10 minutes with Dr. Uwe Röther, Senior Communication Strategist at Intershop
On the Analogue in Digitization
What does a company need to digitalize itself successfully?
The important thing about digitalization is to have a precise vision, an image in your mind of where you want your company going to. It is not possible to run this process without this goal. C-level management is therefore called upon to be a pioneer: It is the managers who must be able to spread their defined view of the topic into their company in a streamlined form. They must ensure that all employees have the same understanding of digitalization, for this is not necessarily the case. Technicians sometimes have a different understanding of processes and technologies than the human resources department, and this could lead to friction losses. That is why different departments need specific information that contributes to a common vision in order to avoid problems in the end.
So, managers must first create their vision and then communicate it stringently, so that the gradual adaptation of the employees to the changes can be observed and accompanied.
What influence do employees have on the digitalization process?
They are the analog part of digitalization, because it always ends at the behavioral level of the employees. No matter what the vision is, it leads to a change in employee behavior. Whether the vision includes the migration to a new tool, or learning new ways of communication: In the end, all processes can be defined as behavior – and people need to change it. The management level must therefore stimulate and observe:
- Which behaviors need to be changed on short notice?
- When are they to be changed in order to achieve the vision?
- Which of the old habits could last a little longer?
Why are changes sometimes so difficult to accept?
The basic problem in change management is a more or less pronounced psychodynamics if it triggers fear. Affected people then go through a so-called mourning curve. Of course, there are individual differences, which means that every curve looks different - early adopters may be very enthusiastic and willing to apply new processes or tools, so there is no fear here. Change in behavior then happens relatively smoothly. Other people, on the other hand, want to hold on to the things they are used to. Managers must recognize this individuality and adjust it as necessary, reduce the size of the steps or provide communicative support by pointing out the personal added values for the individual persons.
If the overall strategy is clear, partial solutions can be found for most challenges that can help people with adaptation difficulties to support their share of a company’s digitalization.
What if the management itself struggles with the idea of changing running processes?
The same applies to them. There only is a time delay: In order to have a vision of a digitalized company, the management must have dealt already intensively with the topic and, if necessary, its own mourning curve. At the time of communication with the employees, the management should be much further ahead in its own adaption process. Good decision-makers give their teams time to mentally adapt to the changes and to experience the process individually.
What can managers do to convince their employees of their vision?
In order to make the change process easier for everyone, one should rely on participation. People usually have their own ideas about the ways and methods of getting used to new things. If the decision-makers are open to listen, self-efficacy and self-control will increase. For some, it is the opportunity to participate in an external training, someone else may need another tool to support the new processes. Recognizing and communicating this is an important step in the processing of change.
Acknowledging individuality in this context reduces the fear of loss, since a part of the path is created by oneself. With internal trusted representatives - ambassadors for the digital vision – digital leaders can find multipliers from among their employees who can observe and accompany the individual steps of the change processes in order to lead the underlying strategy to success.