Digital transformation. Digital workplace. Operate from anywhere. The "new normal."

You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to.

Call it what you want. While we can debate the terminology, there's no disputing our current reality. The digital workplace is here to stay. Like it or not, ready or not, business, as usual, will likely never be quite the same.

As we look towards 2021 and beyond, is your business equipped to thrive? Do you have a clear, actionable plan, or are you just winging it? The first step to building a successful digital workplace is to develop a business alignment plan. In this post, we'll share four steps your organization can take today to make the best next step toward.

Step One: Explain What's at Stake

"The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress." -Charles Kettering

It's an all-too-common business conundrum. With great fanfare, leaders announce a new companywide initiative, but months later nothing's really changed. Why is change management such a challenge for organizations of all sizes? The answer is two-fold.

1. It's human nature to resist change.

2. Leaders often fail to communicate the "why." (This HBR article sums it up so effectively)

The first step to driving any desired change to fruition is to get buy-in for what's at stake. Not what's at stake for shareholders, or even for the business, necessarily. If you want employees to help drive transformation, you have to become a master storyteller. You have to communicate in the most simple terms what the change will mean to them.

Often, humans resist change out of fear. For example, if you tell a room full of contact center agents about your plans to roll out AI, it's only natural that they'll experience some degree of anxiety about their future job security.

By addressing the elephant in the room and being clear about what AI will mean for them, you help allay any fears and get them on board with the changes in practical terms in practical terms. Showing employees how AI will help them advance their careers, rather than replace them will get you much further than brushing over difficult conversations.

And the same can be said for involving customers in any major changes. When you bring your people along for the ride and do your best to put yourself in their shoes, that empathy becomes a powerful motivator for lasting transformation.

Once you're clear on what's at stake, you can begin the next part of the process: goal-setting.

Step Two: Agree on Common Goals

There are millions of teams operating in silos all over the world, pushing forward to achieve their own goals. While some degree of team-level collaboration and even competition aren't bad, problems arise when teams within teams aren't working towards the same mission. Sustainable change is impossible without common goals.

Before taking on any new projects or initiatives, it's critical to establish a small set of goals that will guide work and progress. The keyword being small (we'll get to that later). But even before you get down to the tactical level, it's important to step back and consider the high-level goals that drive your employees' day-to-day work.

Does your culture operate based on a common mission, vision, and set of values? Are your employees and customers aware of your mission? And will the new initiatives you roll out align with that mission?

If you can't answer "yes" to all those questions, then your project is likely doomed to fail from the start.

Step Three: Establish Accountability

Now that you're clear on your goals and align those goals to your culture and broader business objectives, it's time to hold people accountable for making progress.

How does the saying go? When it's everyone's job, it's no one's job. It may sound trite, but it's true! You can count on anyone meeting goals unless they're crystal clear on the role they'll play in achieving the goal, and how they'll be measured in their performance.

It's a good best practice to assign performance goals at both the team and individual contributor level, and when possible, to cascade those goals from the top down. Making everyone's goals visible to the entire organization adds an extra layer of transparency and accountability. And putting goals in writing makes it more likely they'll be achieved.

Now to the final piece of the puzzle. Getting everyone up to speed on the skills and tools they need to meet their goals.

Step Four: Provide Training Where Needed

When it comes to digital transformation, it's critical to assess skills gaps and develop a formal plan to address those. Last month, we shared why digital literacy is critical and how employers can help employees sharpen their skills. Jesse Spencer-Davenport, Marketing Director at Grooper offered up this advice.

“To become more digitally literate, it is important first to assess the current state of literacy within the workforce," he said."This can be as simple as a questionnaire asking questions like 'How often do you collaborate with a peer on a document using built-in collaboration tools as opposed to emailing an attachment back and forth?'"

Once you've assessed the needs, put a formal plan in place to offer the training employees need. You may want to consider establishing performance goals that are tied to closing knowledge gaps. Be sure to provide hands-on opportunities to apply the training to the job, and then assess competency after training.

Following these four steps will help your team to move forward on the path to digital transformation.

Bring it All Together

Do you have the right technology to support you in achieving your digital transformation goals? 8x8 can help! Learn more about all we're doing to keep organizations across the globe open for business.

And let's keep this conversation going! In part two of this digital workplace 2021 blog series, we'll tackle the next piece of the puzzle: people alignment.