3. Encourage collaboration
Getting departments communicating & talking to each other is important, to ensure alignment. “Set up a working party,” advises Karen Falconer of HR Solutions. “Put a team together from relevant areas of the business. You’ll need to include those that use the tech every day [that you’re considering changing].”
It’s also important to make sure your team understands the process & to achieve buy-in. “Ensure people can see that you’re trying to improve their working life – it’s in everyone’s interests to try and make the digital transformation a success.”
Providing employees with technologies to help them work better isn’t only likely to increase productivity, but employee engagement. Employees are more likely to engage further with their job roles when the quality of their tools & systems improve.
4. Don’t forget - or neglect - your culture
Karen believes that implementing strategic changes such as this is where the culture of an SME becomes clear.
“Although lots of people struggle with change, you want your team to be enthusiastic about changes for the better. Make sure you listen to people’s ideas and give your staff time & attention during this process. Along with making them feel valued, this will encourage a better transition.”
Implementing a digital transformation means you’re likely to experience some resistance to change – but truly resilient cultures will be able to overcome these challenges. This ties back into your company culture, and as long as you remember to put your people first, you’re on the right track.
5. Upskill your team
An important (but often overlooked) phase of a digital transformation is the training phase. It’s all very well having audited, researched & purchased new technology to make your business processes better, but if your team don’t understand how to use it, you could fall at the final hurdle.
“It’s so important not to assume your staff will know how to use new technologies or systems,” Karen advises. “Don’t presume they’ll all be able to use it, or to work it out. Younger people may be seen as more intuitive with tech - meaning if you don’t offer training, you could be left open to age discrimination accusations. Ensure your team have the support they need to use any new systems.”
6. Implementation phase
The implementation stage is where you’ve worked out costs & budget, signed off on new systems and your employees know how to use it. Now’s the time to roll this out to your business. Karen Falconer offers one final piece of advice to SMEs at this stage of a digital transformation.
“Make sure you’ve shopped around as much as you can and have focussed on the areas that are most important to your SME – whether it’s streamlining your processes, data security, quality customer service for the best experience. This is an important consideration before you reach that crucial purchase point and begin implementing the systems.”
Where digital transformation can go wrong
Updating your business processes with technology doesn’t always go as planned. Uber had an indirect discrimination claim and a (racial) harassment claim brought against them in 2021 after they introduced facial recognition to their employee app.
Pa Edrissa Manjang was dismissed by Uber after the facial recognition software failed to recognise him when he tried to sign into the app to work. Pa Edrissa Manjang claims that he was dismissed due to racially biased facial recognition technology, and that the excessive verification checks the facial recognition software demanded amounted to racial harassment.
Uber have requested that the discrimination claim be struck out by the Employment Tribunal, but the Employment Tribunal haven't agreed to this, and will hear the claims.
Karen Falconer referenced this case, stating its significance. “It’s crucial to ensure a person is checking the technology’s decisions, especially before you prevent someone’s access to work.”
This is something businesses should always consider when digitalising processes, especially those around employees’ access to work.
The future is digital
Whilst technology is important, Karen reminds SMEs not to forget about their greatest asset. “Successful SMEs are experts in their own industries – and that comes from their people,” Karen notes.
“I can’t emphasise enough how employers are going to need to embrace AI – so many aren’t aware of the fact that it’s here already. Alongside the potential of your people, technology will again revolutionise the world of work. Automation is going to increase productivity exponentially, and millions of jobs will need to be re-imagined – which is exciting.”
Karen Falconer is the HR Knowledge Manager at HR Solutions.
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