Transforming mindsets & capabilities in the digital age

by Abhik Sengupta

by Marty Nicholas

Digital transformation is often unchartered territory for leaders, managers and the frontline. This means organisations risk failing to meet the elevated expectations of informed customers. What can organisations do to ensure their people are equipped with the right mindsets, behaviours and capabilities to empower their frontline in an increasingly complex environment and be relevant to today’s customer? This blog explores strategies such as promoting ownership, sales training, change packages and more.

At our recent Enterprise Growth Transformation summit, we explored five key shifts that enterprises typically navigate as they transform. The first is reorganising the business around the changing customer, followed by integrating and digitising marketing, sales and service. In this blog post, we explore the third shift – managing people and change by transforming mindsets and capabilities.

Tackling lack of confidence in new ways of working

For frontline employees, the rise of digital can sometimes feel like a fundamental threat to their personal livelihood, career ambitions and aspirations. There may also be cynicism around transformation initiatives if employees have seen previous change programs not realise their full benefit. These transformation “scars” mean there is some natural disinclination to go headfirst into the change at the frontline level. The enterprise needs to build confidence in new ways of working quickly and this can be challenging if you do not have internal talent resources with the experience or the capability of going through a change of this nature.

What capabilities do enterprises need to be relevant to today’s customer?

To survive and thrive in the new connected enterprise, marketing, sales and service need to be customer-centric, commercial and tech-savvy. This means organisations need new capabilities, mindsets and behaviours. For enterprises, the change imperative is to manage people mobilisation challenges to create receptivity, rather than manage resistance.

Businesses need to build strong change leadership, well-sequenced change packages, and immersive real-world learning that empowers the frontline to thrive in an increasingly complex environment.

Blackdot has identified six key steps to create receptivity for change:
1. Anchor the change narrative on improvements in customer experience and employee experience

Marketing and sales leaders are typically more interested in doing the right thing by their customer and employees then esoteric ideals of strategy and transformation. To get them to buy into the change agenda, focus the change narrative on how we can improve things for customers and employees.
2. Business leaders taking full ownership of the people change agenda

Once business leaders are on board, it is important that they own the people agenda rather than the transformation program or the HR function.

3. Sequence change ‘packages’ that make it easier, then better

For leaders to get frontline staff on board, we need to focus on what’s in it for staff. The best way to do that is by sequencing packages that fix frontline pain points early. (This is a theme will recur throughout this series of blogs on Enterprise Growth Transformation.)

4. Immersive learning in new frontline capabilities

Even with the best mindset and alignment, a number of learning interventions will be required to get people comfortable with new ways of working. This requires a mixture of classroom learning, self-paced digital learning and on-the-job coaching.

5. Over-invest in the pivotal role of the first line manager

Getting the first line manager aligned to the change is critical to ensure they continuous coach their staff and hold the course on the envisioned future state.

6. Strategic HR that holds the business to account 

Once the other pillars are in place, the role of HR changes to support the business with specialist expertise and hold it to account.

The role of people & change in enterprise transformation

The best transformation path will depend on where your business currently sits in its maturity process. This is because transformation is different for everyone and is dependent on a myriad of external and internal factors like buyer evolution, digital disruption, changes in technology, competitor actions, regulatory pressures, management capacity, organisational capability and internal complexity.
Transforming mindsets and capabilities is particularly relevant to organisations that identify with Pathway 1 or 3 in the Blackdot Operational Maturity/Business Imperative (OMBI) framework.

Pathway 1 – Disciplined Start

Organisations in Pathway 1 are typically in the early stages of transformation, with a low business imperative and low operational maturity. The main challenge they face is how to kickstart transformation initiatives.  A common practice for many organisations in this pathway is to embark a series of agile “fail-fast” pilots designed to prove to the business that there is tangible value in this different way of working. However, for many organisations, the reality of legacy systems, complicated matrix-style organisational structures, mature customer books and significant compliance regimes can make this approach difficult.

We believe there is a faster way to success – planning “win-fast” pilots that pursue a more material business outcome.  To motivate frontline staff to buy into the change, it is important to create a clear future state blueprint and narrative around the change, before moving into agile execution. 

Pathway 3 - Organisational Reset

In Pathway 3, the challenge is winning back frontline trust and belief. The default approach here is usually to go back and revisit the change strategy, program communications and the capabilities we have been trying to build at the organisational and individual level and try to drive the transformation home with more of the same.

Our best practice approach is to drill down into the employee experience and find pockets of excellence to share with the greater whole. The only way to unlock a better employee experience is to listen to the frontline and really isolate how you can help them go faster, do things better or make things easier. The frontline will appreciate that their problems are being addressed and they will start to realise value from the platform. By improving the employee experience, you can unlock a better customer experience.

What’s next?

While technology can be a great enabler for transformational growth, it comes with implementation and adoption challenges that could hinder progress towards customer-centricity. In our next blog, we explore shift four – implementing and adopting new technology.

For deeper insights on this topic, watch the recording of our Transforming Mindsets & Capabilities Webinar.