Workforce collaboration key to successful digital transformation

July 15, 2020
Amanda Del Buono interviews Jonathon Hensley, founder and CEO of Emerge Interactive

Digitalization is reliant on a workforce that's willing to accept the change. To discuss how manufacturers can bridge that gap, Amanda Del Buono interviews Jonathon Hensley, founder and CEO of Emerge Interactive, a company that assists organizations in achieving digital transformation. Learn more about Jonathon’s new book, “Alignment”:

Below is a portion of the interview. The full transcript is available here.

Amanda: I was kind of imagining putting myself in the shoes of maybe a factory veteran who has been there for a while. Maybe I'm not super digitally-savvy, and now you guys are bringing this stuff in, I might be a little bit stressed out about whether or not I can learn this technology, if I can learn it quick enough, could I lose my job as a result of this. How do you suggest that employers ease those concerns and help their employees learn the new technology, train on it? What kind of training suggestions do you have as these things are brought in?

Jonathon: Oh, that's a really good question. I think you bring up a much deeper issue of how technology is typically planned. That is very difficult for a lot of people. One of the things that we see a lot at Emerge, and just over my own career, is technology is purchased or implemented with a big goal, and a goal's not a strategy. So, really, it's important to help employees understand this technology, what does this mean, more substantively than just how does this help achieve a goal. And when we start to then plan, we can start to say, "Okay, well, how do we introduce this new tool, essentially, to our team? How do we train them on that? How do we then support them through that process?" And it's usually left to, "Here you go. Here's this new tool. We're gonna do some seminars. Maybe here's some tutorial information."

And, again, I think what I typically see is that there's just missing context in that training. We're learning how to use the tool, we're not teaching people why the tool is important, and I think that's a miss. A surgeon can't just know how to use the tools, they have to know why that is just the right tool. And same thing when you're building a home, there's a right tool for the job, and I think we have to do a better job helping employees embrace this change and their concerns of really helping them understand why that tool is being invested into and why it's so important, and giving employees an opportunity to really embrace the opportunity. And then, I think that makes learning, and retooling, and reskilling people far easier because they can connect it to things that they know.

The institutional knowledge that, you know, a senior worker in a factory has is just incredible. You can't replace that knowledge. I mean, the insight into what they do is invaluable, and not only from a training perspective. We want to communicate the why behind these technologies, we also want to make employees part of the process. So, in the most effective digital transformation, we see that employees are actually part of solving the problem. Those same people are going to be trained on using this technology, are being brought in early to the process to develop the requirements for the technology. Or how could we think about innovating that or documenting the current process so we can either replicate it or improve upon it? And giving employees a stake in the process is really important whenever possible. And when that gets missed, then you usually see extremely poor adoption and really underwhelming usage of the new technologies. And so, we have to bridge that and address those concerns more proactively by getting them involved in the process.

Amanda: Yeah, that's interesting. And then, I would presume, after that, being open to feedback is important too, and approachable with that, of course. We talk here a lot on communication, and one of the keys on that is being willing to accept that feedback. And I would presume then, of course, reevaluating and making adjustments as you continue, right? Digital transformation isn't like a one-hit thing, you have to maintain that throughout after it's implemented, yeah?

Jonathon: I mean, perfectly said. I mean, there has to be an open dialogue, a way to feedback information. You know, you should really look at any one initiative that you might have that falls under the bucket of digital transformation. It's a process of continuous improvement. With technology, we're continuously looking to refine and improve whatever that technology is, that system, that process, the interconnection between the processes and systems, and that becomes just invaluable. It's invaluable to have that kind of open dialogue and kind of this circular improvement happening all the time, and it actually helps create a culture and a team environment where change is more common.

And I think that's also one of the challenges, is that sometimes when you see change happen, and it's always in one big lift, and then we move on, and then you kind of wait for the next major change to happen, that is difficult. I mean, I think just as human beings, we love and look for some level of consistency in our lives. And when you have continuous improvement taking place, you're incrementally always having that feedback and that dialogue about improvement, which, at the core of that, is this constant of change, and that really helps, I think, bring a lot of ease to organizations once they're able to embrace that.

 Read the full transcript.

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