customers, employees, distribution partners, and vendors.

Fifth, digital business managers should know how to drive change in an organisation. They should be able to explain the benefits of transformation to the larger set of stakeholders, to facilitate the adoption of the proposed digital solutions. They should also help ease resistance to change or fear of the unknown among their colleagues and business partners.

Sixth, they need to enable a culture of knowledge-sharing and innovation in the organisation, and to challenge older practices. They must appreciate that digital transformation is an ongoing activity, not a one-time project. And this spirit of digital transformation requires organisations to have an atmosphere that encourages risk-taking, creativity, innovation, and trying new things.

Seventh, it is crucial for the workforce to have cross-functional skills to appreciate the nuances of the digitisation proposals for different business functions and stakeholders. This will enable them to foster collaboration between stakeholders to build a robust digital ecosystem.

Eighth, since customer value is one of the important pillars of digital transformation, employees who devise digital solutions should be able to understand different customer segments, their aspirations, and their expectations of the product.

Ninth, senior executives driving digital efforts must have a good emotional quotient to be able to work under stress and handle failure, risk, criticism, pushback, etc. This is important because CIOs sometimes need to transform legacy-laden organizations into digital ones, which is not easy.

Last but not the least, employees need to appreciate ethical and conscientious ways of using technology. When AI algorithms were used for hiring people in the United States, it was observed that all women candidates were being rejected and only male candidates were hired. It was later found that the training data set used for training the model had only male candidates. Consider how serious a blunder this is in an age when all organisations strive for inclusion. Sometimes, the blind use of technology causes more problems than it solves. Considering the human element is essential in the use of technology.

How can these commandments be embraced? They don’t come naturally. It requires consistent effort to develop this thinking. Education is one possible solution, by way of our Work Integrated Learning Programs. The curriculum in these programs has been very carefully designed to meet the needs of industry, for a workforce that can integrate the hard and soft elements well.