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How to make digital transformation a success for your organisation

Debbie Lentz, president of global supply chain at RS Components and the Electrocomponents Group

In recent years, the advancement and growth of new technology has been at the forefront of many business strategies in order to stay competitive. But, in turn, is the importance of continually developing leadership and management skills being neglected?

It’s no secret that lots of companies are investing in new technology. This is perhaps increased by the need to remain competitive, with 85% of businesses believing they would fall behind competitors in their industry if they don’t undergo digital transformation within a two-year timeframe. 

We can see the value of the digital age, and how it’s changing business models, but without a strong leader at the forefront the impact is going to be significantly smaller. With that said, shouldn’t businesses be putting an equal amount of effort into their digital transformation approach and leadership skills?

Making the most of automation 

It’s a question that many workers currently have - what does the future of work look like?

With the rise of machines and AI continuing to grow at a rapid speed, it’s no surprise that those entering the workforce - and those that have been forging a career for themselves for decades - are questioning the impact automation could have on their jobs, skillset and progression. This is the case in industries such as engineering and the supply chain in particular, where automation is simply unavoidable in order to meet customer demand - in fact, 45% of manufacturing activities could become automated. 

But there are ways to use it to your company’s advantage. It’s essential we’re upskilling existing employees; given the pace of technology and operational change, your corporate culture needs to enable employees to progress. Employees must be aware of the value of their skills as well as their ability to develop and progress into new roles. This level of awareness should stem from management, who are empowered and able to acknowledge talent in individuals that can be developed.

With statistics revealing that unemployment rates are now at a record low, businesses need to be challenging themselves when it comes to adapting to automation and the change it is going to bring. For example, being advocates for the message that there will still be a need for human skillsets in the workplace due to emotional factors that AI cannot fulfil, therefore encouraging younger workers into the industry.

I believe that inspiring the next generation of workers can bring about a great change. We aim to encourage more and more children, particularly girls, towards choosing STEM subjects and pursuing a career in engineering. For example, we have a proactive STEM programme. By developing educational programmes that help the future generation, we are fostering stronger relationships between schools and companies, resulting in courses that deliver the skills required by the industry.

Bring your team and technology together 

Many of the younger generation who are currently in the workplace are hugely familiar with new technology, which will mean many members of your team will be accepting of new technology and keen to embrace it. 

However, this may not be the case for all workers - especially those of older generations - who may be more apprehensive and unaccustomed with the likes of AI, automation and advanced tech. To work in harmony with technology, you must analyse and regularly assess the ongoing management of technology within your workforce, so that your employees understand the importance their role has within these changes. Building trust in this way will drive a productive and engaged workforce.

Communicate, communicate, communicate  

A great leader will be able to support their team in performing well, whilst ensuring customers are still receiving a great product or service. In order to be a strong leader, managing digital transformation in the right way is key.

For millennials and generation Z who are considered to be digital natives, managing a digital transformation will likely be much smoother than for older generations - to make this change smooth, additional support, training and encouragement will need to be applied where you see fit. Change should be seen as a positive thing and, if all team members are able to see the overall business vision for digital transformation, they’re more likely to get on board. 

Having a clear structure for your employees is crucial. Training on change should begin long before the technology is even introduced, that way you aren’t leaving your employees confused or unsure. Technology can be stressful and challenging, it is important that you encourage employee feedback and this is continually monitored to address ongoing problems that could affect employee retention.

Ultimately, in order to make the transition into digital successful and fluid, a shared culture of ongoing training and support is required from all leaders within a business. The future of digital change may not be linear, but what we can be sure of is that it won’t be half as fruitful if key leaders aren’t continually seeking to develop and enhance their management skills. 

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