We all talk and read constantly about digitalisation in companies and the workforce.
Digitalisation at its core refers to the use of digital technologies to transform, streamline, and improve business, organisational, and administrative processes, to analyse, control, and drive innovation and growth.
The newest trends in digitalisation are remote and hybrid work, 5G technology, edge computing, AI, and machine learning, blockchain and decentralized finance, digital health, virtual and extended reality, cybersecurity evolution, quantum computing, robotic process automation (RPA), digital twins, data privacy and sovereignty and personalisation at scale.
These will be applied practically in several areas of a company in general and in regard to the workforce.
Digitalisation in a company includes:
Traditional operations as order processing, invoicing, customer service are shifted to digital platforms for efficiency and speed.
Data analytics and intelligence tools are used to extract insights for better decision-making.
Marketing, sales, 24/7 customer service, e-commerce
- Supply chain and inventory
Digital tools manage and monitor inventory.
- Product and service innovation
New or enhanced digital products as banking apps, digital health services.
- Collaboration and communication
Video conferencing, collaboration software
Digitalisation in the workforce includes:
- Remote work option
- Learning and development
- Performance management, goal tracking
- Employee engagement
- Automation and AI
Having a closer look at the above list it becomes obvious that the process of digitalisation is accompanied by several challenges for both, the process itself, the technical programming and adapting, costs, as well as for the workforce having to apply and use new and different tools in different situations.
At the company level, it is not always straightforward and obvious to decide where and how to digitalize at what cost. Companies need good efficient strategies and the best possible tools for their needs. On the side of the workforce digitalisation may involve major change processes. The psychological and social impact should not be underestimated.
In the following sections, we will delve into the challenges and propose solutions for employees in companies undergoing digitalisation.
- The skill gap challenge
The rapid pace of technological innovation is hard to keep up with. Employees need to understand the process and be able to use new tools. Regular training and upskilling programs need to be offered. Mentorship and peer-assisted learning may be useful.
- Resistance to change
Resistance to change is a natural human response to unfamiliar situations. Habits are intrinsic to humans. Many employees are accustomed to traditional ways of working and may refuse transitioning to digital methods or more digitalized methods that change their responsibilities and work. Think of automation processes for example.
To smoothen the transition and enhance acceptance change management strategies should be applied. A clear communication about the benefits after having involved employees in the decision-making process. Employees know processes and understand what impact digitalisation and automation will have. They can be good advisors. When they feel considered and respected, involved, they will support digitalisation.
- Information overload
The surge of digital data and constant communication can be overwhelming. Introduce digital tools that help to manage and organize data. Encourage employees to digitally detox and set boundaries for communication and availability.
- Cybersecurity concerns
Problems of cybersecurity and privacy do exist, and employees are aware, they have doubts and concerns. Besides the most robust IT infrastructure, regular cybersecurity trainings and awareness campaigns help minimize risk and gain confidence and trust.
- Reduced personal interaction
Through remote or hybrid work options, face-to-face interaction is reduced. This may impact team cohesion and influence the single employee psychologically. Regular events in person help foster connections, maintain team spirit, and overcome psychological challenges of single employees.
- Physical health issues
Prolonged or even exclusive use of digital services can and often do lead to health issues like digital eye strain, musculoskeletal problems, or mental fatigue. Regular breaks and adequate office equipment help diminish these effects of using digital tools and computer screens.
- Difficulty in disconnecting
Digital tools “hook”. The always-on digital culture makes it hard to disconnect and set borders which can lead to issues like burnout. Encourage and respect boundaries, structure your day.
- Complexity of multiple tools
Workflows can become more complex instead of simpler through the usage of various digital tools or changing responsibilities at machines through automation. Digital toolkits have to be streamlined, solutions integrated, and platforms should consolidate multiple tools into one interface.
- Fear of job loss
Some employees see automation and AI as a possible threat to their job. Indeed, some professions may change, be eliminated and others will be created. Digitalisation is a transition phase and will remain an ever-evolving topic and task. However, digital tools should be seen as human enhancement. Reskilling and cross-training can provide new opportunities within a company or industry.
Digitalisation is a disruptive process. As employees, we must adapt to both a new world and a new work environment. There will be new business models, the possibility and fact of a general globalisation process, a 24/7 economy.
The education and skill development will shift. We will be learning continuously and need to acquire digital literacy. Social interactions will partly be digital. Consumer behaviour will change by focusing more on e-commerce while being personalized. Our civic engagement will partly be digital activism which means that movements can gain momentum quickly. Transparency and the possibility to be seen and heard will increase with the risk of a high potential for manipulation and incorrect fact distribution.
Talents should be aware and choose their profession and workplace carefully. Employees should consider the status quo and potential development of digitalisation in their company to consciously decide if the business and operational plan as well as the company culture fit.
Embracing digitalisation as an employee means to master new tools and to constantly adapt to an evolving process. Furthermore, it means we should apply more critical thinking and actively participate in shaping the future.
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