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The Key to Successful

Workforce Transformation

(Part 2)

In Part 1 of this Article we explored why Workforce Transformation has been problematic, the need for Organisation Agility and enhancing Digital Capability. In Part 2 we focus on Taking Action to make Change Happen and to embed the Digital Culture.

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Leadership and Management Capability

There is huge nervousness that current Executive and Management Teams have not the will/cannot deliver the new Digital Agenda. Present leaders are predominately Baby Boomers or Gen X (70% of most global firms), they are seriously challenged personally and professionally by the Digital Proposition. Many are hanging on for their retirement benefits with few places to go. They have corporate success records, which are now being challenged by the pace of new technologies and the new digital generations – consumers and employees – who want something different.

New CEOs and Transformational Directors beat the drum in the marketing and sales departments, but many of these leaders have constructed solid delivery teams built on loyalty (and expectation for their own careers), which are now under threat. So, the talk and tacit commitment is taking a long time to translate into action in delivery and support functions.

New generational workforces are aligned to new visions and change, but find it difficult to see how old leopards can change their spots – they need new younger vibrant leaders who they can believe in and who share their aspirations.

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Organisations need to run multi-input leadership audits to ensure the right balance of new, aspiring leaders with openminded safe hands who can help balance existing performance delivery with new product or service delivery in a transitional phased execution.

New ways of working

Underlying digital cultural change are new ways of working. From the corporate side this means collaborative, cross-functional teaming, knowledge sharing, action-orientated, quick decision making and personal accountability. A very different set of norms.

From the employee side, staff are asking for more flexibility in working hours, meaningful roles which clearly support corporate goals, job mobility, greater participation in decision making, respect, recognition and reward. High engagement and productivity come with a price. Most of all, employees expect to be valued for their contribution and trusted. The latter is where leadership and management typically fail. Too often senior managers are reluctant to agree flexibility because they do not believe employees are productively working from home or on variable hours. The idea that individuals should be seen at desks from 9 to 5 remains a dominant management psyche, but it is totally misplaced. Until we trust our employees, we shall never achieve high levels of engagement.

The Millennials crave teaming, projects, collaborative networking and feedback. They want leadership, not task-based micro-management. We are seeing traditional performance management, KPIs and management by objectives being replaced with consequential, outcome-based work packages that change with customer requirements, pop-up teams and continual face-to-face leadership interactions. Therefore, we need a new modern leadership based on a new set of leadership competencies with a higher degree of emotional relationship.

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The Future of Work demands three new competencies.

  • Curiosity to drive creativity and innovation
  • Courage to allow individuals to challenge and take considered risk, and
  • Anticipation to glean insights, model scenarios, plus entrepreneurial mindsets to spot opportunities and take action.

Making change happen

Traditionally change management is done to us. We have all experienced it, and in the main it has not been a rewarding experience. In fact, most managers resist it as a threat. As a result, many transformational programmes fail due to lukewarm, if not ambivalent, buy-in.

One of our senior Talentspringboard partners, Thomas Board, has developed a new approach which we call Change Marketing. Borrowing from the psychology of “pull” marketing rather than “push” management, he has identified the 4 “Cs” of successful change. These are

  • Capability; individuals need to be upskilled or re-skilled with the required digital skills
  • Confidence; once individuals have these new skills, they become confident that they can deliver services as required
  • Collaboration; as individuals become more confident, they will be more willing to work across functions, and enthusiastically contribute to new teams and projects
  • Commitment; once the first three are in place, staff are more likely to commit to the transformational change.

Embedding transformation

A final observation is that most digital transformations start off as a pilot in two or three critical functions where the competitive pain is most acute. The imperative need for change
provides impetus, energy and commitment to drive the transformation.

But translating the success in these areas across the whole organisation is very challenging. All sorts of excuses come to the fore. The lack of integrated processes and systems, leadership changes, external factors, and timing are all aired as reasons why given functions are not ready to complete the digital transformation. Here are some tips:

1. Right from the start the Executive Leadership Team need to speak as one voice to articulate why the change is needed; what this requires in terms of new ways of working (mindset and culture change); and, most importantly, what success will look like (to energise the workforce). Too often Executive Teams focus on the first and last items, but fail to talk about the culture shift.

2. Bring future leaders and high-potential employees to the fore of the programme – they will have the energy and desire to make things happen. But they will need the authority to bring the right resources together and visibility to develop and champion the cause. Showcase the successes with employee inputs so it is not just management talk.

3. Sceptics will demand benchmarks and case study examples as evidence, so on-the-ground research is needed. In our experience, leading organisations, often in adjacent industries, are happy to host site visits or to talk about their experiences.

4. Most of all, give employees headroom and time to think through how new ways of working can be incorporated. Establish a Digital Transformation Task Force that goes beyond IT but also includes cross-functional, multi-disciplinary, multi-level teams who can meet at least once a fortnight to brainstorm and apply design thinking. This needs to be innovative and fun. Make sure well-being is a cornerstone of the culture change.

5. Phase and scale the programme so the workforce gets a sense of the journey and when the next iterations will take place.

In Conclusion

Transformational change is a necessity. It will require a radical overhaul of the organisation’s structure and culture. Product and processes can be replicated across industries, but workforces are unique. Capability and culture are critical for sustained success. Upskilling staff, attracting new talent and engaging people around a compelling future vision is paramount. But most of all, start now by focusing on:

  • Building the future agile organisation
  • Identifying value-add, role criticality
  • Upskilling and re-skilling staff
  • Build out a new leadership model and use it to seek out future leaders
  • Create energy by enhancing employee engagement and diversity with regular on-line pulse surveys to measure and monitor feedback.

© Talentspringboard Limited 2019.

Written by Jim Matthewman and Irem Yelkenci, Senior Partners at Talentspringboard.

For further information contact

Talentspringboard will be launching its latest global survey on Workforce Transformation in July 2019. It is free, anonymous and confidential with participants receiving a copy of the published insights. To participate please contact

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