Employee happiness is key to a successful digital transformation

While becoming a digital enterprise is an imperative for most organizations in the 21st century, there are no set-it-and-forget-it shortcuts to get you there.

Instead, digital transformation requires an explicit and intentional change in the operating model, by investing in three key initiatives; 1) Shifting the business strategy to focus on customer value; 2) Creating an organizational structure and culture that is optimized to deliver that customer value; and 3) Identifying and integrating technologies that enable the first two goals to happen.

When your business strategy, culture and technology capabilities are wrapped around the customer, you have the essential building blocks that enable transformation.

But as an organization makes the transition, leaders must keep an ear to the ground in order to monitor the emotional impact that such a radical change to the operating model may have on their employees, stakeholders and partners.

Frequent and actionable feedback loops that measure employee engagement, stakeholder satisfaction and psychological safety must be integrated into the governance model in order for the transformation to take root and snowball.

And while feedback loops are essential, leaders may also find it helpful to consistently visit the front lines, engaging with employees and customers to capture qualitative feedback that only open and honest dialogue can capture.

Getting face to face with your employees, stakeholder and partners will provide the strongest possible signal of what good looks like.

So what does a good digital transformation feel like?

A good signal is when everyone seems happier and more engaged. Things flow and people help each other out.

Sometimes, they'll even solve a critical business problem that they don't even own.

Amazing things tend to happen when the business strategy is aligned with delighting customers rather than meeting arbitrary performance targets in a spreadsheet.

Another good signal can be felt as the organizational re-structuring and cultural shift enables autonomous cross-functional teams to continuously deliver value. When teams are unconstrained by silos and bureaucracy, engagement and retention numbers soar.

Finally, as investments in technology enablers begin to snowball, not only are teams able to regularly deliver market-leading products and services, they are also able to gobble up useful data to support future strategic decision making for the leadership team.

Of course, none of this is possible if the leadership team does not make one critical choice: They must decide that their job is mainly to articulate the “why”, leaving the “how” to those closest to the work.

Happy employees seek autonomy, mastery and purpose — the high octane fuel teams need for innovation and growth.

Leading a company through a change as foundational as a digital transformation is a test of the mettle of any leader. Doing it with empathy, and focusing on supporting your teams emotionally and psychologically, will go far in ensuring you meet the transformation goals.