Why the Workforce Needs to Change for Digital Transformation

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Digital transformation is impacting today’s workforce and let me underscore, effective workforce transformation – transformation readiness among employees – is critical to successful digital transformation.

Digital-first: Transformation, Technology and Readiness

Digital transformation and digital readiness have become catchphrases in their own right. The meaning of the terms represent benefits for everyone – including those not engaged in an IT profession – and a call to embrace a common understanding of modern technologies as we hurtle towards a world of increasing disruption. More devices are connecting more people in effective and collaborative ways.

To define digital transformation as simply “the application of digital technology to impact all aspects of business” is to shortchange its true meaning. Digital transformation is also the resultant change in how people do their work, make decisions, solve problems and achieve results. Ultimately, then, an individual’s transformation readiness contributes to organizational readiness and is linked to improved business outcomes.

Look at it this way:

Digital transformation causes tremendous changes, advances, and breakthroughs across businesses globally. It also causes an immediate and increasing need for the digital readiness.

Digital technology is the tools and processes with which people have to work. In terms of workforce solutions, we at Dell like to say, the right technology in the right people’s hands allows them to work without limits.

Digital readiness is the transformation in their thoughts, perceptions and approaches as to how they work with the digital technology.

The most exciting definition I’ve come across for digital mindset in terms of readiness is from Shahana Chattopadhyay in her article 7 Characteristics of a Digital Mindset:

A digital mindset comprises a set of behavioral and attitudinal approaches that enable individuals and organizations to see the possibilities of the digital era, to use its affordances for deeper personal and greater professional fulfillment, and to design workplaces that are more human-centered, purpose-driven and connected. An individual with a digital mindset understands the power of technology to democratize, scale and speed up every form of interaction and action. Having a digital mindset is the ability to grasp this spectrum of impact of the Network Era, and the capabilities and attitudes required to face it with equanimity.


It is obvious that the technological transformation without the readiness transformation achieves less than its potential. Building readiness is as important as installing and integrating the technology components. A business cannot digitally transform unless — or until — its people transform.

Building transformation readiness is part and parcel of building the digital culture. A digital culture is replete with the technology and the readiness and the integrated applications of both on a continuous basis. A digital culture identifies with its digital technology. A digital culture thinks and talks and walks the progressive connection between people and technology.

Respectively, Michael Dell cites in Realizing 2030: A Divided Vision of the Future:

We’re entering the next era of human-machine partnership, a more integrated, personal relationship with technology that has the power to amplify exponentially the creativity, inspiration, intelligence and curiosity of the human spirit.

To build the digital culture throughout an organization in this next era requires a two-part strategy: communication and engagement. Both require careful planning and intricate implementation.

Let’s examine them one at a time.

Speaking the Language

The sooner and the more people speak the language that reflects the new culture, the sooner and the more completely the culture is realized. This does not mean merely throwing around the buzzwords and catch phrases that advertise digital transformation.

It means using the language that expresses the culture: its components, its processes, its benefits, its values, it constraints. Certainly, using the language includes explaining it at every point where it is necessary to insure that every person understands. Explaining it with the intention that everyone grasp the culture requires taking one’s time to communicate clearly and completely.

Approach the communication with both attention to message (what to say) and to messenger (who will say it) and to frequency (how many times to say it).

The message may best be developed by asking and answering (finding the answers to) questions. A well-written blog post by Jim Reznicek and titled Preparing Your Workforce for a Digital Transformation appeared on the Jabil blog in March 2018. The recommendation is that these specific questions be addressed with employees:

  • What is digital transformation?
  • Why is our company undergoing a digital transformation? What are the new technologies that will be introduced to our daily work?
  • What impact will the digital transformation have on our employees?
  • What is the timeline for the digital transformation?
  • How will the company prepare employees for upcoming changes?

To those above, I would add this question: what will such transformation enable me to do better than I do it today?

Communication surrounding these questions can be presented in a number of ways. First, it is essential that the business’s leadership team has an active role in communicating from their perspective the how’s and why’s and when’s of digital transformation happening to the business. Members of the business want hear the CEO’s answers to such questions. Then they want to compare them to the answers from CFO, COO, CIO, CCO…all the way to their immediate managers and team leaders. It is almost impossible for employees to hear too much about the full meaning of becoming a true digital culture.

In today’s intensely competitive global business arena, every edge is critical—and for most companies, there is no greater edge than a talented, motivated, and creative workforce.[1]

As much as employees want messages from leaders, they also want frequent and structured opportunities to share their own understanding, viewpoints, and possibilities regarding “all things digital.” Building a culture requires as much talking as listening.

Engaging the Players

The opportunity to discuss what’s going on regarding the business’s digital transformation is a critical form of engaging the people in developing the new culture. Consider three additional approaches to engaging employees to enhance their digital mindset.

  • Learning. One primary purpose of digital transformation is to remove routine, predictable, pattern-finding tasks from the human assignment. That means that people will be – or be expected to be – engaged in interactions with other people, in design thinking, in creative production. That will require learning opportunities in Agile/Scrum methodology, design thinking, collaboration skills.
  • Advances in AI from if-then-when algorithms to machine learning, significantly alter the learning experiences in which people can engage. Individuals can effectively be put in control of their learning as the digital technology provides ways to strengthen digital readiness. Experiential learning platforms offering blended, complementary information and education allow employees to experience digital technology working for them.
  • The tools and platforms with which information, education, learning experiences are exposed to the individual are increasing in novelty, number and effectiveness. Consider online/on demand, mobile, live streaming, learner-produced videos, AR/VR…as you recall instructor-led classroom training. The more a business uses the variety of exposures, the more thoroughly they build the digital technology a mindset a culture success.

Summary: 4 Tips for ‘Going Digital’ Effectively

  1. Digital technology should be accompanied by a true digital mindset among team members.
  2. An embedded and comprehensive digital readiness generates and reinforces a true digital culture.
  3. A well-designed and implemented communication strategy enables all members of the business to talk the digital talk that strengthens the digital culture.
  4. Engaging everyone in the business in learning, experiencing and enjoying exposure to the many ways digital makes a difference is the other half of the digital culture strategy.

The unrelenting pace of digital and workforce transformation are creating new challenges for all of us. The Dell Education Services Team is focused on enabling customer success by expanding our education and certification portfolios for today’s market. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about Dell Education Service’s training and certifications, contact your Dell representative or comment below and I’d be happy to respond.

[1] In Dell’s research Unleash the Creative Force of Today’s Workers, it found 20% of workers are satisfied with their technology and 42% of Millennials are likely to quit a job because of substandard technology.


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TIm Wright

About the Author: Tim Wright

Tim Wright’s entire career at Dell has been in an education and learning communications role. He has developed and facilitated professional skills courses, facilitated leadership development courses, written internal and external blog posts, among other assignments. Currently, Tim serves the Education Services organization with internal and external communications responsibilities. Tim’s career has focused entirely on learning and education, from teaching in middle school through long-term assignments in the telecommunications, healthcare, and information industries. He earned his BA (English) at Washington & Lee University and his MBA (Business) at New York University.
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